RVAH-11 Checkertails RA-5C (1967) Model
Fly off the USS Forrestal again in this RA-5c model of the RVAH-11 Checkertails. Each model is carefully carved from wood and painted to provide a unique piece of art you’ll be proud to show off. 18 inches
RVAH-11 was a Reconnaissance Attack (Heavy) Squadron of the U.S. Navy. Originally established as Composite Squadron Eight (VC-8) on 3 December 1951, it was redesignated Heavy Attack Squadron Eleven (VAH-11) on 1 November 1955 and was redesignated as Reconnaissance Attack (Heavy) Squadron Eleven (RVAH-11) on 1 July 1966. The squadron was disestablished on 1 June 1975.
Heavy Attack Squadron ELEVEN (VAH-11) was formed on
1 November 1955 from Composite Squadron EIGHT (CV-8). The
Squadron operated twelve North American Savage (AJ-1) Attack
From October 1956 until February 1957, three VAH-11 Detachments
were deployed in the Mediterranean; two operating aboard
carriers, the third based at NAF Port Lyautey, French Morocco.
In November 1957, VAH-11 received the first of its complement
of A-3B “SKYWARRIORS.” It was clear in this period of
transition that the nickname of the “CHECKERTAILS” was born.
The CHECKERTAILS were assigned to Air Group ONE and on 13
February 1959 deployed on the USS ROOSEVELT to the Mediterranean.
The Squadron returned to the continental United States
in September 1959, and was selected to represent Heavy Attack
Wing ONE at the All Navy Weapons Meet.
Early in 1960, the Squadron was again deployed onboard the
USS ROOSEVELT with the SIXTH Fleet. During the seven month
period in the Mediterranean the Squadron, with seven aircraft,
flew as many hours . as previously deployed squadrons did with
twelve. CHECKERTAIL flight crews showed their proficiency by
earning a total of 49 out of a•possible 52 coveted Navy “E”‘s
for bombing and navigation excellence.
On 15 February 1961, VAH-11 deployed for the Mediterranean
aboard the USS FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT.
Continuing in its tradition of excellence, Heavy Attack
Squadron ELEVEN was named the Heavy Attack Wing ONE top bombing
squadron for fiscal year 1962.
On 6 August 1962, the Squadron was divided into two units.
The major portion, which continued to be designated Heavy Attack
Squadron ELEVEN, deployed to the Mediterranean with six “SKYWARRIORS”
aboard the USS ROOSEVELT from 14 September 1962 until
22 April 1963. The other part of the Squadron, officially
known as Heavy Attack Squadron ELEVEN, Detachment EIGHT, remained
at NAS Sanford, Florida. There they were assigned the responsibility
of meeting all HATWING ONE’s SECOND Fleet operational
commitments during the period when other squadrons were transitioning
to a new aircraft, the A-5A Vigilante.
In October, HATRON ELEVEN was presented the Navy “E.”
Receipt of this coveted award was a fitting climax to a year
of intensive operations, recognizing the Squadron’s exceptionally
high state of operational readiness and efficiency.
:ATRON ELEVEN deployed to Mediterranean with the SIXTH
Fleet on 23 April 1964. This was the Squadron’s Sixth Mediterranean
deployment. In August 1964, VAH-11 received the Navy “E”
for the second consecutive year.
In October, the Squadron achieved another first when VAH-11
Detachment EIGHT relieved VAH-11 in the Mediterranean. This
occurred when the USS ROOSEVELT, with VAH-11 onboard, returned
to CONUS for emergency repairs and was relieved by the USS
INDEPENDENCE with VAH-11 Detachment EIGHT embarked.
Both units of the Squadron completed deployments in December
1964, and on 4 January 1565, Detachment EIGHT was disestablished
and again became a part of VAH-11. During its existence, Detachment
EIGHT was designated by Heavy Attack Wing ONE as the top
bombing squadron of 1964.
During the Spring of 1965, VAH-11 completed an Operational
Readiness Inspection with Air Group ONE and competed in the
bombing derby in which it won every event in which the A-3 was
capable of competing against the newer A-5A. VAH-il was
assigned to Carrier Air Wing EIGHT and departed onboard the
USS FORRESTAL on 24 August 1965 for another deployment in the
The Squadron returnedto NAS Sanford, Florida, on 7 April
1966 and began transitioning to the RA-5C aircraft and training
to assume a new mission as a Reconnaissance Attack. Squadron.
In January 1967, RVAH-11, now fully combat ready,’became a member
of the,.USS FORRESTAL/CVW-11 fighting team. After two,
three-week training cycles in March and April at the Atlantic
Fleet Weapons Range off the coast of Puerto Rico, the Squadron
departed Norfolk, Virginia, on 6 June 1967 for its first combat
cruise. On 29 July 1967 at 1052 hours, a tragic fire ravaged
USS FORRESTAL, then operating in the Gulf of Tonkin, killing
132 men and forcing the ship out of action and back to Norfolk
for repairs. Three Squadron aircraft were’destroyed in the
fire and two more were extensively damaged by salt water. No
CHECKERTAIL personnel fatalities were incurred.
While others onboard the USS FORRESTAL could look forward
to some well deserved rest following their ordeal, the CHECKERTAILS
started preparing for an immediate re-outfitting and
return to Southeast Asia. Arriving home at NAS Sanford,
Florida, on 12 September 1967, the Squadron spent the’next three
weeks completely re-outfitting in preparation to return to sea,
and on 6 October departed Sanford to join Carrier Air Wing
ELEVEN and the USS KITTY HAWK in San Diego, California. Three
weeks operating off the coast of San Diego, two weeks back
home at NAS Sanford, Florida, and the Squadron was ready.
Leaving San Diego on 18 November onboard the “HAWK,” the
CHECKERTAILS again headed for combat. Following an Operational
Readiness Inspection off the coast of Hawaii in which the
Squadron received a grade of “Outstanding,” the highest grade
received by any squadron in the Air Wing, the CHECKERTAILS and
their shipmates arrived on Yankee Station in the Gulf of Tonkin
on 23 December 1967. Because of heightened world tension and
the greater demands placed on the Navy during the Pueblo crisis,
the ship conducted combat air operations for sixty-two consecutive
days before returning to port in late February 1968. Three •
more combat line periods followed with the Squadron flying a
record number of 518 combat reconnaissance sorties.
Combat flight operations were completed on 1 June 1968 and
the Squadron aircraft were TransPac’d to the Squadron’s new
home, NAS Albany, Georgia with the personnel arriving on 29
June 1968. On 17 July 1968, CDR D. F. KIRKPATRICK relieved
CDR C. V. CHOYCE as Commanding Officer of the CHECKERTAILS.
After a short training cycle, the Squadron departed Albany
on 6 November to begin air wing shipboard operations in preparation
for another combat cruise aboard the USS KITTY .HAWK.
In January 1969, the Squadron became the first RVAH squadron
to receive the Presidential Unit Citation for exceptional performance
during the previous WESTPAC combat deployment. The
CHECKERTAILS returned to combat on 28 January and had a very
successful cruise flying/a total of 396 combat reconnaissance
In May, CDR R. K. JELLISON, the Squadron’s Executive Officer,
assumed command. Five highly successful line periods on
“YANKEE STATION” and one extended line period on DEFENDER
STATION off Korea following an incident in which the North
Koreans shot down an EC-121M, were completed on this deployment.
VADM COUSINS extended accolades to the Squadron for the former
and the efforts on DEFENDER STATION resulted in the Squadron
receiving the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (Korea).
After returning to NAS Albany in September, preparations
commenced for the Squadron’s next deployment, this time to the
Mediterranean. New improved aircraft were received between
November 1969 and January 1970.
In May 1970, CDR D. R. NOTHWANG became the seventeenth
Commanding Officer of RVAH-i1 at change of command ceremonies
held aboard NAS Albany. CDR NOTHWANG assumed command of the
CHECKERTAILS following a year of services as the Squadron’s
Executive Officer under CDR R. K. JELLISON. CDR H. W. WRIGHT
became the Squadron’s Executive Officer following this change
On 23 June 1970, the CHECKERTAILS began a seven month
deployment to the Mediterranean, the Squadron’s first MED
deployment since transitioning from A-3’s to RA-5C’s in April
1966. After a highly successful ORI at the Atlantic Fleet
Weapons Range off the coast of Puerto Rico, RVAH-11 began
transiting the Atlantic Ocean as part of COMATKCARAIRWING
SEVEN onboard the USS INDEPENDENCE. On 22 July 1970, a tragic
accident claimed the lives of two CHECKERTAILS. LCDR Dick KARR
and LCDR Bill PULLINGER were killed when their aircraft crashed
into the sea off the flight deck of the USS INDEPENDENCE.
In September 1970, strained relations in the Middle East
drastically changed the routine in whiCh RVAH-11 and the rest
of INDEPENDENCE’s crew had been following. For the next 32
days aboard the INDEPENDENCE, the CHECKERTAILS were involved
in intensive operations aimed at easing the tension of the
Middle East situation.
On 23 September 1970, RVAH-11 was awarded the Navy Unit
Commendation for operations in Southeast Asia, and on 18
November 1970, the CHECKERTAILS were awarded the Vietnamese
Cross of Gallantry, Meritorious Unit Commendation.
The Squadron returned to NAS Albany on 31 January 1971 and
was presented with the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation for
the “professionalism, determination, and resourcefulness displayed
in easing the tensions in the Middle East while they
were aboard the USS INDEPENDENCE.”
On 21 May 1971, CDR H. W. “Murph” WRIGHT assumed command
of RVAH-11 in ceremonies held at NAS Albany, Georgia. After
serving a year as Executive Officer under CDR D. R. NOTHWANG,
CDR WRIGHT became the eighteenth Commanding Officer of Reconnaissance
Attack Squadron ELEVEN. CDR H. F. LENHARDT, Jr.
became the Squadron’s Executive Officer.
After an intense training cycle in NAS Albany and with Air
Wing NINE at NAS Fallon, Nevada, RVAH-11 deployed aboard the
USS CONSTELLATION (CVA-64) in August 1971. After a successful
five-week ORI, the Squadron returned to NAS Albany for three
weeks, and then back to San Diego where the “CONNIE,” with
RVAH-11 aboard departed to Southeast Asia. The CHECKERTAILS
operated on YANKEE STATION with normal support operations in
Laos and South Vietnam for the first six line periods. Supposedly
on the way home in Yokosuka, Japan, in April 1972,
RVAH-11 and USS CONSTELLATION were recalled to the line after
began what proved to be the last major Communist offensive in
South Vietnam during United States involvement. The CHECKERTAILS
flew numerous recce hops in all of North Vietnam and
provided the first tactical reconnaissance photographs of
Haiphong harbor since the bombing halt of 1968. The extended
cruise lasted three more months including a 47-day at sea
period. On 14 May 1972, CDR H. F. LENHARDT, Jr. relieved
CDR H. W. WRIGHT as Commanding Officer during ceremonies at
sea onboard the USS CONSTELLATION. The CHECKERTAILS arrived
back in the United States and NAS Albany on 1 July 1972.
After a thirty-day standdown period with limited flight
operations, RVAH-11 commenced a training cycle highlighted
by TRAEX SLANT RANGE in November. In October 1972, VADM
MICHAELIS, COMNAVAIRLANT, presented RVAH-11 with the CNO
RVAH-11 began the new year with CQ’s and work-ups onboard
USS JOHN F. KENNEDY (CVA-67) preparing for a scheduled WESTPAC
in March. On 9 April 1973, CDR R. A. DAUM relieved CDR H. F.
LENHARDT, Jr. as Commanding Officer during ceremonies at NAS
Albany, Georgia. CDR T. W. BROWN became the Squadron’s Executive
Officer. The cease-fire in Southeast Asia prompted a
rescheduling of CVA’s and USS KENNEDY and RVAH-11 were ordered
to the Mediterranean in April 1973.
USS JOHN F. KENNEDY (CVA-67) got underway on 16 April 1973
and arrived in the Mediterranean ten days later.
The first six months of the deployment was highlighted by
air shows and routine training missions in all areas of the
MED. Port visits included Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca,
Livorno and Gaeta, Italy; Athens and Rhodes, Greece; and
In late September and early October, RVAH-11 and USS JOHN
F. KENNEDY participated in NATO exercises MAGIC SWORD and
SWIFT MOVE in the Bay of Biscay and the North Sea.
These exercises were followed by a port visit to Edinburgh,
Scotland. This was the last scheduled port call before the
CHECKERTAILS and KENNEDY were to start their return home.
However, the Middle East War was raging and the USS KENNEDY
was diverted to a position outside the Straits of Gilbraltar.
Subsequently, the carrier was ordered into the MED and began
full scale flight operations off the southwest corner of Crete.
After the easing of the military alert, RVAH-11 and USS KENNEDY
headed home to Norfolk arriving 1 December 1973, fifty days
after its departure from Edinburgh.
RVAH-11’s stay at NAS Albany, Georgia, was shortlived. A
homeport shift in January 1974 found RVAH-11 as a part of
Commander, Reconnaissance Attack Wing ONE, now based at NAS
Key West, Florida.
The CHECKERTAILS are now training for a scheduled MED
deployment aboard USS SARATOGA (CVA-60) in the Fall of 1974.
Reconnaissance Attack Squadron ELEVEN was honored in
having CDR T. W. BROWN as its Commanding Officer prior to
their disestablishment in May 1975 at Naval Air Station, Key
RECONNAISSANCE ATTACK SQUADRON ELEVEN
Commander E. C. =DAWN Nov 55 – Apr 57
Commander J. BEAR Apr 57 – Jul 57
Lieutenant Commander H. C. HANSEN Jul 57 – Aug 57
Commander C. FERNANDEZ, Jr. Aug 57 – May 59
Commander G. H. ROBERTSON May 59 – May 60
Commander C. 0. DONNAUD III May 60 – Mar 61
Commander H. K. MANSHIP Mar 61 – Apr 62
Commander L. B. LAMPMAN Apr 62 – Mar 63
Commander J. F. BARLOW Mar 63 – Apr 64
Commander Barton W. BARTHOLOMEW Apr 64 – Jul 64
Commander Ronald KENNEDY Jul 64 – Jul 65
Commander K. M. SANDON Jul 65 – Jul 66
Commander Thomas J. KILCLINE Jul 66 – Aug 67
Commander Charles V. CHOYCE Aug 67 – Jul 68
Commander Darrell F. KIRKPATRICK Jul 68 – May 69
Commander Robert K. JELLISON May 69 – May 70
Commander David R. NOTHWANG May 70 – May 71
Commander Harry W. WRIGHT May 71 – May 72
Commander Harry F. LENHARDT, Jr. May 72 – Apr 73
Commander Richard A. DAUM Apr 73 – May 74
Commander Thomas W. BROWN May 74 – May 75