Paying Tribute to the People Who Took Aviation
from the Flight Deck of a Navy Carrier to Man's First Steps on the Moon
By William C. Barto
Historian, Grumman Memorial Park
Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia – September 15, 2005. Fighter Squadron One Zero One (VF-101) "Grim Reapers", the last of the two F-14 training squadrons, was disestablished (decommissioned) in a formal ceremony. VF-101 was charged with the training of replacement aircrews and maintainers for all east coast based F-14 squadrons. (VF-124 had a similar task for all west coast F-14 squadrons at NAS Miramar, California).
In attendance were Naval personnel from the F-14 community, past and present, as well as contractors, and former contractors, who worked on the F-14 sometime during its thirty-five years in Naval Aviation.
Presiding over the ceremony was CDR. Paul A. "Butkus" Hass, the last skipper of VF-101. The "Grim Reapers" were originally formed in 1942 by Lt. James "Jimmy" Flatley. They flew Grumman F4F Wildcats. It was Flatley who designed the squadron logo and gave the squadron its name. Also on the dais was Vice Admiral James H. Flatley III, USN, retired, son of "Jimmy" Flatley. In the audience CDR James "Seamus" Flatley represented the third generation of "Grim Reapers". As the ceremony came to a close, the squadron insignia was presented to Vice Admiral Flatley on behalf of the Flatley family to safeguard until which time the squadron is re-established (hopefully) sometime in the not too distant future.
Of the thirty F-14 fleet squadrons that existed since 1972, only two remain. VF-31 "Tomcatters" and VF-213 "Blacklions" are presently serving aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt in the war against global terrorism. Upon their return in May 2006, VF-213 will immediately transition to the Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet, while VF-31 will remain as the very last F-14 squadron until September 2006 when the F-14 will be officially retired. The Tomcat has served with the US Navy for thirty-six years - an unprecedented record. The aircraft operated well past its planned life and performed brilliantly in both the air-to-air role and the ground attack role, something it wasn’t originally designed to do.