USN carrier night fighters

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Airman 1st Class
May 2, 2005
I read in the archive (Best naval fighter) that
"VF(N)-101 was equipped with F4U-2s. No one liked them (or the night fighter squadrons on other carriers with F6F-3Es) .." (Archer)
The first carrier use of night fighter AFAIK was done in jan.-feb.44 furing the Marshall campaign.
Usually a 4 plane det. was aboard the big carriers. In that operation 6 of them were involved:
Enterprise with VFN-101 4 F4U-2 (I'm quite sure of that)
Intrepid with VFN-101 4 F4U-2 (?)
Yorktown with VFN-? 4 F6F (F6F-3E or N?)
Bunker Hill with VFN-? 4 F6F (F6F-3E or N?)
Saratoga possibly without night fighters. She was the oldest carrier possibly not fitted for night ops????

Possibly also Essex lacked night fighters.
Possibly because of shortage of night fighters?
Only 34 F4U-2 were converted, just sufficient to equip 3 squadrons (VMFN-532, VFN 75 and 101), and only 18 F6F-3E were built.
I suspect that the 227 F6F-3N were built later. Can somebody confirm?

I suspect that F6F were part of VF(N)-76, but possibly of VFN-77
All F4U were part of VF(N)-101, since it was the only night fighter carrier squadron.
Is it correct?
Night Corsairs should be F4U-2 version, because no other version was available at that time, but
I don't know if Hellcats were F6F-3E or -3N. When did they entered in combat?

Oh, gosh, USN night fighters, where to start . . .

Well, first of all, there were 8 "pure" VF(N) squadrons that saw action in the Pacific Theater. Night fighter divisions from at least 13 regular "day" squadrons also contributed to the night action totals as did TBMs from VT(N)-90.

VF(N)-75 entered combat on 31 October 1943, operating F4U-2s from land bases in the Solomon Islands. First score went to Lt Hugh D O'Neill, Jr. who, at about 2300 was credited with shooting down a G4M (Betty) approximately 12 miles southeast of the Shortland Islands. Last score was scored at 0415, 13 January 1944 by Lt Reuben L Johns; a D3A (Val) about 35 miles west-southwest of Torokina. Final tally for VF(N)-75 was 7-2-0.

VF(N)-101 operated F4U-2s off USS Enterprise. The squadron's first engagement was on 19 February 1944 at 0600. Squadron CO Lt Cdr Richard E Harmer was credited with damaging a G4M (Betty) at 240 degrees, 30 miles from 9-34N, 160-5E, which is about 125 miles northeast of Pohnpei, in the Carolines. Last engagement for VF(N)-101 was on 28 June 1944 when Harmer encountered another G4M and was credited with shooting it down. Total score for VF(N)-101 was 5-1-3. The entire squadron score was split between Harmer and Lt(jg) R F Holden; Harmer with 2-0-1 and Holden with 3-1-2.

VF(N)-76, under Lt Cdr Evan Peter Aurand, operating a combination or F6F-3N, F6F-3E, and F6F-5N operated in detachments off USS Essex, USS Yorktown, USS , USS Hornet, USS Lexington, and USS Bunker Hill. The squadron entered combat on 22 February 1944 when "Sweet Pete" Aurand was credited with an A6M between 0645 and 0800 while on patrol between Tinian and Saipan. Last combat for VF(N)-76 was at 0630 on 22 September 1944 when Lt(jg) John W Dear, Jr. was credited with shooting down a B6N1 (Jill) southeast of Cape San Ildefenso, Luzon, PI. Final scores for the squadron were 36-2-0.

VF(N)-77, flying a combination or F6F-3N and F6F-3E operated in detachments off USS Essex, USS Yorktown, USS , USS Hornet, USS Franklin, and USS Ticonderoga. The squadron entered combat on 20 June 1944 when Ens George L Tarleton was credited with an D3A (Val) at 0350 while on patrol Agana airfield, Guam. Last combat for VF(N)-77 was at 0330 on 1 September 1944 when Lt Anthony C Benjes, Jr. shot down an H8K (Emily) flying boat at 330 degrees, 40 miles from 23-48N, 142-49E, or about 80 miles east-southeast of the Bonin Islands. Final score for VF(N)-77 was 8-0-0.

VF(N)-78 operated in two detachments, one, Det. 1, aboard USS Intrepid, and the other, Det. 2 aboard USS Enterprise. The squadron flew F6F-3N and F6F-3E. All scores were made by Det. 2. First action was when the squadron CO, Lt Cdr James S Gray, was credited with damaging a G4M (Betty) at 0230 on 31 August 1944 about 90 miles east of Iwo Jima. Last engagement was on 22 September 1944 when, between 0615 and 0925, Lt William B Thompson and Lt William H B Miller teamed up to shoot down an A6M (Zeke) about 80 miles east of Baler, Luszon, PI. Totals for VF(N)-78 were 2-0-2.

VF(N)-41 entered combat on 12 September 1944 operating F6F-5Ns off USS Independence. First score was split between Ens George W Obenour and Ens Robert W Klock who were each credited with 0.5 G4M (Betty). This engagement occurred at 0755 near 14-25N, 128-40E, which is roughly 200 miles northeast of Leyte, PI. Last score reported for VF(N)-41 was at 1845 on 16 January 1945 when Lt William E Henry was credited with shooting down a Ki-43 (Oscar) about 20 miles southwest of Canton, China. Total score for VF(N)-41 was 46-3-3.

VF(N)-90 operating F6F-5Ns off USS Enterprise had its first action at 1700 on 6 January 1945 when Lt Carl S Neilsen was credited with shooting down a Ki-46 (Dinah) near Alimamao, Luzon, PI. Last action was 14 May 1945 at 0100 when Lt(jg) Charles H Latrobe was credited with a G4M (Betty) near 310 degrees, 24 miles from 30-10N,132-53E, or roughly 100 miles east of Tanega-Shima, south of Kyushu. Final Score for VF(N)-90 was 31-2-0.

VF(N)-91 was the fighter component of an all night air group assigned to USS Bonhomme Richard in the waning days of the war. The squadron operated F6F-5Ns. First action was at 1830 on 25 July 1945 when Ens Kenneth J Baldwin was credited with shooting down a K5Y1 (Willow) trainer near Saiki, Kyushu. Last action was 13 August 1945 at 1915 when Ens Phillip T McDonald was credited with a Ki-45 (Nick) over one of the task Force "watchdog" radar pickets, west of Mito. McDonald was the squadron high scorer, credited with two Ki-45 and two P1Y (Frances), all on the night of 13 August. Final Score for VF(N)-91 was 9-2-0.

Among, but probably not inclusive as I never give it much thought, regular day squadrons with night fighter divisions scoring were: VF-6, VF-9, VF-10, VF-12, VF-14, VF-15, VF-17, VF-20, VF-33, VF-82, VF-83, VF-84, and VF-85. As near as I can tell scores were all in F6F-5Ns and totaled, for just this lot, 56-1-3 of various stripes.

VT(N)-90, also operating off USS Enterprise in TBM-3Es also accounted for 4-1-0. Confirmed as shot down were an H8K (Emily), an L2D (Tabby), and an A6M2-N (Rufe), and an unidentified aircraft. The lone probable was an N1K (George).


Thanks again R Leonard, excellent post.

Charlie Henderson nearly became an ace with his VTN-90 TBM. Didn't he shoot down 4 a/c?

AFAYK, were the VF(N) dets linked to a particular air group? For example VF(N)-101 with Enterprise CVG-10 and VFN-78 with CVG-20?

Is it possible that VFN-101 Corsairs were aboard Intrepid in jan-febb. 1944 without scoring any kill?
The only squadron you listed on board of Intrepid is VFN-78, that for sure was part of Intrepid's CVG-18 during the second half of 1944.
According to the VF lineage of the navy web site, that squadron was estabilished on february 1st 1944. But Intrepid itself was part of TG

58.2 during the Kwajalein landing on the same date with CVG-6 airgroup.
It is unlikely that the squadron was formed and joined the ship in the middle of the pacific during the naval operation. Anyway VFN-78 or 101 or whatever else were on board just a few days because the hip was torpedoed during the Truk Raid. Do you have some evidences about VFN-78 or 101, Hellcats or Corsairs in those days?

Another question: weren't the independent VF(N) squadron (i.e. not numbered as the airgroup) disestabilished in october 1944 before the

Ticonderoga went on action? Starting from that date the 4 NF Hellcats were part of the embarked VF squadron. Anyway it could have been operating on CV-14 for training purposes.

Looked into VF(N) squadrons a little more, so, in addition to the previous post . . .

VF(N)-75 was established 1 April 1943 and was disestablished on 2 October 1944. CO was Lt Cdr Gus Widhelm. In January 1944, 2 divisions were sent to CV duty on Enterprise and Intrepid. These divisions, together, became designated VF(N)-101, under the command of Chick Harmer. Which, of course, explains why VF(N)-75 and VF(N)-101 operated the F4U-2. Detachment 10 of VF(N)-101 operated off Enterprise and Detachment 11 off Intrepid. Land-based combat operations for VF(N)-75 began in October 1943 and ended in early February 1944.

VF(N)-76 was established 15 July 1943 and was disestablished on 6 November 1944. There were four detachments assigned to CVs. Detachment 1 was on Bunker Hill, Detachment 2 was first aboard Yorktown and later on Hornet, 3 on Essex, and 4 on Lexington. Combat operations were between January and September 1944.

VF(N)-77 was established 1 December 1943 and was disestablished on 25 September 1944. Detachment 1 was on Essex, 2 on Yorktown, 3 on Franklin, and 4 on Wasp. CO was Lt Cdr Robert Freeman.

VF(N)-78 was established on 1 February 1944 and was disestablished on 2 October 1944. VF(N)-78 succeeded Chick Harmer's VF(N)-101. The squadron was disestablished at sea and the personnel and aircraft were absorbed into VF-20. The CO, Jim Gray, became XO of VF-20.
This absorption was part of a general disestablishment of dedicated VF(N) squadrons and a transition to a night fighter division being assigned to each deployed VF (but not VBF) squadron. These divisions were made up of two 2-plane sections in F6F-5Ns. It was quickly realized that that expedient would not be enough, and dedicated night air groups would make their reappearance by January 1945. The change from dedicated night fighter squadrons to augmenting divisions in day squadrons and back to dedicated night fighter, and indeed, air groups was the result of a couple of issues. First of all were the two commanders of the Fast Carrier Task Force. VAdm Mitscher was not a big promoter of night air operations, generally, and night fighters, specifically. Kind of an odd situation as his first operations officer was Cdr Gus Widhelm, formerly commander of VF(N)-75. VAdm McCain, on the other hand, was in favor of night operations and a big booster of night fighters. As the Kamikaze threat became more and more intense, McCain's operations staff, led by Cdr John Thach, developed a concept known as the "Big Blue Blanket" which called for coverage of enemy airfields to enemy airplanes from even taking off. Obviously, to catch pre-dawn and after sunset launches, as well as deliver night attacks on Japanese airfields, and still defend against increasing attack temps, dedicated squadrons would again be required. Jimmy Thach went over the concept with Mitscher's current ops officer, Jimmy Flatley, who became an immediate and enthusiastic booster. He managed to convince Mitscher of the need and he did not object to their reappearance.
Fighting 20 served on Enterprise from August 1944 to mid-November 1944 and then on Lexington to January 1945. Former VF(N)-78 skipper, Gray, took over command when VF-20's CO, Lt Cdr Fred Bakutis, went MIA on 24 October 1944. Batukis was recovered by a submarine after floating around in his raft for a week. He did not return. This would be Gray's third squadron command, VF-6 (at Midway), VF(N)-78, and, now, VF-20.

And this is what I get for using combat records to count squadrons . . . VF(N) squadrons deployed that did not score, such as VF(N)-53 (Lt Cdr Alphonse Main) aboard Saratoga from January to March 1945. There was also, with the 7th Fleet, VF(N)-63 (Lt Cdr Vince McCormack) aboard Kula Gulf in August and September 1945.

Other VF(N) squadrons that did not deploy were:

VF(N)-42 established 25 August 44, disestablished 2 October 44
VF(N)-43 established 24 August 44, transferred to NFTU 2 January 1945
VF(N)-52 established 20 October 44, disestablished 25 May 45
VF(N)-55 established 1 March 45, disestablished 11 December 45
VF(N)-102 established 10 March 44, redesignated VF(N)-42 25 August 44
VF(N)-103 established 6 April 44, redesignated VF(N)-90 25 August 44
VF(N)-104 established 20 April 44, absorbed by VF(N)-90 25 August 44
VF(N)-105 established 5 May 44, absorbed by VF(N)-90 25 August 44
VF(N)-106 established 20 May 44, absorbed by VF(N)-90 23 October 44
VF(N)-107 established 5 June 44, disestablished 2 October 44
VF(N)-108 established 20 June 44, disestablished 2 October 44
VF(N)-109 established 5 July 44, disestablished 2 October 44
VF(N)-110 established 20 July 44, disestablished 2 October 44
VF(N)-111 established 20 August 44, disestablished 2 October 44


Thanks Rich,
very valuable summary.

I always was interested in knowing something about night airplanes aboard CVEs. I usually see listed CVEG(N)-63, but I never found any

info. I guess that it was composed by VF(N)-63 with F6F-5N and VT(N)-63 with TBM-3E, but it's just for similarity with other night air

During okinawa battle I know that Sangamon CVE-26 had many radar equipped Hellcats and Avengers in its CVEG-33, but it wasn't listed as

night air group. Do you know if she had the task of night protection of TG 52.1 (CVE TG)?
Marine CVEG on Block Island CVE-106 most probably had night fighters on board (VMF-511 absorbed some F6F-N from VMFN-544). What about

Gilbert Islands CVE-107 or Cape Gloucester CVE-109? Was it a common practice to put NF in embarked VMFs? Or possibly was just the need to

substitute the damaged Sangamon?

Best regards

Thanks Rich,
very valuable summary.

I always was interested in knowing something about night airplanes aboard CVEs. I usually see listed CVEG(N)-63, but I never found any

info. I guess that it was composed by VF(N)-63 with F6F-5N and VT(N)-63 with TBM-3E, but it's just for similarity with other night air

During okinawa battle I know that Sangamon CVE-26 had many radar equipped Hellcats and Avengers in its CVEG-33, but it wasn't listed as

night air group. Do you know if she had the task of night protection of TG 52.1 (CVE TG)?
Marine CVEG on Block Island CVE-106 most probably had night fighters on board (VMF-511 absorbed some F6F-N from VMFN-544). What about

Gilbert Islands CVE-107 or Cape Gloucester CVE-109? Was it a common practice to put NF in embarked VMFs? Or possibly was just the need to

substitute the damaged Sangamon?

Best regards

The F6F-5Ns were used late in the war and in my opinion they were a better plane to fligh at night then the F4U-2. It is a lot to land on a carrier, but to do it with the big turn a corssair needs then at night, it is a wounder more pilots were not killed. The Navy was delivering a true night fighter as the war closed, the F7F was ready, but the ar ended before it saw combat missions. It did fly some recone. ;)
Yes, from accounts it seems that Corsairs were much more handful to land than Hellcats. I wonder why the first deplyoment of F4U were as night fighters.

I'm afraid that F7F were a bit too large for the Essex class carriers, they were intended for the larger Midways, so Hellcats would have stayed around for some times after introduction of Tigercats.

Yes, and the new Midways were almost ready. Would have been for Operation Olympic. The F7F was intended for the Midways anywho as was the F8F, also just missing the war. ;)
Most probably the new Midway (CVB-41) and Roosevelt (CVB-42) were not operational for the Olympic operation, planned for november 1945.
They were completed in september and october 1945, but usually 6 monthes of training were needed before join the combat fleet.
The Carrier Antietam (Essex class) was completed in january 1945, and was joining the fleet on VJ day, 7 monthes later! Midway made her shakedown cruise in november 1945. Possibly she was to be ready for the Coronet operation, planned in march 1946.
At the beginning F7F had some problems to operate from carriers. The planned air groups CVBG-74 and 75 (intended for the Midway class) were equipped with F4U-4 (VF and VBF-74 and 75) and SB2C-4E/5 (VB and VT-74 and 75). They were the only US carriers without Avengers on board. Very odd.

I think that if the op. Olympic was made, no F7F were on board carriers of the Essex class. Anyway the night squadron VMFN-531 was already operational in Okinawa with F7F-2N on VJ day.
At least 2 squadrons of F8F-1 instead were probably operational at that time (VF-18 and 19). Possibly more. If somebody has an idea about how many F8F squadrons were operational in nov. 1945 please let me know. Thanks.

I'm not very good with the PTO. Was Operation Olympic the proposed invasion of Japan? What was Operation Coronet?
Operation Coronet was the second part of Operation Downfall - the planned invasion of Japan. Coronet was planned as a massive amphibious landing on beaches near to Tokyo. Vital air cover from bases in Kyushu, taken in Operation Olympic, would greatly assist the landings, according to the planning.

Operation Coronet was the second part of the whole plan to invade Japan. Beaches to the south of Tokyo were deemed capable of supporting a massive landing and the actual invasion was scheduled to start on December 1st, 1945, though this was later postponed to march 1946. In theory, the force that would have invaded the beaches of Kanto would have included men who had fought in the European theatre of war and in other areas of South-East Asia. Therefore, it would not have been an exclusively American force. On paper, Britain would have provided in the region of twelve aircraft carriers and a number of battleships. The incoming troop ships would have received air cover from planes based in Kyushu, conquered in Operation Olympic, and Coronet had built into it the taking of Tokyo. The fanaticism with which the Japanese were likely to defend the city that their emperor lived in, would have caused massive casualties for the Americans and her allies, even with air cover. The fear of what would de-generate into guerilla warfare within a city like Tokyo - even though it had been seriously destroyed by fire bombing - was one of the reasons why President Truman authorised the use of atomic bombs on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. The surrender of Japan on September 2nd, meant that neither Olympic or Coronet were carried out.
Evenglider, some great work. I have read a little of the British plans for the PTO. But in reading I have found a lot of the troops from th ETO were not so happy to go off to the pacific. A lot of them were in rute just after VE day. ;)
Yes, that's true. I have spoken with guys that were done in Europe and were retraining for the Pacific or on their way there when the Japanese surrendered. They certianly weren't happy to be celebrating their victory to get thrown back on the line.
Yes wellcome Unpunk01, interesting name. What brings you hear? I wil gladly listen to your questions. We all love to share and learn. Besites if we remaine silent then the lives of the brave men and women who sacraficed so much will be only drifft away lost to history. :(
Talking of those being re-trained for Pacific war. The 101st AB finished in Austria and then one of the officers comes in and says "Tommorow, we'll be training to go to war" - freakin' hell, after all they'd been through. I imagine they felt their guts drop to their feet!

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