The Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 121, known as the Green Knights, originally activated on June 24, 1941 in the midst of World War II. Several wars and decades later, they are the proud pilots and personnel of the Corps’ first operational F-35 squadron, officially designated as such Nov. 20, 2012.
The creator of it all was Joseph Jacob “Joe” Foss who was the first leading fighter ace of the United States Marine Corps during World War II and a 1943 recipient of the Medal of Honor, recognizing his role in air combat during the Guadalcanal Campaign. In those three months of combat, Foss’s squadron had shot down 208 Japanese enemy aircraft, including 46 credited to him alone.
Although many of the Green Knights most famous pilots served during World War II, the squadrons courageous efforts carried on throughout many other American wars.
“It is quite an honor to say you’re part of the Green Knights, knowing the legacy and history behind it is a very powerful feeling, “said Capt. Michael Wyrsch, the historian for VMFA-121 and an F-35 pilots with the Green Knights. “ We want people to know what we represent and what we stand for as Marines in being a part of this historic team with the Green Knights.”
In the Korean War, the Green Knights became the first squadron to complete the entire special weapons delivery syllabus. The Green Knights also deployed their new A-4s to Naval Air Station Cecil Field in Florida in response to the Korean Missile Crisis.
The efforts of the Green Knights during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War will always be a part of early years aviation war fighting. But even today, the Green Knights are still further cementing their name into America’s military history.
On Sep. 28, 2012, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Scott took command of the Green Knights from Lt. Col. Michael Waterman which marked the beginning of the squadron’s transition from being an F/A-18D Hornet squadron to becoming the first operational F-35 squadron in the Marine Corps and world. This change of command officially moved the squadron from Marine Aircraft Group 11 at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., to MAG-13 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma.
“It is an experience of a lifetime to get into a program of this capacity,” said Wyrsch. “It will be very rewarding and very challenging at the same time to live up to the name of the Green Knights but that being said we are more then up to the challenge and look forward to continuing this great history.”
The Green Knights have been making military breakthroughs for more than 70 years and after becoming the world’s first ever operational Joint Strike Fighter squadron in a formal re-designation ceremony held on Nov. 20, there seems to be no end to the illustrious history of the Green Knights.