Lest We Forget: Fire and Sword; VC-10

By Lieutenant Commander Thomas J. Cutler, U.S. Navy (Retired), Lieutenant Commander Rick Burgess, U.S. Navy (Retired)

Sailing into the heart of Royal Navy waters along the English and Irish coasts, Wickes carried out these orders well, bringing "fire and sword" to the enemy's home waters, capturing a variety of prizes and disrupting vital sea trade.  

In April of 1777, Wickes sortied with a small squadron consisting of Lexington (16 guns) and Dolphin (10 guns), as well as his own Reprisal . They headed into the Irish Sea, taking two brigs and two sloops on 19 June, and in the following week, made 14 additional captures, sinking three ships within sight of enemy ports.

Wickes preceded John Paul Jones in his forays into enemy waters and might well have achieved similar fame had he not met an early end. In September he headed back to American waters but never made it home, falling victim not to enemy action but to that other nemesis of the mariner-a violent storm at sea. Reprisal foundered off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, with the loss of all hands except the ship"s cook.

On hearing of his death, Benjamin Franklin lamented the loss of "a gallant officer and a very worthy man." This epitaph is particularly fitting since the "secret weapon" Wickes had been entrusted to carry to France was none other than Benjamin Franklin, the man who, through great diplomatic skill and clever maneuvering, was able to bring the French into the war on the side of the Americans and thereby ensure victory for the newly formed United States of America.
 

—Lieutenant Commander Thomas J. Cutler, U.S. Navy (Retired)

VC-10

Fleet Composite Squadron Ten (VC-10) was established as Utility Squadron 16 (VJ-16) at San Juan, Puerto Rico, on 1 December 1943 to provide gunnery target tow services, radar tracking, search and rescue, and photographic services to fleet ships and aircraft in the Caribbean area. As was typical for most of its service, the squadron was equipped from the outset with a variety of aircraft types, initially with J2F-5/6, PBY-5/5A, TBF-1, SBD-5, and SNJ-4 aircraft.

After a brief move to NAAF Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, in April 1944, VJ-16 settled at CGAS Miami, Florida, in May 1944 and eventually added JM-1/2, F6F-5, FM-2, and TBM-1J/3J aircraft to its roster. For the remainder of World War II, the squadron operated detachments in Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Brazil, Cuba, Panama, and Trinidad. VJ-16 consolidated its operations in April 1945 at McCalla Field in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and on 15 November 1945 was redesignated VU-10.

Over the next 15 years, VU-10 variously operated JD-1, UF-1, PBM-5A, PBY-6A, R4D-5, SNB-5, F6F-5D, F7F-2D, F8F-2, F9F-6/8, and FJ-3 aircraft, as well as target drones such as the F6F-5K, TD2C, and KD2R5. In 1957, VU-10 began operating a detachment at NAS Jacksonville, Florida, that was absorbed into VU-4 in 1963.

VU-10 moved to NAS Leeward Point at Guantanamo Bay in January 1960 and added defense of the base as one of its missions after communist rebels took over the Cuban government. During the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, VU-10's F-8A Crusader fighters became the front-line defense for the base. The squadron, which acquired US-2Cs and, in succession, F-8B/D/A/C/K versions of the Crusader, was redesignated VC-10 on 1 July 1965.

TA-4J Skyhawks modified to carry air-to-ground ordnance and Sidewinder air-to-air missiles replaced the last Crusaders of VC-10 in 1976, augmented briefly by an EA-4F in the late 1980s. The squadron continued to provide target services for fleet training, as well as dissimilar air combat maneuver training for fleet aircraft, during battle group deployment work-ups.

VC-10 was disestablished on 14 August 1993.
 

—Lieutenant Commander Rick Burgess, U.S. Navy (Retired)
 

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