Change in Marine Corps
following the war, the strength of the Marine Corps flying arm was drastically
cut as part of the post war drawdown of forces. Their active strength
fell from 116,628 personnel and 103 squadrons on August 31, 1945 to 14,163
personnel and 21 squadrons on June 30, 1948. They also maintained another
30 squadrons in the Marine Air Reserve. Also during this time, the Secretary
of Defence for then President Harry S. Truman, Louis A. Johnson, attempted
to eliminate Marine Corps aviation by transferring its air assets to
other services, and even proposed to progressively eliminate the Marine
Corps altogether in a series of budget cutbacks and decommissioning of
The basic tactical and administrative unit of United States Marine Corps Aviation is the squadron, which in size is the organization equal of a battalion. Fixed-wing aircraft squadrons are denoted by the letter ‘V’, which comes from the French verb ‘Voler’ (to fly). Rotary wing (helicopter) squadrons use ‘H’, and some of the air squadrons using Osprey flying units as well. Squadrons flying lighter than air vehicles (balloons), which were active from World War I to 1943, were indicated by the letter ‘Z’ in naval squadron designation. Marine squadrons are always noted by the second digit ‘M’. Squadron numbering is not linear, as some were numbered in ascending order and others took numbers from the wing or the ship to which they were assigned. From 1920 to 1941, Marine flying squadrons were identified by one digit numbers. This changed on July 1, 1941 when all existing squadrons were redesigned to a three-digit system. The first two numbers were meant to identify the squadron's parent group, but with the rapid expansion during the war and frequent transfer of squadrons, this system fell apart. Each squadron has a unique two digit tail code painted onto the vertical stabilizer that tends to remain the same for the entire life of the squadron (though it will sometimes change temporarily as a squadron is assigned to a ship).
The squadron is sometimes further divided into sections. Traditionally, the lead aircraft belongs to the commanding officer.
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