Lest We Forget: Commander Holloway H. Frost, VA-145

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

In 1929, Frost's first book, We Build a Navy , recounted the history of the U.S. Navy, from its origins through the War of 1812. He subsequently added a book on shiphandling— On a Destroyer's Bridge —that was widely read by neophytes and professional mariners of the day.

Among his many other writings was The Battle of Jutland , a book he was still writing at his death (later completed by Edwin Falk). Derived from his work at the Office of Naval Intelligence, the book was not short on Frost's outspoken opinions, but his analysis offered valuable tactical insights that were carried into battle in World War II.

Lest we surmise that Commander Frost was known only for his quill, it is important to note that he also effectively wielded the sword. As a young naval officer, he was awarded the Navy Cross while serving in the Atlantic. Qualified for command in submarines, he was also a designated naval aviator, and he played a significant role in developing the tactics of surface and air forces in combined operations against enemy submarines.

In the midst of World War II, the Navy saw fit to name a destroyer escort the USS Frost (DE-144) to honor his many contributions. Appropriately enough, the ship racked up some impressive statistics during the war, covering many nautical miles, sinking several U-boats, rescuing survivors of a hurricane, and escorting the USS Quincy (CA-71) as she carried President Roosevelt across the ocean to attend the Yalta conference. Commander Frost would certainly have been proud of the accomplishments of the ship bearing his name, but he might not have been so impressed with the aforementioned statistics. Among his many written words, these few are still quoted: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damnable lies, and statistics."


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


Attack Squadron 145 (VA-145) originally was established at NAS Dallas, Texas, on 1 December 1949 as VA-702, a reserve squadron equipped with TBM Avenger torpedo bombers. VA-702 was mobilized for active duty on 20 July 1950, moved to NAS San Diego, California, and equipped with AD-2/4Q Skyraider attack aircraft. The Rustlers deployed to combat the Korean War zone in March 1951 on board the USS Boxer (CV-21).

The squadron returned to war in Korea again in August 1952 on board the USS Kearsarge (CVA-33). On 4 February 1953, during its return home, VA-702 was redesignated VA-145. The squadron moved to NAS Miramar, California, in March 1953 and upgraded to the AD-4/4B version. The Swordsmen, as the unit was known from 1954, deployed to the Western Pacific once more on board the Boxer (CVA-21) in June 1955. Upon return, VA-145 upgraded to the AD-6 (A-1H) Skyraider in 1956. VA-145 deployed to the Western Pacific five more times over the next eight years on board the USS Hornet (CVA-12), Ranger (CVA-61), Lexington (CVA-16), and Constellation (CVA-64).

In retaliation for North Vietnamese patrol boat attacks during the Tonkin Gulf Incident in August 1964, VA-145 A-1H/Js flew strikes against North Vietnamese ports on 5 August 1964. One Swordsman, Lieutenant (j.g.) Richard Sather, was shot down and became the first Navy pilot killed in the Vietnam War.

VA-145 deployed twice more to the Tonkin Gulf—on board the Ranger and the USS Intrepid (CVS-11)—while equipped with Skyraiders. The Swordsmen specialized in rescue combat air patrol and coastal armed reconnaissance. VA-145 lost three aircraft to enemy action, including one piloted by Lieutenant (j.g.) Dieter Dengler, who escaped Laos after five months of captivity.

In 1968, VA-145 moved from NAS Alameda, California to NAS Whidbey Island, Washington, and switched to the A-6A/B Intruder attack jet. In January 1969, the squadron deployed to Vietnam on board the USS Enterprise (CVAN-65), surviving a disastrous fire on the carrier near Hawaii. The Swordsmen deployed twice more to the Tonkin Gulf on board the Ranger —the first with A-6A/Cs and the second with A-6A/Bs and KA-6D tankers. VA-145 never lost an A-6 to enemy action over Southeast Asia.

During a period of five post-war deployments on the Ranger , VA-145 upgraded in 1976 to the A-6E and the A-6E TRAM version in 1979. More deployments to the Pacific and Indian Oceans followed, and in 1987 VA-145 support Operation Nimble Archer, retaliatory strikes by surface ships against Iranian oil platforms. In 1989, VA-145 was the first to deploy with the A-6E SWIP version.

VA-145 flew strikes against Iraqi forces in Kuwait and Iraq in January and February 1991 during Operation Desert Storm, dropping more than two million pounds of ordnance and sinking 41 naval vessels. After a 1992 deployment on the Ranger in support of Operation Southern Watch over Iraq and Operation Restore Hope in Somalia and a short transit on board the Constellation , VA-145 was disestablished on 1 October 1993.


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

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