The storied “Nightmares” are set to deactivate this summer after 69 years of service during which the unit’s Marines saw combat in the Pacific, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Formally designated Marine Attack Squadron 513, the unit which flies AV-8B Harriers out of Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., will be deactivated July 12, 2013 after their most recent deployment to Asia which concluded with their participation in Exercise Foal Eagle. The annual exercise is among the largest in the world and aims to strengthen interoperability between South Korean and U.S. forces in the region.
The unit deployed to Asia in early February to support the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit before transferring to Marine Aircraft Group 12 on March 20, 2013.
The Nightmares were first activated in February 1944, for World War II and saw action in the Pacific before providing close air support during the battle for Okinawa, Japan, in the final days of the conflict. The unit would go on to provide nighttime fighter air defense for all United Nations forces in Korea, as the only unit capable of the mission in the early 1950s. In 1952, the unit scores the first ever radar kill of an enemy fighter at night.
They would again play a high profile role in combat operations during the opening days of the Vietnam War when they provided support for Operation Starlight in August 1965. It was the first major American operation of the war.
They would go on to support operations during the first Iraq War in 1991 with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. In 2002 the unit deployed to Afghanistan to provide CAS, armed reconnaissance and combat escort.
The unit “supported numerous US and coalition operations that led to the capture or destruction of many Al-Queda and Taliban enemy forces ultimately resulting in a punishing blow to enemy living and training areas in the mountains of Afghanistan,” according to the unit’s officials history.
During that time, a six-plane detachment from the unit also bolstered MEUs in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in the Horn of Africa.
In May 2006 the unit became the first to employ a Joint Direct Attack Munition — or JDAM — in combat from an AV-8B Harrier and in 2007 another six-plane detachment supported the 13th MEU while also preparing for the entire squadron to deploy with the 31st MEU.
Upon deactivation, Marines with the unit are being transferred to other Harrier units or new F35-B Joint Strike Fighter units.