The Champions of VA-56 were members of the Light Attack Wing Pacific flying the A-7E "Corsair II" aircraft. The Champions flew jet aircraft exclusively through out their existence. Before receiving the A-7E Corsair II in the summer of 1977, the squadron distinguished itself in the F9F-8 Cougar, the FJ-4B Fury, four models of the A-4 Skyhawk, and the A-7 A/B Corsair II. The nickname "Champions" originated in 1959 when VA-56, representing al of the West Coast Attack squadrons, defeated its East Coast opponents in an air-to-ground weapons competition in Yuma, Arizona. As a result, VA-56 had its official call sign changed to Champions.
Attack squadron FIFTY-SIX deployed on its first operational tour in May, 1957 aboard the USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31). Since the squadron has operated from the flight decks of the aircraft carriers Ticonderoga (CVA-14), Constellation (CV-64), Enterprise (CV-65), Ranger (CV-61) and was based aboard the USS Midway (CV-41) since 1971.
The squadron completed seven combat deployments in Southeast Asia, taking part in the initial retaliatory strikes launched against North Vietnam from the USS Ticonderoga in August 1964. It was still flying combat missions in the Gulf of Tonkin in January of 1973 when the cease fire was signed. During the eight years of conflict VA-56 flew 18,000 combat sorties.
Awards that the Champions have won include the COMNAVAIRPAC Battle "E" and CNO Safety "S" in 1964. In 1978 the squadron once again were the recipients of the Battle "E" and the Admiral Clarence Wade McClusky awards as the Navy's premier attack squadron
In the following years leading up to Desert Storm the USS Midway and Carrier Air Wing 5 made many cruises throughout WESTPAC and the Indian Ocean. Of interest are the NORPACS of Sept/Oct 1982 and Feb/Mar 1983. The weather conditions in the waters off the Alaska were some of the worst imaginable.
Complete list of at-sea periods from June 1981 through April 1991 Dates for VA-56 involvement stop on 24 March 1986.
Attack Squadron Fifty Six flew off the Midway for the last time on 24 March 1986. The squadron returned to CONUS while the Midway went through modifications to allow the F/A-18 Hornet to operate from her. The Champions were scheduled to transition to the F/A-18 Hornet and return to the Midway when her modifications were complete. The squadron reported to NAS Lemoore between April and May 1986. By then the decision was made that VA-56 was to be disestablished, and not transition to F/A-18 Hornets. Their disestablishment date was 31 August 1986.