This page is dedicated to the memory of
Fighter Squadron ONE SIX ONE, the Chargers, began their history during WWII flying in combat actions from the USS Lexington and USS Randolf. The Chargers participated in many pacific campaigns including the battles for Tarawa, Wake Island, the Gilbert Islands, Truk, and the famous Marianas "Turkey Shoot". Following the war the squadron was decommissioned in 1945.
The squadron was recommissioned in 1960 at NAS Cecil Field, Florida flying the McDonnell F3H Demon. VF-161 moved to NAS Key West in 1961 to stand alert during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Later that year, the squadron was transferred again, this time to NAS Miramar, California and Carrier Air Wing Sixteen. They deployed twice onboard the USS Oriskany during 1962 and 1964. The 1964 cruise was noteworthy as being the last deployment of the F-3B (redesignated after 1962) Demon in the Pacific Fleet.
The Chargers transitioned to the McDonnell Douglas F-4B Phantom II and transferred to CVW-15 for their first combat deployment since recommissioning onboard the USS Constellation on 12 May 1966 and returned 3 December 1966. During this deployment VF-161 flew 1368 combat sorties. For this action the squadron was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation medal. On 1 July 1966 VF-161 F4-B's on Ready Five aboard the Connie were the first to meet three North Vietnamese Torpedo Boats which came out to attack The USS Coontz ( DLG 9 ) and The USS Rogers ( DD 876 ) operating about 40 miles off shore on seach and rescue missions. Between June 1967 and April 1969 the Chargers deployed to Vietnam for their second and third combat tours aboard the USS Coral Sea for a total of 3209 combat sorties.
On 1 February 1971, the squadron was attached to CVW-5 and the USS Midway. In March 1971 the squadron returned to duty for its fifth combat deployment and flew 1168 combat sorties. The Chargers left for its sixth SEA deployment in April of 1972, again on the USS Midway. During combat operations the squadron downed five enemy MiG aircraft, flew 2322 sorties, and was on the line for 205 days. The squadron returned on 3 March 1973 to commence turnaround training.
In August of 1973 the CNO awarded the Admiral Joseph Clifton Award to Fighter Squadron ONE SIX ONE as the "Navy's Finest Fighter Squadron" for FY 1973. On 11 September 1973 the squadron left NAS Alameda with the Midway and CVW-5 for their new homeport of Yokosuka, Japan.
In summer of 1977 the squadron exchanged their F-4N's for the F-4J. The Chargers were recognized once again by winning the COMNAVAIRPAC Battle "E" for the 1 July 1977 through 31 December 1978 competitive cycle. In keeping with the United States policy of increased presence in the Middle East, and in response to the Iranian and Afghanistan crises, the Chargers deployed to the Indian Ocean repetitively; April through June 1979, September 1979 through February 1980, and August through November 1980.
The squadron also received the 1979 Golden Anchor Award for attaining the excellence in career motivation and personnel retention. Their high state of combat readiness also helped them earn their second consecutive COMNAVAIRPAC Battle "E" the cycle of 1 January 1979 through 30 June 1980.
The squadron transitioned to the F-4S between December 1980 and February 1981. In the years leading to the Gulf War the Midway and VF-161 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
Fighter Squadron ONE SIX ONE flew off the Midway for the last time on 24 March 1986. This marked the end of an era as this was also the time the F-4 Phantom II was to operate from an aircraft carrier. The Chargers reported to NAS Lemoore for transitioning to the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet. On 1 July 1986, VF-161 is renamed VFA-161 but, instead of returning to Atsugi, Japan with the rest of CVW-5 in October, the squadron was reassigned to COMLATWINGPAC ending her association with CVW-5.