At the end of World War II, Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, ordered the formation of a flight demonstration team to showcase naval aviation. The team performed its first flight demonstration less than a year later on June 15 1946. Flight Leader, Lt. Cmdr. Roy “Butch” Voris led the team flying the Grumman F6F Hellcat at Craig Field at Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville, Florida. As they say, the rest is history.
The Navy Flight Demonstration Team transitioned to the Grumman F8F Bearcat, August 25, two months after the first demonstration. In 1947, flight leader Lt. Cmdr. Bob Clarke, introduced the famous Diamond Formation, now considered the Blue Angels’ trademark. The Blue Angels began flying its first jet aircraft, the Grumman F9F-2 Panther, by the end of the 1940s.
In 1950, the Korean Conflict put a great demand on naval aviation. The Navy responded by reassigning the Blue Angels to the aircraft carrier USS Princeton (CV-37), where the Blue Angels became the nucleus of Fighter Squadron 191 (VF-191), known as “Satan’s Kittens.”
The Blue Angels reorganized in 1951 and reported to NAS Corpus Christi, Texas, where the team began flying the F9F-5, the faster version of the Panther. Because former “Boss” Johnny MADGA was killed in action in Korea, LCDR Butch Voris was brought back to re-form the Team for the 1952 season. The team remained in Corpus Christi until the winter of 1954. The beginning of 1955 brought the team to its present home, Sherman Field, at NAS Pensacola, Florida, where it transitioned to flying the swept-wing Grumman F9F-8 Cougar.
The ensuing 20 years saw the Blue Angels transition into two more aircraft. In 1957 the team began flying the Grumman F11F-1 Tiger. In 1969 Boss Bill Wheat lead the transition to the team’s first dual-engine jet, the McDonnell Douglas F-4J Phantom II.
In December 1973, the Blue Angels reorganized as the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron establishing Cmdr. Tony Less as the commanding officer and flight leader. The squadron added support officers and redefined its mission to support Navy recruiting. The Blue Angels also transitioned to a new aircraft in 1974, the McDonnell Douglas A-4F Skyhawk II.
On November 8, 1986, the Blue Angels celebrated their 40th anniversary by unveiling its present aircraft, the sleek McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) F/A-18 Hornet. CDR Gil Rud lead the transition to the Hornet which is the first designated dual-role fighter/attack aircraft serving on the nation’s front lines of defense.
In 1992 the Blue Angels deployed for its first European tour in 19 years. More than one million people in Sweden, Finland, Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Italy, the United Kingdom and Spain saw the Blue Angels perform during their 30-day tour. In November 1998, CDR Patrick Driscoll landed the first “Blue Jet” on a “haze gray and underway” aircraft carrier, USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75).
Since its inception in 1946, the team has flown for more than 427 million fans.