RVAH-5 Savage Sons Squadron Patch – Plastic Backing
RVAH-5 was a Reconnaissance Attack (Heavy) Squadron of the U.S. Navy. Originally established as Composite Squadron Five (VC-5) at NAS Moffett Field, California on 9 September 1948, it was redesignated as Heavy Attack Squadron Five (VAH-5) on 1 November 1955 and was later redesignated as Reconnaissance Attack (Heavy) Squadron Five (RVAH-5) in May 1964. The squadron was disestablished on 30 September 1977.
VC-5 was first equipped with the P2V-3C Neptune before transitioning to the AJ-1 Savage in the spring of 1950 he AJ-2 Savage. In late 1950, the squadron changed home stations to NAS Norfolk, Virginia, followed by subsequent moves to NAS Jacksonville, Florida in 1952 and NAAS Sanford, Florida in 1955. In 1955, the squadron transitioned from the AJ-1 to the AJ-2 Savage and was subsequently redesignated as Heavy Attack Squadron FIVE (VAH-5) on 3 February 1956.
VAH-5 reequipped with the A3D-2 Skywarrior in late 1957, having had to wait 18 months to receive their first Skywarriors as improvements were made to NAAS Sanford, upgrading it to full naval air station status as a Master Jet Base and renaming it as NAS Sanford. VAH-5 subsequently made four Atlantic/Mediterranean (LANT/MED) carrier deployments with the Skywarrior:
2 September 1958 – 12 March 1959, USS Forrestal, Mediterranean
28 January 1960 – 31 August 1960, USS Forrestal, Mediterranean
9 February 1961 – 25 August 1961, USS Forrestal, Mediterranean
12 October 1961, while on at home turnaround cycle at NAS Sanford, an A3D-2, Bureau Number (BuNo) 142663, assigned to VAH-5 crashed near NAS Sanford following a mid-air collision with another A3D-2, BuNo 142648, assigned to VAH-11. The VAH-11 aircraft’s radome and canopy collided with the VAH-5 aircraft’s starboard side while both aircraft were on an approach to land at NAS Sanford. All eight crewmen, four in the VAH-5 aircraft and four in the VAH-11 aircraft, were killed.
3 August 1962 – 2 March 1963, USS Forrestal, Mediterranean
In September 1962, with implementation of a new DoD-wide aircraft designation system, the squadron’s A3D-2 aircraft were redesignated as the A-3B.
In March 1963, following return from deployment, VAH-5 began transitioning to the RA-5C Vigilante. Upon completion of this transition, the squadron was redesignated as Reconnaissance Attack Squadron FIVE (RVAH-5) in May 1964.
RVAH-5 / Vietnam / Cold War
During the Vietnam War, RVAH-5 completed five combined Western Pacific (WESTPAC) and Vietnam deployments, and two Atlantic / Mediterranean (LANT/MED) deployments on the following carriers:
5 August 1964 – 6 May 1965, USS Ranger, WESTPAC and Vietnam
30 November 1965 – 10 July 1966, USS America, LANT/MED
10 January – 20 September 1967, USS America, LANT/MED
29 May 1968 – 31 January 1969 USS Constellation, WESTPAC and Vietnam
On 25 November 1968, RA-5C BuNo 149293 was lost in combat. The pilot, CDR Ernest Stamm, ejected successfully, was captured, but died in captivity on 16 January 1969 as a POW in North Vietnam; he was posthumously promoted to CAPT and his remains were returned to the United States in March 1974. The navigator, LTJG Richard Thum was killed during the shootdown and his remains were returned to the United States in September 1977. Budgetary pressures of the Vietnam War force the Department of Defense to close several stateside air bases, to include NAS Sanford, Florida. Upon return from their 1968-1969 deployment, RVAH-1 shifts home stations from NAS Sanford to the former Turner AFB, renamed Naval Air Station Albany, Georgia.
14 October 1969 – 1 June 1970, USS Ranger, WESTPAC and Vietnam
11 June 1971 – 12 February 1972, USS Enterprise, WESTPAC and Vietnam
16 November 1972 – 23 June 1973, USS Ranger, WESTPAC and Vietnam
RVAH-5 / Cold War
21 June 1974 – 23 December 1974, RVAH-5 was embarked on USS Constellation for a WESTPAC deployment.
Budgetary pressures following the end of the Vietnam War force the Department of Defense to again close several stateside air bases, to include NAS Albany, Georgia. Following completion of its 1974 deployment, RVAH-5 shifts home stations from NAS Albany to NAS Key West, Florida.
30 January 1976 – 7 September 1976, RVAH-5 was embarked aboard USS Ranger for a WESTPAC/Indian Ocean deployment.
Attrition of airframes and the increasing maintenance and flight hour costs of the RA-5C in a constrained defense budget environment forced the Navy to incrementally retire the RA-5C and sunset the RVAH community beginning in mid-1974. Carrier-based reconnaissance was concurrently conducted by the active duty VFP community at NAS Miramar and the Naval Reserve VFP community at Andrews AFB / NAF Washington with the RF-8G Crusader until 29 March 1987, when the last RF-8G was retired and the fast reconnaissance mission was fully transferred to the active duty and Naval Reserve VF community at NAS Miramar, NAS Oceana, NAS Dallas and NAS JRB Fort Worth as a secondary role with the F-14 Tomcat equipped with the Tactical Air Reconnaissance Pod System (TARPS).
Following its return from its final Western Pacific deployment in September 1976, RVAH-5 commenced the inactivation process and was finally inactivated at NAS Key West on 30 September 1977 following over 29 years of active service.
Home station assignments
The squadron was assigned to these home stations:
NAS Moffett Field, California
NAS Norfolk, Virginia
NAS Jacksonville, Florida
NAAS Sanford / NAS Sanford, Florida
NAS Albany, Georgia
NAS Key West, Florida
AJ-1 / AJ-2 Savage
A3D-2 / A-3B Skywarrior