“Fear the Bones”
14 inch plaque of solid notched wood of VF-103 Jolly Rogers.
Flying over nine different types of fighter aircraft in the past 63 years, the Skull and Crossbones have become the most recognized and feared insignia in the world. The Skull and Crossbones first flew in January 1943 on the F4U Corsairs assigned to VF-17, the most lethal Navy fighter squadron of World War II. By the end of the war, the original Jolly Rogers had racked up 154.5 kills in the skies over the Pacific. In 1946, VF-17 was redesignated VF-5B and then again in 1948 to VF-61, as the Jolly Rogers transitioned from the F4U to the F-8 Bearcat. VF-61 subsequently transitioned to the Navy’s first jet fighters, the F-9 Panther, then the FJ-3 Fury and finally the F-3H Demon, prior to the squadron’s decommissioning in March 1959.
Flying F-8 Crusaders at the time, the VF-84 Vegabonds were redesignated as the Jolly Rogers in June 1959 to preserve the tradition and history of “The Bones.” Eventually the VF-84 Jolly Rogers transitioned from the F-8 Crusader to the F-4 Phantom and finally to the F-14A Tomcat in 1975.
Following VF-84’s decommissioning in October 1995, the decision was made to retire the “Club and Cloverleaf” insignia of the VF-103 “Sluggers” and have Fighting 103 adopt the Jolly Roger insignia and the Tactical callsign, “Victory,” on October 1st, 1995. Prior to assuming the Jolly Rogers name and insignia, VF-103, commissioned in 1952, had consistently proven ready and willing to accomplish all assigned missions while flying successively more complex and more capable aircraft. VF-103 flew numerous sorties in the moonless skies over Vietnam and achieved the only night MiG kill of the entire conflict.
The Skull and Crossbones had now moved on to its fifth home in order to preserve the rich history and multiple achievements of all Jolly Rogers, spanning four generations and four fighter squadrons. VF-103 made it’s last deployment flying the F-14B Tomcat in 2004 aboard the USS JOHN F. KENNEDY, conducting missions in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, and the squadron transitioned to the F/A-18F Super Horne in February of 2005, becoming re-designated VFA-103
The Jolly Rogers of VFA-103 continue to exemplify the Naval Aviation traditions of excellence and professionalism. With the Jolly Roger emblem proudly emblazoned on the tails of the most lethal and history-rich fighter squadron in all of Naval Aviation, the legacy of “The Bones” promises to endure for many years to come.