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Truculent Turtle

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"The Flight of the Truculent Turtle"

by Capt. William Thomas

I am reminded that it was the P2V that filled the void in Navy Patrol circles for over twenty years. Keith Sharer and Al Smith dubbed the P2V a product of 'The Lockheed Novelty Company.' Ironically, after his Navy retirement, Al worked for Lockheed for many years.

I clearly recall making a flight in a PB4Y-2 Privateer from Atlantic City to Columbus, Ohio 1 October 1946. My mission that day was to meet and escort the Truculent Turtle (P2V1) as it completed its historic long distance flight of more than 50 hours from Perth, Australia to Columbus. That flight brought the Neptune into prominence in aviation circles.

Now that the squadron was a land based unit with the designation of VPML-8 (5 June 1947) it briefly flew Lockheed PV-2 Harpoons before transistioning to Lockheed's P2V-2 Neptune between late 1947 and February 1948, thus for the first time operating land planes under the operational control of Fleet Air Wing Five. From July 1947 to December 1948, the squadron was under the commands of LCDR W.R. Ford. The tail code was changed from MA to HD.

Although the designation VP-8 was first used as VP-8F in July, 1929; the F was dropped in July 1937, and VP-8 slowly evolved over the years to VP-24, VP-12, VPB-120, VP-120, VPHL-10, and in 1948 this particular squadron adopted VP-20. The VP-8 designation was reassigned that same year to the original VPB-201/VPML-8 and placed under the command of CDR. Paul E. Hartmann (Now RADM/ret) and was considered operationally ready by December 1948. A detachment was deployed to NAS Argentia, Newfoundland, Canada, and to bases on Baffin Island and Greenland.

It returned to its home base of NAS Quonset Point, Rhode Island in 1949 and on 5 July of that year, CDR Hartmann was relieved by CDR Henry (Hank) F. Lloyd as skipper. On 1 Feb 1950, VP-8 became a unit under the operational and administrative control of Fleet Air Wing Three. On 22 Feb, six of the squadron's P2V's left Rhode Island to participate in exercises at NAS Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Utilizing radar and the then new electronic countermeasure equipment, the detachment achieved ten submarine "kills" during the exercise before returning home at the end of March.

VP-8, under the command of Cdr. Hank Lloyd, was officially presented with the Battle Efficiency Pennant in August 1950 for their outstanding performance during the fiscal year. This same year the insignia of King Neptune riding the Earth and dropping a bomb was approved.

UPDATE"...I thoroughly enjoyed the Truculent Turtle saga as Capt. Rankin was my battalion commander at the Naval Academy (1949-50) and I knew Admiral Davies. One postscript to the event of this milestone flight circulating at the time was that it could have gone all the way the east coast. The crew had calculated the remaining fuel on the basis of US gallons when the manifest was in imperial gallons (one imperial gallon is about 20% greater in volume than a US gallon). Any confirmation of this would be appreciated. Joe Portney, USNA, '52. President, Institute of Navigation, 1989-90...Joseph Portney navsense@earthlink.net..." [31AUG98]

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