The Trip Trey, now 30 Years Gone
Formed at Cherry Point on 1 August 1943 as Marine Scout Bombing Squadron 333 (VMSB-333), the logically named “Trip Trey” began their career flying SBD Dauntless dive-bombers from Midway on anti-shipping patrols.
Adding an “F” designation to their name after transitioning to F4U Corsairs in late 1944, VMBF-333 was deactivated just two months after VJ-Day.
Reformed during the Korean War as Marine Attack Squadron 333 (VMA-333), they transited quickly through the F6F Hellcat to the A-1 Skyraider and entered the jet age in 1957 with FJ-3 Fury jet fighters, again adding the “F” to their title to become VMF-333, after which adding the triple shamrock to their planes and going by the “Fighting Shamrocks” as well as the more commonly applied “Trip Trey.”
Next came the F-8 Crusader– with which they ran hot pad alerts at GTMO during the Cuban Missile Crisis– and then the F-4 Phantom in 1966.
The Shamrocks would deploy aboard USS America (CVA-66) in 1972, picking up the only Marine MiG kill of the Vietnam War.
Remaining part of CVW-8 through most of the 1970s and carrying “AJ” tail flashes, they would ship out with the brand-new supercarrier USS Nimitz in 1976 on a Med Cruise.
The last regular Marine squadron to operate the big smoky Phantom, they transitioned to F-18A Hornets in October 1987, which they would fly during Desert Storm just three years later, delivering over 2 million pounds of ordnance (typically 2,000-pounds at a time) against Iraqi forces across a staggering 700 combat sorties.
Returning from the sandbox, the “Fighting Shamrocks” were deactivated on 31 March 1992 during the post-Cold War drawdown.