VMO-2

MARINE OBSERVATION SQUADRON TWO


HISTORY OF
Marine Observation Squadron Two

Artillery Spotting Division, VMO-251

The predecessor of Marine Observation Squadron 2 was activated at Quantico, Virginia on 1 November 1943 as Artillery Spotting Division, Marine Observation Squadron 251 (VMO-251). Observation squadrons were authorized in August 1943 as part of artillery units. Each artillery spotting division was composed of four artillery spotting units. The training syllabus of the spotting division included familiarization with the OY-1 ("Grasshopper") aircraft, message pickups and drops, artillery spotting, and small-field landing and takeoff practice. During December 1943, VMO-251 moved to San Diego, California where training was continued.

Presidential Unit Citation (PUC)

7 August 1942 to 9 December 1942

in support of the 1st Marine Division (1stMarDiv)

Battle of Guadalcanal

 

Redesignation – World War II

On 1 February 1944, the Artillery Spotting Division, VMO-251 was redesignated as Marine Observation Squadron 2 (VMO-2). A week later, the squadron sailed to Hawaii where it joined the 2d Marine Division for further training. In June, the 2d Marine Division, with VMO-2, was ordered to Saipan in the Mariana Islands. During this campaign, pilots of VMO-2 flew 243 missions as artillery spotters for the 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions. The "Grasshoppers" of VMO-2 flew off carriers for the first time during the fighting on Saipan. A pilot of VMO-2 flew the first American plane to land on Marpi Point Field, Saipan.

The Tinian campaign was begun on 24 July 1944. Prior to D-day all pilots had reconnoitered the island and had registered the various batteries on several checkpoints. Missions on this island followed the same pattern as on Saipan. Shortly after the end of the Tinian campaign the squadron moved to New East Field, Kagman Point, Saipan. Operationally attached to the 2d Marine Division, the pilots practiced power landings in preparation for night flights. Observation and photo flights were also made over the enemy-held island of Aguijan.

March 1945 found the squadron enroute to Okinawa where again a pilot of VMO-2 landed the first American plane on this island on 2 April. Routine reconnaissance and artillery-spotting missions were performed over Okinawa until the middle of April when VMO-2 was ordered back to Saipan to remain on 24-hour readiness’ call for return to the combat zone. At the cessation of hostilities with the Japanese in August, VMO-2 was still operating at Saipan. The squadron was then assigned to 2nd MAW, FMF administratively and sailed in September from Saipan for Nagasaki, Japan. Based eventually at Isahaya, Kyushu, VMO-2 flew familiarization and reconnaissance flights, transported mail and passengers, and photographed strategic areas for the 2d Marine Division. The squadron remained in Japan until June 1946 when it sailed for the United States. Arriving at Cherry Point, North Carolina, VMO-2 was reassigned to MAG-22, 2d MAW. Here the squadron was deactivated on 26 August 1946.

Reactivation - Korea

With the outbreak of the Korean Conflict the squadron was reactivated at Santa Ana, California on 15 June 1951. The work of setting up offices and other squadron areas, as well as requisitioning supplies, was expedited so that the squadron would be ready to begin its mission when aircraft and helicopters were received. The mission of VMO-2 was to provide aerial reconnaissance, artillery spotting, and naval gunfire spotting units for the FMF.

In July 1953, VMO-2 boarded the USS Bataan at San Diego and sailed for Hanshin Auxiliary AFB, Japan. The squadron remained in Japan for basic training in aerial observation and casualty evacuation until April 1956, when it sailed for Sukiran, Okinawa. A sub-unit was left in Japan to provide support for the 1st MAW and for ground training at Camp Fuji-NcNair.

Training for VMO-2 continued on Okinawa. With the Seventh Fleet, the squadron participated in Operation BLUESTAR in 1960 at Heng Chun, Taiwan. Valuable knowledge was gained from this operation in helicopter troop lifting and resupply. Detachments from VMO-2 took part in various other exercises in the area during this time. In February 1962, the entire squadron boarded the USS Princeton and sailed for the Philippines for Operation TULUNGAN. Detachments were located at Sangley Point, Cubi Point, San Jose and Mamburao during this operation. Upon the completion of TULUNGAN, VMO-2 returned to Futema, Okinawa.

Deployment - Vietnam

In April 1962, a detachment of two Cessna O-1 (“BirdDogs”) was assigned to hmm-362, the first USMC aviation unit to arrive in Vietnam. as fighting intensified, another four plane detachment of o-1s was sent to Da Nang. As the fighting in Vietnam intensified, VMO-2 was deployed to the Da Nang area from Okinawa as part of the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade. Immediately after arriving there in May 1965, the squadron received six bell UH-1E ("Huey") helicopters to replace the outdated HOK helicopters VMO-2 had used on Okinawa. These helicopters were ideal for landing and retrieving small patrols around Da Nang. The UH-1E, which was armed with rockets and machine guns, was also used in escorting troop-carrying helicopters on assault missions. The arrival of these helicopters inaugurated VMO-2’s active participation in the war in Vietnam. The first major operation in which the squadron participated was Operation STARLIGHT in August 1965. In this engagement VMO-2 rendered support to Regimental Landing Team Seven (RLT-7). Over 600 Viet Cong were killed and 125 captured in the battle. STARLIGHT was the first direct confrontation between a major U. S. unit and a mainforce Viet Cong unit in the war. For its efforts in this battle the squadron received a Navy Unit Commendation. The squadron had enhanced its ability to perform assigned missions by training aircrews and designing and refining tactics.

Besides troop support and escort missions the squadron was engaged in reconnaissance operations while flying the O-1B, a light, fixed-winged airplane, and in support of psychological warfare. As a part of this latter duty, squadron personnel dropped leaflets and used loudspeakers to encourage the Viet Cong to surrender to government forces. Another vital but dangerous part of VMO-2’s role in the Vietnamese war was airborne medical evacuation. During Operation HARVEST MOON in December 1965, pilots of VMO-2 landed in the midst of the fighting to evacuate the wounded to field hospitals. Major Donald J. Reilly of VMO-2, the most decorated Marine of the Vietnam War up to that time, was killed during the rescue of wounded Marines in this operation.

Navy Unit Citation (NUC)

18 August 1965 to 23 August 1965

in support of the 7th Regimental Landing Team (7thRLT)

Republic of Vietnam

 

Presidential Unit Citation (PUC)

11 May 1965 to 15 September 1967

in support of the 1st Marine Air Wing (1stMAW)

Republic of Vietnam

 

Marine Observation Squadron Two continued to be called upon for numerous air missions during the next few years From the Marble Mountain Air Facility, its home base southeast of Da Nang. the squadron flew sorties throughout the I Corps region of northern South Vietnam. During the 1968 enemy Tet offensive, the squadron’s combat proficiency was taxed to the utmost. In February, the high point of the offensive, the squadron amassed an impressive number of combat missions: 4983 sorties were flown and 1766.7 flight hours were logged. Continued heavy fighting in 1968 saw VMO-2’s participation in such major operations as PEGASUS, SCOTLAND II, ALLEN BROOK, LANCASTER II, and MEADE RIVER.

Marine Unit Citation (MUC)

13 May 1969 to 13 August 1969

in support of Marine Air Group 16 (MAG-16)

Republic of Vietnam

 

“The Angry Two”

The squadron’s mission was enlarged and its capabilities were expanded in mid-1968 with its acquisition of the North American OV-1OA ("Bronco")--a twin-engine, counter-insurgency aircraft. The plane was first used in combat in July. By the end of the year more sorties were being flown in the "Bronco" than in the "Huey." In December, the squadron acquired the distinction of becoming the first Marine squadron to employ the "Bronco" in supporting a naval riverine assault.

Another new innovation for VMO-2 occurred in April 1969. The sophisticated Bell AH1G ("Cobra") gunship made its initial debut with the squadron at that time. A month later it replaced the UH-1E as the main rotary aircraft in its arsenal. All UH-1E’s were transferred to HML-167. Because of its numerous and various functions, VMO-2 played an important role in the war in Vietnam. In late 1969, all of the cobras were transferred to HML-367. The squadron was reassigned during February 1970 to Marine Aircraft Group 11 in Da Nang. The squadron was once again fixed wing only, equipped only with the ov-10a bronco.

Navy Unit Citation (NUC)

1 November 1970 to 1 March 1971

in support of Marine Air Group 11 (MAG-11)

Republic of Vietnam

 

Redeployment to Camp Pendleton

The last combat flight of VMO-2 in Vietnam was flown on 22 March 1971. In April, VMO-2 relocated to Camp Pendleton, California. it remained in cadre status until September 1971, when it was reorganized as part of detachment, MAG-16. It was later reassigned to Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

VMO-2 received its first OV-10D Night Observation System (NOS) equipped aircraft in late 1979. The Forward Looking Infrared Defector (FLIR) added new capabilities to the squadron's ability to perform its mission. Since March 1980, the OV-10D NOS has been operationally employed on Combined Arms Exercises (CAX), Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) courses, amphibious exercises and in actual combat operations.

During early 1981, the squadron assisted the Royal Moroccan Air Force in forming their first OV- 10A squadron. Later in May, VMO-2 launched two OV- 1OD's from the USS Okinawa, a first in naval aviation history. In May 1982, the squadron surpassed 25,000 accident-free flight hours. In 1983, the capabilities of the FLIR system were successfully utilized when VM0-2 participated in its first drug interdiction operations, which were conducted by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). In the next two years, VM0-2 participated in eleven more DEA operations and numerous CAX’s.

In July 1986, VMO-2 made history by flying an OV-10 1,800 miles without refueling proving the squadron's capability to self-deploy practically anywhere. In January 1988, turnover of the Okinawa detachment was completed, marking the beginning of the first autonomous detachment to WestPac. Since then, VMO-2 has been the sole source of all OV- 10 UDP commitments in WestPac and these detachments have distinguished themselves through their participation annually in exercises such as Team Spirit, Cobra Gold, and Cope Thunder. The UDP detachments have seen contingency operations in support of the Philippine government during the coup attempts and have flown in support of both earthquake and volcano relief. In June 1988, VMO-2 took delivery of the first OV-10D Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) aircraft to he placed in service with a Fleet Marine Force squadron.

During May 1989, VMO-2 deployed to Maracaibo, Venezuela for joint operations with the Venezuelan Air Force. Despite the language barrier, VMO-2 participated in joint missions to include tactical reconnaissance, close-in fire suppression, air-to-air tactics, and supporting arms coordination with participation from ANGLICO, Venezuelan Marines, and Venezuelan artillery and mortar units. The deployment was an overwhelming success.

Operation Desert Shield

In August 1990, VMO-2 made aviation history by launching six OV-10s on an unprecedented 10,000-mile journey to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Shield. On January 1991 the air war over Kuwait began and VMO-2 once again proved itself in battle. The squadron flew a total of 286 combat missions totaling 900 flight hours during Operation Desert Storm. Missions were flown around the clock for the duration of the conflict, focusing primarily on Forward Air Control, Airborne (FAC(A)); Tactical Air Coordination, Airborne (TAC(A)); and multisensor reconnaissance. VMO-2 aircrews controlled U.S. and Allied artillery, numerous attack aircraft, and naval gunfire, including spotting for the USS Wisconsin's first combat firing since the Korean War.

The squadron performed these demanding and crucial missions despite being targeted by Iraqi surface-to-air missile gunners over 94 times and while trying to avoid large concentrations of antiaircraft artillery. These efforts resulted in confirmed kills totaling 34 tanks, 53 armored personnel carriers, 49 artillery pieces, 112 other vehicles, and 4 command post buildings. Once victory in the Persian Gulf was assured and hostilities ceased, VMO-2 returned to Camp Pendleton.

Navy Unit Citation (NUC)

14 August 1990 to 16 April 1991

in support of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (1stMEF)

Operation Desert Shield

 

Deactivation

In 1993, VMO-2 participated in 11 major exercises, including two Joint Task Force Six detachments and FAC(A) support of the U. S. Air Force Fighter Weapons School at Nellis AFB, Nevada. Up to deactivation, VMO-2 maintained its combat readiness with an intensive aircrew-training program. The squadron was deactivated at a ceremony at MCAS Camp Pendleton, California on 20 May 1993. Marine Observation Squadron Two disbanded leaving a documented history of unprecedented service since World War II. The illustrious accomplishments over the past half-century can be attributed to each and every Marine who has been a member of this prestigious organization. The legacy will live on in the heart, minds and souls of all former squadron personnel and in the annals of the United States Marine Corps.

Navy Unit Citation (NUC)

16 January 1993 to 31 May 1993

in support of Marine Air Group 39 (MAG-39)

Santa Margarita River Flood


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