Fighting Squadron Four was given life in 1927, when it was commissioned Bombing Squadron One on the USS Lexington. In 1932, it changed its name and type of plane to become VF-5. Throughout the above period, and during the next four years, the squadron trained on and traveled with the Lexington, in 1935 exchanging the sturdy FF-1s for F2Fs.
On the first day of July 1936, the squadron transferred for permanent duty to the USS Ranger, but not until 1937 did it drop the title of VF-5B to assume that of VF-4. In addition to the usual trip to Hawaii for fleet exercises, in 1937 the Ranger sailed for a visit to Lima, Peru. In 1939, the Ranger swept through the Panama Canal to the Atlantic coast, where she was to remain for many years. VF-4 became an East Coast squadron.
Late in 1940 VF-4 was given F4F-3s. Early the next year she exchanged the name VF-4 for VF-41.
Most of 1942 was spent training for action, and in October the Ranger steamed East under sealed orders. Joining other ships at designated rendezvous points, she became a part of a huge battle force, which on November 8 struck the North African coast. (1) VF-41 accounted for sixteen French fighters, strafed enemy ships and airfields, and gave air coverage to landing operations. Although five pilots were shot down, all of them were recovered alive.
Returning after a few days to the United States, the squadron resumed training at Norfolk, Virginia. In March, the ship and squadron departed for Argentia, Newfoundland, where they stayed for five months. Returning again for a week in the States, the ship then went out a distance and escorted the vessel (2) bearing Prime Minster Winston Churchill into a North Atlantic port (3), before sailing for the British Isles. At this time, VF-41 once again became VF-4.
Using Scapa Flow, Orkney Islands, and nearby airfield RNAS (4) Hatston as a home port, the Ranger operated with units of the Home Fleet in numerous sorties and training cruises in the North Atlantic, Arctic Ocean and North Sea, none including enemy action until a strike on enemy shipping near Bodø, Norway on October 4, 1943. Here the fighters gave air coverage, and strafed merchant vessels and gunboats. No fighters were lost, and the CAP (5) shot down two shadowing German bombers.
In November, the ship happily started back for the United States, visiting Thanksgiving Day in Iceland. And, in December, the ship and squadron berthed at Boston.
The next few months were spent in training in this vicinity. In April 1944, the squadron was enlarged to 36 F6Fs, and then detached from the Ranger and moved to Ayer, Massachusetts for further training. Here begins our present story .
(1) OPERATION TORCH.
(2) HMS Queen Mary.
(3) Halifax, Newfoundland.
(4) RNAS - Royal Navy Air Service.
(5) CAP - Combat Air Patrol.
Fighting Squadron Four: The Red