Produced by the Navy Department in 1964, the film “Wings of a Marine” tells the story of Second Lieutenant William T. Smith. He was typical Marine aviator in those days. His career path after completion of his basic flight training at Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola in Florida. This particular Marine aviator enters the A-4 pipeline and flies Douglas A-4C Skyhawks with VMA-225 Vagabonds. The film was shot primarily at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point in North Carolina. The clip was uploaded to YouTube by Wdtvlive42 – Archive Footage.
The film is typical for its era in that it’s somewhat hokey. But that doesn’t take away from the excellent air-to-air photography or the time-capsule quality of the personnel and their appearance. Smith’s initial A-4C carrier qualifications (CarQual) were shot aboard the aircraft carrier USS Lexington (at the time CVS-16, later CVT-16). The quality of both the visuals and the audio is quite good–better than most films transferred to video from this period.
Also making screen appearances are VMFA-115 Silver Eagles flying their McDonnell-Douglas F-4B Phantom IIs and VMA-332 Polka Dots flying A-4Cs. As Smith drives down along the MCAS Cherry Point ramp he sees Lockheed KC-130F Hercules tankers of VMGR-252 Otis, and Vought RF-8A Crusaders and Douglas EF-10B Skyknights of VMCJ-2 Playboys. The VMGR-252 tankers would make history a few months later when they refueled a Sikorsky CH-3 helicopter in flight for the first time.
A-4s take center stage in the film
Naturally there are numerous shots of the Vagabonds in their A-4Cs. Prominently featured A-4C BuNo 148506 actually served with both the Vagabonds and the Polka Dots. It also flew with VMA-533 Nighthawks during the early and mid-1960s. After serving with the Navy’s VA-106 Gladiators, the jet went back to the Polka Dots. The same unit was flying it when it crashed into Dismal Swamp near MCAS Cherry Point after a collision with another A-4C (BuNo 149610) during August of 1967.