Ventral hippocampal CA1 (vCA1) projections to the amygdala are necessary for contextual fear memory. Here we used in vivo Ca2+ imaging in mice to assess the temporal dynamics by which ensembles of vCA1 neurons mediate encoding and retrieval of contextual fear memories. We found that a subset of vCA1 neurons were responsive to the aversive shock during context conditioning, their activity was necessary for memory encoding, and these shockresponsive neurons were enriched in the vCA1 projection to the amygdala. During memory retrieval, a population of vCA1 neurons became correlated with shock-encoding neurons, and the magnitude of synchronized activity within this population was proportional to memory strength. The emergence of these correlated networks was disrupted by inhibiting vCA1 shock responses during memory encoding. Thus, our ﬁndings suggest that networks of cells that become correlated with shock-responsive neurons in vCA1 are essential components of contextual fear memory ensembles.