Marine Fighting Squadron (Night) 531
"The Grey Ghosts" VMF(N)-531
United States Marine Corps (USMC)
Marine Fighting Squadron (Night) 531 was the first USMC night fighter unit in the Pacific activated November 16, 1942 with commanding officer Lt. Col. Frank Schwable. First executive officer was Major John D. Hershberger. Ground Control Intercept (GCI) officer 1st Lt. W. D. Felder. Initially based at Cherry Point, North Carolina.
At the start of 1943, the squadron was assigned the Lockheed PV-1 Ventura for use as a night fighter. On July 3, 1943, deployed to El Cenro before departing via Hawaii to the South Pacific (SoPAC). On July 25, 1943 arrives at Espiritu Santo.
On September 11, 1943 the squadron arrives at Banika Airfield and began flying night patrols. Squadron CGI radar station with SCR-527A radar at Mundi-Mundi in northern Vella Lavella to provide the transponder beacon used by PV-1 night fighters for navigation.
On November 13, 1943, six Betty bombers were reported by CGI radar. In response, PV-1 Ventura pilot Captain Duane Jenkins intercepted and managed to get on the tail of one Betty with illumination from moonlight and claimed it shot down fifty miles south of Empress Augusta Bay. This was the squadron's first aerial victory claim.
On December 3, 1943 Jenkins was patrolling over the same area south of Empress Augusta Bay and shot down another Japanese aircraft as the unit's second victory.
On December 6, 1943 PV-1 piloted by Lt. Col. Harshberger took off on an over night patrol mission.
On December 7, 1943 in the early morning directed by his CGI shot down an E13A Jake over the Empress Augusta Bay.
On January 12, 1944 by PV-1 piloted by Col Schwable shot down a B5N Kate near Cape Torokina (Torokina Point).
On February 5, 1944 the squadron downed a Betty in the vicinity of Cape Torokina, the squadron's fifth kill.
On March 21, 1944 during a patrol mission, PV-1 Ventura 29870 piloted by 1st Lt. Wilbur E. Birdsall suffered a mid-air collision with PV-1 Ventura 33079 piloted by 1st Lt. Marion M. Pierce causing both aircraft to crash into the sea. Both aircraft were officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA) with nine personnel from the squadron aboard both aircraft.
During April 1944 the squadron moved from Barakoma Airfield on Vella Lavella northward to Nissan Airfield (Green Island).
On May 11, 1944 attacked an E13 Jake about to land that exploded prior to landing.
In early July 1944, the squadron departs the South Pacific and returned to the United States. On August 11, 1944 arrives at Alameda, CA. On September 3, 1944 decommissioned at Cherry Point. Later, reacitivated at Eagle Mountain Lake, Texas. In 1945, began training with the Grumman F7F Tigercat.
Banika Airfield September 11, 1943
Barakoma Airfield 1943
Piva Airfield 1943/1944
Green Island Airfield April 1944 - July 1944
Commanding Officer (C.O.)
Lt. Col. Frank Schwable (November 16, 1942)
History of Marine Corps Aviation in World War II (1952) page 473 (VMF(N)-531)
Marine Corps Aviation Association Chronology, 1912-1954 (1989) by Berry Craig page 25
Marine Night Fighters Association (1999) by Herbert Banks pages 16-24
Vega Ventura (200) by John Stanaway pages 55-58
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