The A-4 Skyhawk (Aug 1964)
The Douglas A-4 Skyhawk was designed as a carrier-borne light attack bomber to replace the same company’s A-1 Skyraider. First flown in June 1954, the Skyhawk entered service with the US Navy in October 1956 and the Marine Corps in January 1957. The Skyhawk was widely used in Vietnam and was flown by 31 Navy attack squadrons and seven Marine Corps close air support squadrons. In addition, the Marines also flew the two-seat TA-4F in the visual reconnaissance, artillery observation and forward air control roles under the term Tactical Air Coordination (Airborne). Due to the very large number of missions flown by Skyhawks during the war it is not surprising that more Skyhawks were lost by both the Navy and the Marine Corps than any other aircraft type (see the US Navy and Marine Corps Loss Statistics tables).
Marine Corps Skyhawks first arrived in Southeast Asia in May 1962 when VMA-332 flew into Udorn in response to the outbreak of civil war in Laos. The Navy lost its first Skyhawk on 5 August 1964 when Lt(jg) Everett Alvarez was shot down and captured to spend the next eight and a half years as a prisoner of war. Such was the Skyhawk’s longevity that it is claimed that a Marine Corps Skyhawk was the last American aircraft to drop a bomb before the final US withdrawal from Southeast Asia.