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Marine Fighting Squadron (Night) 531
"The Grey Ghosts"
United States Marine Corps (USMC)

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.

In the beginning of 1943, the squadron was assigned PV-1 Ventrua aircraft. Deployed to the West Coast on July 3, 1943, stationed at El Cenro before ferrying to Hawaii and onto Espiritu Santo on July 25.

Arrived at Banika Airfield on September 11, 1943 and began flying night patrols. Squadron CGI radar station with SCR-527A radar at Mundi-Mundi in northern Vella LaVella to service transponder beacon used by PV-1 night fighters for navigation.

On November 13, 1943, six Betty bombers were reported by CGI radar. PV-1 piloted by Captain Duane Jenkins got on the tail of one bomber and claimed it during a moonlight attack, and shot it down, 50 miles south of Empress Augusta Bay. This was the unit's first victory.

On December 3, 1943 Jenkins was in the same area and shot down another Japanese aircraft as the unit's second victory.

On December 6/7, 1943 PV-1 piloted by Lt. Col. Harshberger made another kill directed by its own CGI, shooting down a E13A Jake over the Empress Augusta Bay area off Bougainville.

Another kill on January 12, 1944 by PV-1 piloted by Col Schwable shot down a B5N Kate near Torokina Point.

Fifth kill for the squadron on February 5, 1944 downed a Betty in the same area.

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 Island northward to Nissan Airfield (Green Island).

May 11, 1944 attacked an E13 Jake about to land that exploded prior to landing.

Departed the South Pacific in early July 1944 and returned to the United States to Alameda, CA by August 11, 1944. Decommissioned at Cherry Point on September 3.

Reacitivated at Eagle Mountain Lake, Texas. In 1945, began training with the F6F Tighercat.

Banika Airfield September 11, 1943 -
Barakoma Airfield 1943
Piva Airfield 1943/1944
Green Island Airfield April 1944 - July 1944

Marine Night Fighters Association, by Herbert Banks page 16-24
Chronology, 1912-1954 By Berry Craig page 25
Vega Ventura page 55-58

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