Lest We Forget: Uriah Levy, VF-142

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

In retrospect, it is clear that Levy's consistent "offense" in each of the courts martial during his career was that he was Jewish. In an age when anti-Semitism was an unfortunate and all too common condition, Uriah Levy frequently had to defend himself against trumped-up charges.

Despite these obstacles, he had a successful naval career before retiring from the service in 1860. One of his most significant achievements was playing a major role in the abolishment of corporal punishment in the U.S. Navy.

As a successful investor in real estate and a great admirer of Thomas Jefferson, Levy amassed a sizable fortune and used his money to commission the statue of the third president that now resides beneath the U.S. Capitol dome and purchase Monticello, by then nearly in ruins. After a long and expensive renovation that restored the original beauty to Jefferson's estate, Levy eventually opened it for visitors and arranged for it to be "left to the people of the United States" after his death. 

Though often mistreated during his lifetime, Uriah Levy's contributions have been recognized by a grateful nation in the years since his death: the nation's oldest Jewish Chapel, located in Norfolk, Virginia, bears his name; a 1,240-ton Cannon -class destroyer escort—the USS Levy (DE-162)—was commissioned in May 1943 and served till the end of the war; and in September 2005 the U.S. Naval Academy opened the brand new Commodore Uriah P. Levy Center and Jewish Chapel.


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


Fighter Squadron 142 (VF-142) was established on 24 August 1948 at NAS Alameda, California, as VF-193. Equipped with F8F-2 Bearcat fighters, VF-193 deployed to the Western Pacific (WestPac) on the USS Boxer (CV-21), which returned home just before the June 1950 North Korean invasion of South Korea.

VF-193 deployed twice to the Korean war zone on board the USS Princeton (CV-37) while flying F4U-4 Corsairs. Moving to NAS Moffett Field, California, in 1952, VF-193 upgraded to the F2H-3 Banshee jet fighter and deployed thrice to WestPac on board the USS Oriskany (CVA-34) and the USS Yorktown (CVA-10). After transition to the F3H-2 Demon fighter, VF-193 completed four WestPac deployments on board the USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31).

VF-193 moved to NAS Miramar, California, and was redesignated VF-142 on 15 October 1963. After upgrading to the F-4B Phantom II fighter, VF-142 deployed to WestPac on board the USS Constellation (CVA-64), flying retaliatory sorties over North Vietnam in August 1964 in response to the Tonkin Gulf Incident.

By 1973, the Ghostriders had deployed six more times to the Tonkin Gulf, flying strikes in F-4Bs and later F-4Js from the USS Ranger (CVA-61), the Constellation , and the USS Enterprise (CVAN-65). The squadron lost five aircraft and four flyers to enemy action during the war, while credited with downing one MiG-17 and four MiG-21s in aerial combat.

After a Mediterranean deployment on board the USS America (CV-66), VF-142 switched to the F-14A Tomcat interceptor. After moving to NAS Ocean, Virginia, in April 1975, VF-142 deployed to the Mediterranean twice more on board the America. In 1980, the Ghostriders deployed on board the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) to the Indian Ocean in response to the hostage crisis in Iran.

VF-142 made four more Mediterranean deployments on board the Dwight D. Eisenhower before upgrading to the F-14A+ (later F-14B). The Ghostriders were flying from the carrier in August 1990—when Iraq invaded Kuwait—and supported Operation Desert Shield from the Red Sea.

After a subsequent Indian Ocean deployment on board the Dwight D. Eisenhower , VF-142 deployed on board the USS George Washington (CVN-73) in May 1994 for its last deployment, which took the Ghostriders over Bosnia and Iraq in support of Operations Deny Flight and Southern Watch, respectively. 

VF-142 was disestablished on 30 April 1995.


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

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