Call sign "Nickel"

The Crusader Era

Photo of Lt Vern Larson taken by Lt Bob Sandweg (VFP-63) over the PI

Checkmate Squadron Designation History



 1 May 1945

 VB-74 Established

 15 Nov 1946

 VB-74 Redesignated VA-lB

 1 Sep 1948

 VA-lB Redesignated VA-24

 1 Dec 1949

 VA-24 Redesignated VF-24

 9 Mar 1959

VF-24 Redesignated VF-211 (First F-8s)

 Oct 2004-Apr 2005

 VF-211 redesignated VFA-211

The history of the Checkmates requires a discussion of two different squadrons, each with the same VF-211 designation (at different times) but evolving separately.  The majority of this web page was created to document the F-8 Crusader years of the second VF-211 squadron, which held that designation the longest.

From the mid 1940’s to the late 1950’s, aircraft squadron designations were related to the air wing they were assigned to.  In 1945 the Checkmates were assigned to CVBG-74 and were hence designated VB-74. The VB/VA/VF prefix changed over the years as the assigned aircraft changed.  In 1946 the Airwing designation changed to CVBG-1, and the Checkmates became VA-1B. In 1948, the Air Wing was re-named CVG-2, and the Checkmates were subsequently designated VA-24 then later VF-24.  In keeping with the numbering scheme, the other airwing squadrons were VA/VF-21, 22, 23 etc. So most of the early 50’s, the Checkmate squadron was VF-24.

In 1955, the Red Checkertail Squadron was established flying the FJ3 Fury as part of CVG-21. The Checkertails were assigned the first number in the designation series which was VF-211. (Recall the designation scheme from the previous paragraph). The airwing deployed in 1956-57 on The USS Bon Homme Richard with VF-211 Checkertails, VA-212, VF-213, and VA-215.  Shortly after their return to Moffett in 1957, the VF-211 Red Checkertails traded in the FJ3s for the F8U1 Crusader.

For the 1957-58 cruises, while flying F3Hs Demons, VF-24 Checkmates detached from CVG-2 and joined CVG-21 deploying on the Lexington.   At the same time VF-211 Red Checkertails (still flying Crusaders) detached from air wing 21 and joined air wing 2 which was deploying on the USS Midway.  It is uncertain as to why this change occurred, but may have been because the other CVG-2 fighter squadron was flying F3Hs and the staff wanted more diversity in the two air wings.  During the Midway cruise, the Checkertails retained their VF-211 designation, but changed tail letters from the CVG-21 “NP” to CVG-2 “NE”.

Upon return from cruise, the squadron designations were officially swapped.

So in March 1959, the CAG-21 VF-24 Checkmates became the VF-211 Checkmates and remained with CAG-21.  The CAG-2 VF-211 Red Checkertails became the CAG-2 VF-24 Red Checkertails and remained with CAG-2 on the Midway flying F-8s.  The squadron aircraft, patches / logos and nicknames (Checkmates / Checkertails) remained unchanged.  Partial pilot and CO turnover was normal following a typical cruise.

There was a very brief period when the VF-211 Checkmates flew F11F1s, but in July 1959, the squadron finally got F-8s. In this era, the squadron patch as the F-8 community knew it (above) was designed.

The first Checkmate F-8 deployment was on the USS Lexington. Upon return from cruise in 1961, the squadron moved from Moffett to NAS Miramar which would be the Checkmates home for 35 years. The squadron subsequently deployed on the USS Hancock (CVA-19) with Air Wing 21.

 In 1964 the VF-24 Checkertails rejoined CVW-21 but were required to give up the “Red” in their checkertails because the VF-211 Checkmates were using that paint scheme. Consequently they used a yellow checkertail pattern instead.  CVW-21 began seeing extensive combat action, making eight deployments during the Vietnam War. During the Vietnam War the VF-211 Checkmates had eight confirmed kills in the F-8 (more than any other F-8 squadron) which earned them the reputation as "The MiG Killers".

However, the Crusader's days were numbered and on the 23rd of December 1975, VF-211 made its maiden flight in the F-14A Tomcat at Miramar. As the squadron approached its 50th anniversary in 1995, the patch was modified to reflect ties to the original VB-74 and the redesign was submitted to the Naval hierarchy.  Use was approved in early 1996.  Also in 1996, Miramar was handed over to the Marines and in August VF-211 moved its F-14s to Oceana.  In Oct 2004 most of the squadron was temporarily relocated from Oceana to to Lemoore to begin transition to the F/A-18F Super Hornet.  Upon completion and return to Oceana in April 2005, the squadron was redesignated VFA-211. Go here to read about the current squadron.

Original VB-74 Patch

Current Patch

F-8 Checkmate Commanding Officers

From To CO XO
Dec 1959 Jun 1961  CDR H.C. (Howard) Lovegrove, Jr LCDR Tom Hayward  
Jun 1961 Jun 1962  CDR H.R. (Herb) Poorman  CDR W.M. (Bill) Russell 

 Jun 1962

 Jun 1963

 CDR W.M. (Bill) Russell

Al Schaaf / Fred Newman

 Jun 1963

 Mar 1964

 CDR O.J. Ahlstrom

 CDR E.D. Kimble

 Mar 1964

 Aug 1964

 CDR E.D. Kimble

 Aug 1964

 Sep 1965

 CDR J.P. White

 CDR H.L. (Hal) Marr

 Sep 1965

 Sep 1966

 CDR H.L. (Hal) Marr

 CDR P.H. (Paul) Speer 
Sep 1966 Sep 1967 CDR P.H. (Paul) Speer   CDR R B. (Ralph) Rutherford
Sep 1967 Sep 1968 CDR R B. (Ralph) Rutherford CDR R.A. (Bob) Van Arsdol
Sep 1968 Sep 1969 CDR R.A. (Bob) Van Arsdol  

 Sep 1969

 Jun 1970

 CDR D.C. Paolucci

 Jun 1970

 Jun 1971

 CDR D.J. Perault

 Jun 1971

 Jun 1972

 CDR W.K. (Dusty) Rhodes, Jr

 CDR J.W. (Jimmy) Davis
Jun 1972 Jun 1973 CDR J.W. (Jimmy) Davis CDR J.P. O’Neill
Jun 1973 Aug 1974 CDR J.P. (JP) O’Neill LCDR R.M. (Moon) Vance
Aug 1974 Nov 1975 CDR J.A. (Jerry) Kuechmann LCDR Terry Appelgate


H.R. Poorman

P.H. Speer

D.C. Paolucci

CDR Dave Perault

CDR Dusty Rhodes

CDR Jimmy Davis

CDR J.P. O’Neill

CDR Jerry Kuechmann

All Checkmate F-8 deployments listed are with CVW-21
From To A/C Type Ship
Oct 1960 Jun 1961 F8U-1 (F-8A) USS LEXINGTON (CVA-16)

 2 Feb 1962

 7 Oct 1962

F8U-1 (F-8A)


 7 Jun 1963

 16 Dec 1963



 21 Oct 1964

 29 May 1965


10 Nov 1965 1 Aug 1966 F-8E USS HANCOCK (CVA-19)
26 Jan 1967 25 Aug 1967 F-8E USS BON HOMME RICHARD (CVA-31)
18 Jul 1968 3 Mar 1969 F-8H USS HANCOCK (CVA-19)
2 Aug 1969 15 Apr 1970 F-8J USS HANCOCK (CVA-19)
22 Oct 1970 3 Jun 1971 F-8J USS HANCOCK (CVA-19)
7 Jan 1972 3 Oct 1972 F-8J USS HANCOCK (CVA-19)
8 May 1973 8 Jan 1974 F-8J USS HANCOCK (CVA-19)
18 Mar 1975 20 Oct 1975 F-8J USS HANCOCK (CVA-19)

VF-211 F-8 Paint Schemes Over The Years

1957 - When the 1st VF-211 squadron (Red Checkertails) got F-8 Crusaders
(Before designation swap)

1959-1963 - The Checkmates First Crusader Paint Scheme

Photo Courtesy of Rodney Gonzales

1967 - Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31) Deployment - Two VF-211 A/C in Background with VF-24 F-8 in Foreground



Pilots & Officers 1964

Identification Courtesy of Shay Geeding
Standing Top Row (Left to Right): Lt Dale Deweese, Ltjg Bill Booth, Ltjg Tom Grant, Lcdr Tom Langston, Ltjg Bob Geeding, Lt Gene Chancy, Lt Rick Maughlin, Lcdr Spence Thomas, Ltjg Bob Hulse, Ens Phil Vampatella.
Kneeling Front: Lt Harry Downey, Lcdr Cole Black, Cdr Hal Marr, Cdr Phil White (CO), Ltjg John Mack, Lt Jerry Unruh, Ltjg Wayne Veeneman, Ltjg Harold Williams
Not Shown – Ltjg Dick Smith, Ltjg Bill Nelson (GP)
Pilots & Officers Jan / Feb 1966

Photo courtesy of Wayne Weeneman via Chris Monier / Identification Courtesy of Chris, Bill Bertsch and others
Standing Top Row (Left to Right): Gene Jordan, Bob Hulse,  Kay Russell?, Bill Rennie, Paul Speer (XO), Hal Marr (CO),  Bill Nelson, Unk #8, John Stewart, #10.
Kneeling Middle:
Larry Myers, Tim Hubbard,  Phil Vampatela, Joe Shea
Sitting Front: Unk #1, Tom Blattner, #3, #4, #5, Bruce Henderson (in uniform crouching in front)

Pilots & Officers 1966

Photo courtesy of xxxx /  Identification Courtesy of Rich Calma, Bill Bertsch and others
Standing Top Row (Left to Right): Gene Jordan, John Stewart,  ??Tom Hall??, Kay Russell, Spence Thomas ?, Hal Marr (CO), Ms Checkmate (Mannequin), Paul Speer (XO), #9, Bill Nelson.
Kneeling Front: Unk #1, Cole Black (slightly behind),  Phil Vampatella, Bob Hulse, #5, #6, Bill Rennie, #8, B. Henderson

The following pictures are from the 1966-67 WestPac cruise aboard USS Bon Homme Richard courtesy of Rodney Gonzales - click each to enlarge

Lcdr Kay Russell





C.O. Cdr Paul Speer and Ltjg. Joe Shea upon their return from MIG shootdown.

C.O. Cdr Paul Speer and Ltjg. Joe Shea upon their return from MIG shootdown.




Pilots & Officers 1967

Identification Courtesy of Cole Pierce and others
Standing (Left to Right): John "Oodles" Stewart (AI), Tim Hubbard, Dave Metzler, John Barlow, Paul Speer (CO), Ralph Rutherford (XO), Mo Wright, Larry (Hook) Miller, Ron Lord (USAF), Bill Nelson (maint).
Kneeling Front: Bruce Henderson (maint), Bill Bertsch, Tom Blattner, Cole Pierce, Bill Rennie, Billy Sam Foster, Joe Shea, Larry "Moose" Meyers, Gene Jordan (maint)
Missing: Kay Russell and Tom Hall, shot down and POW's. Also missing is Pat Scott, possibly the duty officer that day.

Pilots 1968-69

Back (L to R) - Pat Scott, Chris Wilson, Taco Bell, Tom Blatner, Billy Foster, Dick Newton, Gary Williams, Al Aston, Bill Bertsch, Dave Metzler
Front kneeling (L to R) - Leon Swaim, Cole Pierce, MO Wright, Bob Van Arsdol (CO), Dick Taylor , Steve Lambert

Hancock Ready Room 1969-70

L to R:  Steve Lambert, Frank Corah, Alex Rucker, Gary Williams and Chris Wilson

Alex Rucker's Famous Painting used by LTV (and Others)

Another of Alex Rucker's Paintings depicting an engagement with a MIG-21

July 1972

Spring 1973

Back (L to R) - Jimmy Davis (C), Hank Livingston, Skip Carter, Kevin Dwyer, Curry Lawler, Phil Colson, Larry Pearson, Joe Rangus (AI), Ben Woods (maint), J.P. O'Neill (XO)
Front kneeling (L to R) -
Gene Brotherton, Hugh Brooks, Greg Murrell, Wendell Brown, Ed McCarthy (maint), Vern Larson, Rich Smith, Bob Hull (maint)

~ Fall 1973 - The "Crusader Sword"

Back (L to R) - Skip Carter, Joe Rangus (AI), Phil Colson, Gene Brotherton, Curry Lawler, Larry Pearson, Mike Wasielewski, Hank Livingston, Phil Ceriani, Ben Woods (maint)
Front Sitting (L to R) -
Vern Larson, Wendell Brown, Rich Smith, J.P. O'Neill (CO), Moon Vance (XO), Hugh Brooks, Greg Murrell, Jim Alderink, Bob Hull (maint)


Back (L to R) - Ben Woods, Larry Pearson, Phil Ceriani, Gene Brotherton, Curry Lawler, Moon Vance (XO), Hank Livingston, Rich Smith, Joe Rangus (AI), Ed McCarthy
Front kneeling (L to R)
- Jim Alderink, Greg Murrell, Hugh Brooks, J.P. O'Neill (CO), Wendell Brown, Vern Larson, Mike Wasielewski

1975 - Last F-8 Cruise

Back (L to R) - Rich Smith, Issac Richardson, Larry Pearson, Joe Rangus (AI), Mike Long, Vern Larson, Mike Wasielewski
Front kneeling (L to R) -
Ken Buchspics, Mike Halligan, Terry Appelgate (XO), Jerry Kuechmann (CO), Jim Alderink, Steve Gunn

LACB 27 - May 2014 - San Diego

Left to right: Henry (Hank) Livingston, Vern Larson, Gerri Larson, J.P. O'Neill, Louise O'Neill (holding sign), Prissy Lawler, Curry Lawler (Obscured), Mona Kristensen, Mike Wasielewski, Barbara Murrell, Greg Murrell
Front Kneeling: John Henry Livingston

LACB 28 - Oct 2015 - San Diego

Left to right: Larry "Hook" Miller, Boyd Repsher, Jerry Tucker, Rick Phillips, Ed Schrump, Greg Murrell

LACB 29 - May 2017 - San Diego

Please help identify people
Back Left to right: Jerry Unruh, Karen Smith, Dick Smith, 4th -Ms CCC (unk), 5th - Ms XXX (eyes only), Dale Deweese, Phil Vampatella (far right)
Front Left to right: Terrie & Taco Bell , Dee Unruh (Holding left side of sign), Ms ZZZ (middle), Karen Black (holding right side of sign),  Kenzie Edwards
Attended LACB but not in Photo:   Jim Alderink, Frank Corah, Bob Greathouse, Steve Gunn, Steve Lambert, Vern Larson, Skip Leonard, Larry Miller, Greg Murrell, JP O'Neill, Boyd Repsher, Alex Rucker, Gary Williams  

LACB 30 - Oct 2018 - San Diego

Left to right: Vern Larson, Mary Dwyer, Kevin Dwyer, Karen Black (holding sign), Greg Murrell, Barbara Murrell, Gerri Larson, Richard Smith, Chris Monier, Karen Smith, Kenzie Edwards
Attended LACB but not in Photo:   Frank Corah, Tom Grant, Bob Greathouse, Tom Hayward, Skip Leonard, Boyd Repsher, Alex Rucker, Gary Williams


F-8 Crusader Buno 149210 And Its Drivers (Book by Chris Monier - currently out of print)

This Cockpit is displayed at the European Fighter Aircraft Museum at Montelimar, France

Jake's Yankee Station - USS Hancock Memorial Stories & History:

History and Restoration of 150683

F8U-2N  ( F-8D / F-8H ) Training Film



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