Naval History and Heritage Command

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The Blue Angels


UA 474.08 Harry Shulman Collection

Blue Angels in flight in the early 1960s. (UA 474.08 Harry Shulman Collection)


The United States Navy Flight Exhibition Team’s first demonstration took place on 15 June 1946 at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, which was also the squadron’s first home base. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Chester W. Nimitz ordered the formation of the team after WWII, with the goal of increasing public awareness and appreciation of naval aviation. The new exhibition team was the second formal flight demonstration team in international aviation history. The first, Patrouille de France, was formed in 1931.

The team was first introduced with it's now more commonly-known name, Blue Angels, at an airshow in Omaha, Nebraska, in July 1946. Right Wing Pilot Lieutenant Maurice “Wick” Wickendoll was inspired by a name he read in a New York Magazine column. Lieutenant Commander Roy “Butch” Voris, who led the team in a Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat, agreed with Wick, stating, “"That sounds great! The Blue Angels. Navy, Blue, and Flying!"

In their first year, the Blue Angels simulated WWII battles with an SNJ-5 Texan that had been painted and configured to resemble a Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero, and was affectionately named “Beetle Bomb.” In August 1946, the team transitioned to Grumman F8F-1 Bearcats, including “Beetle Bomb.”

The first Blue Angels casualty occurred on 29 September 1946, when Slot Pilot Lieutenant(j.g.) Ross “Robby” Robinson failed to recover from a dive while performing at NAS Jacksonville. Robinson was the first of 26 Blue Angel fatalities throughout the team’s history.

The Blue Angels' famous diamond formation was introduced in 1947 by Flight Leader Lieutenant Commander Robert “Bob” Clarke, and led to other new maneuvers such as the Diamond Loop and the Diamond Barrel Roll. These maneuvers are still performed by the Blue Angels.

The team’s home base moved to NAS Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1948, and the team’s insignia was designed by Flight Leader Lieutenant Commander Raleigh “Dusty” Rhodes the following year in 1949. Through the years, the original insignia has changed only to reflect the silhouettes of current Blue Angels aircraft.

The Blue Angels’ home base moved to NAS Whiting in Florida on 10 September 1949. Currently, the Blue Angels are stationed at NAS Pensacola during air show season, and the squadron trains at Naval Air Facility El Centro, California, during the off-season. The Blue Angels are viewed by an estimated eleven million spectators each year during air shows, and the Blue Angels visit more than 50,000 people per year during school and hospital visits, and other community functions.

Sixteen Navy and Marine Corps officers voluntarily serve with the Blue Angels, and over 100 active duty enlisted Sailors and Marines voluntarily serve as the Blue Angels’ maintenance and support team. A tour with the Blue Angels is typically two-to-three years for officers, and three-to-four years for enlisted personnel, after which they return to the fleet to continue their naval careers.

The mission of the Blue Angels is to showcase the teamwork and professionalism of the United States Navy and Marine Corps through flight demonstrations and community outreach while inspiring a culture of excellence and service to country.


An infographic of The Blue Angels

This infographic shares the history of the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels. (U.S. Navy graphic by Lisa Manresa/Released) 



"Blue Angels" flight demonstration team

Blue Angels flight demonstration team. Two A-4F "Skyhawk" planes pass by in an upside-down formation, during a "Blue Angels" show. Photo received by NPC in December 1977. (USN 1171053)



U.S. Navy Blue Angels

U.S. Navy Blue Angels flying F-4J Phantom II aircraft, they exhibit their maneuvering skills over Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, 23 March 1970. (USN 1143654)



The "Blue Angels"

The Blue Angels demonstrate one of their formations, 8 December 1952. They are flying Grumman F9F "Panther" Fighters. (80-G-K-13678)



Naval Air Station, Pensacola, FL - Fat Albert, the C-130 Hercules aircraft used to transport equipment, fuel and the highly specialized maintenance crew for the Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron, lands during the station's annual open house and air show. November 11, 1989.

C-130 Hercules. Naval Air Station, Pensacola, FL - Fat Albert, the C-130 Hercules aircraft used to transport equipment, fuel, and the highly-specialized maintenance crew for the Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron, lands during the station's annual open house and air show. November 11, 1989. (DN-SC-90-03360)



Blue Angels

Blue Angels F-4C Phantom 11 Fighter Aircraft stand on the flight line at Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. (K-82488)



Navy's Blue Angels

Navy's Blue Angels in their F-4J Phantom II aircraft put on an exhibition of maneuvers at Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, 23 March 1970. (USN 1143655)



San Diego & North Island Naval Air Station Collection

Blue Angels, circa 1961. (UA 10.01.01)



Air-to-air left rear view of a C-130 Hercules aircraft assigned to the Blue Angels flight demonstration team. July 4, 1984.

C-130 Hercules air-to-air left rear view of a C-130 Hercules aircraft assigned to the Blue Angels flight demonstration team. July 4, 1984. (DN-SC-09562)


Published: Wed Apr 22 18:05:17 EDT 2020