A BIT OF HISTORY: "...Radar Helps Navy Flierrs Spot Storms By Howard O. Welty - The San Diego Union - San Diego, Calif - Sunday September 26, 1949 - From the family collection of Capt. F. P. Anderson USN (Ret.) (1915-2005). My Father was Executive Officer of VP-51, Commanding Officer of VP-33 and the 1st Commanding Officer of VW-1. The flags represent the numbers 5 and 1 with international allied signal flags..." Contributed by Colonel Bill Anderson, Retired email@example.com [26SEP2007]
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...Search Planes Save Lives - Page 10 - Naval Aviation News - November 1949..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1940s/1949/nov49.pdf [13JUL2004]
Circa 1948 - 1949
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...January 1950 - Naval Aviation Confidential Bulletin No. 1-50 - One Year With An AEW Squadron - Patrol Squadron Fifty-One - 1948-49 - From the family collection of Capt. F. P. Anderson USN (Ret.) (1915-2005). My Father was Executive Officer of VP-51, Commanding Officer of VP-33 and the 1st Commanding Officer of VW-1. The flags represent the numbers 5 and 1 with international allied signal flags..." Contributed by Colonel Bill Anderson, Retired firstname.lastname@example.org [27SEP2007]
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...Search Planes Save Lives - Page 10 - Naval Aviation News - November 1949..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1940s/1949/nov49.pdf [13JUL2004]
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...The first few PB-1Ws went to VBP-101 in April of 1946. The PB-1W eventually evolved into an early-warning aircraft by virtue of its APS-20 search radar. By 1947, PB-1Ws had been deployed to units operating with both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets. VPB-101 on the East Coast was redesignated VX-4 and assigned to NAS Quonset Point, Rhode Island. VX-4 became VW-2 in 1952 and transferred to NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. VW-2 had the primary mission of early warning, with a secondary mission of antisubmarine warfare and hurricane reconnaissance. VW-1 was established in 1952 with four PB-1Ws at NAS Barbers Point, Hawaii. Elements of VW-1 were drawn from VC-11 at NAS Miramar and VP-51 at NAS San Diego. VW-1 had a mission similar to that of VW-2. PB-1Ws continued in service until 1955, gradually being phased out in favor of the Lockheed WV-2, a military version of the Lockheed 1049 Constellation commercial airliner. PB-1Ws were retired to the Naval Aircraft Storage Center at Litchfield Park, Arizona. They were stricken from inventory in mid-1956 and many were sold as surplus and ended up on the civil register. 13 of them were sold as scrap..." http://www.csd.uwo.ca/~pettypi/elevon/baugher_us/b017-19.html
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...In Grateful Memory Of Stuart T. Cooper who died in the service of his country attached to Patrol Squadron 51, Pacific Area, 19 December 1945 (Persumed). He stands in the unbroken line of patriots who have dared to die that freedom might live and grow and increase its blessings. Freedom lives and through it he lives - in a way that humbles the undertakings of most men. Signed the President of the United States..." Contributed by Kathy & Andre Jutras email@example.com [27JUN2001]
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...Crushed...crushed...crushed. Once again the PB-1W is ignored in Naval Aviation History. The PB-1W was a vital patrol aircraft which served the Navy between 1945 and 1956 in the following squadrons: VX-4, VW-1, VW-2, VPW-1, VP-51, VC-11, and VPB-101. Yet it is virtually ignored on this page and in most accounts of Naval aviation. It was vital in the development of land-based airborne radar and instrumental in the deployment of airborne-early warning. The PB-1W was also used for ASW through the late forties and early fifties. I think it's a shame that the hundreds (thousands?) of aviatiors and ground crew which kept these airplanes going are so often ignored. There is a book on the Navy B-17: "B-17 In Blue" by yours truly. Check out http://www.aerovintage.com/b17.htm..." Contributed by Scott Thompson SThompson@aerovintage.com
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...8 February 1944 - Dear Mrs. Cooper: The men of Bombing Squadron 101 and Patrol Service Unit 1-2 erected this monument as a lasting memorial to their officers and shipmates lost in the Southwest Pacific February and march, 1943. All work and planning was done on the men's own initiative and in their own time, using materials available. This lithograph shows the location on Espiritu Santos overlooking Segund Chanel. When we left the area the squadron and the service unit made a contribution to the French Mission adjoining the camp. The Priest, Father John, was asked to arrange for proper care and preservation in the event that all U. S. Naval Units are withdrawn from the island. Your husband Stuart, to the best of my knowledge, is still listed as "missing." This letter and lithograph are entirely unofficial. Stuart's fellow officers and shipmates want you to know of the respect in which they held their missing comrades as symbolized by this permanent marker erected to their memory. Yours very sincerely, C. W. Heywood, Lieut. Comdr., U.S.N. (Formerly Executive Officer, VP-101)...." Contributed by Kathy & Andre Jutras firstname.lastname@example.org [27JUN2001]Circa 1943
"...Stuart T. Cooper --- Lieutenant, U.S. Navy --- 0-083188 --- United States Naval Reserve --- Entered the Service from: Rhode Island --- Died: December 10, 1945 --- Missing in Action or Buried at Sea --- Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery --- Manila, Philippines --- Awards: Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart..." Contributed by Terry email@example.com [28JUN2001]
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...Location of U. S. Naval Aircraft - Dated 16 Jan 1943..." WebSite: Naval Historical Center http://www.history.navy.mil/ [01OCT2006]VP SQUADRONS MENTIONED
CASU and PATSU
VJ-1, VJ-2, VJ-3, VJ-4, VJ-5, VJ-6, VJ-7 and VJ-8
VP-6 Coast Guard
VP-11 and VP-12
VP-23 and VP-24
VP-31, VP-32, VP-33 and VP-34
VP-41, VP-42, VP-43 and VP-44
VP-51, VP-52, VP-53 and VP-54
VP-61, VP-62 and VP-63
VP-71, VP-72, VP-73 and VP-74
VP-81, VP-82, VP-83 and VP-84
VP-91, VP-92VP-93, and VP-94
VP-101, VP-102, VP-103, VP-104, VP-105, VP-106, VP-107, VP-108 and VP-109
VP-127, VP-128 and VP-129
VP-131, VP-132, VP-133 and VP-134
VP-200, VP-201, VP-202, VP-203, VP-204, VP-205, VP-206, VP-207, VP-208 and VP-209
VP-210, VP-211, VP-210, and VP-216
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...Location of U. S. Naval Aircraft - Dated 09 Feb 1943..." WebSite: Naval Historical Center http://www.history.navy.mil/ [28SEP2006]VP SQUADRONS MENTIONED
VJ-1, VJ-2, VJ-3, VJ-7 and VJ-8
VP-11, VP-12, VP-13 and VP-14
VP-23 and VP-24
VP-31, VP-32, VP-33 and VP-34
VP-41, VP-42, VP-43 and VP-44
VP-61, VP-62, and VP-63
VP-71, VP-72, VP-73 and VP-74
VP-81, VP-82, VP-83 and VP-84
VP-91, VP-92, VP-93 and VP-94
VP-127, VP-128 and VP-129
VP-130, VP-132, VP-133 and VP-134
VP-201, VP-202, VP-203, VP-205, VP-206, VP-207, VP-208 and VP-209,
VP-210, VP-211 and VP-212
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...11 FEB 43 - The Vought F4U Corsair was flown on a combat mission for the first time when 12 planes of VMF-124 based on Guadalcanal escorted a PB2Y Dumbo to Vella Lavella to pick up downed pilots. The flight was uneventful. Its first combat action came two days later when pilots from the same squadron ran into air opposition while escorting PB4Ys of VP-51 on a daylight strike against enemy shipping in the Kahili area of Bougainville..." http://www.history.navy.mil/avh-1910/PART05.PDF [28MAY2003]
A BIT OF HISTORY: "11FEB43--The Vought F4U Corsair was flown on a combat mission for the first time when 12 planes of VMF-124 based on Guadalcanal escorted a PB2Y Dumbo to Vella Lavella to pick up downed pilots. The flight was uneventful. Its first combat action came 2 days later when pilots from the same squadron ran into air opposition while escorting PB4Ys of VP-51 on a daylight strike against enemy shipping in the Kahili area of Bougainville..." http://www.history.navy.mil/branches/avchr5.htm
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...Full Text Citations For Award of The Navy Cross - To U.S. Navy Personnel - World War II - (2,889 Awards) - Navy Cross Citations U.S. Navy - World War II..." WebSite: Home of Heros http://www.homeofheroes.com/ valor/ 1_Citations/ 03_wwii-nc/ nc_06wwii_navyR.html [23NOV2007]VP SQUADRONS MENTIONED
The Navy Cross is presented to Allan Rothenberg, Lieutenant (j.g.), U.S. Navy (Reserve), for extraordinary heroism as Commander of a Patrol Plane in Patrol Squadron FIFTY-ONE (VP-51) in the Solomon Islands Area on 16 October and 20 October 1942. Skillfully locating a hostile cruiser off Santa Cruz Islands in the misty darkness of early morning on 16 October 1942, Lieutenant (j.g.) Rothenberg, on his first attack, swept too close to the vessel for a release which would arm his torpedo. Coming back in a determined second run, he defied a tremendous hail of anti-aircraft fire to score a direct hit on the enemy ship. On 20 October 1942, off Guadalcanal, he located and attacked two other Japanese cruisers through a deadly screen of bursting shell, leaving one badly damaged and lying dead in the water. His superb airmanship and courageous initiative, maintained with utter disregard of personal safety, were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
Born: June 16, 1918 at Newark, New Jersey
Home Town: Washington, D.C.
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...Op-40-A-KB - (SC)A6-4/VZ - January 6, 1942 - Location of U. S. Naval Aircraft..." WebSite: Naval Historical Center http://www.history.navy.mil/ [23SEP2006]
VP-11, VP-12 and VP-14
VP-23 and VP-24
VP-31, VP-32, VP-33 and VP-34
VP-41, VP-42, VP-43 and VP-44
VP-51, VP-52, VP-53 and VP-54
VP-61, VP-62, VP-63
VP-71, VP-72, VP-73 and VP-74
VP-81 and VP-83
VP-91, VP-92 and VP-94
VP-201, VP-202, VP-203, VP-204, VP-205, VP-206, VP-207, VP-208, VP-209, VP-210, VP-211 and VP-212
A BIT OF HISTORY: VP-24, VP-44, and VP-51 History "...Battle of Midway, June 1942. Pilots of the four VP-24 and VP-51 PBY-5A \"Catalina\" patrol bombers that flew the torpedo attack mission against the Japanese fleet\'s Midway Occupation Force during the night of 3-4 June 1942. Those present are (left to right): Lieutentant (Junior Grade) Douglas C. Davis, of VP-24; Ensign Allan Rothenberg, of VP-51; Lieutenant William L. Richards, Executive Officer of VP-44, who flew in a VP-24 aircraft on this mission; and Ensign Gaylord D. Propst, of VP-24. Official U.S. Navy Photograph - Submitted by Steve & Cori Galeener, Bellflower California USA - 5354/5352..." [26MAR2003]
"...James J. Curry, Aviation Machinist's Mate, Second Class - Circa 1942..."
A BIT OF HISTORY: "06JUN42--"BATTLE OF MIDWAY-RESCUES PERFORMED BY PBYS (by Jim Sawruk) VP-51 PPC LTJG Stuart T. Cooper - rescued 72ND B.SQ CAPT Glen H. Kramerr, 2NDLT Raphael Bloch, Jr., 2NDLT John D. Crawford, S/SGT Walter J. Mroozko, SGT John W. Bruce, SGT Marshall J. Enstrom, SGT James R. Week, and CORP Gary C. Hollister..."
A BIT OF HISTORY: "08JUN42--"BATTLE OF MIDWAY-RESCUES PERFORMED BY PBYS (by Jim Sawruk) VP-51 PPC LTJG Frank M. Fisler - rescued VF-8 ENS Johnny A. Talbot..."
A BIT OF HISTORY: "12JUN42--"BATTLE OF MIDWAY-RESCUES PERFORMED BY PBYS (by Jim Sawruk) VP-51 PPC LTJG Frank M. Fisler - rescued VF-8 LCDR Samuel G. Mitchell, LT Stanley B. Ruehlow, and LTJG Richard Gray..."
A BIT OF HISTORY: "14JUN42--VP-61 transferred Bu. No. 04463 to Patrol Wing FOUR and Plane Bu. No. 04483 to Patrol Squadron FIFTY-ONE, leaving VP-61 a total of eight (8) PBY-5's..." Archive: NARA-San Bruno, Record Group: 9NS-313-94-01, SubGroup: 321352, Page: 02, Unit: VP-61..." Contributed by Eric Mitchell firstname.lastname@example.org WEBSITE: www.pby.com
A BIT OF HISTORY: "15OCT42--BLACK CATS--This operation, probably began with Patrol Wing 10 in Australia at the beginning of the war. At the battle of Midway, three planes from VP-24 and one plane from VP-51 made a night torpedo attack on Japanese ships. In the South Pacific on the night of 15 and 16 OCT, LTjg Haber of VP-24, LTjg Muchenthaler of VP-11, were search planes for LCDR Cobb of VPemail@example.com
A BIT OF HISTORY: "23OCT42--91-P-3 BUNO 04513 sights a Japanese Task Force. This is the first sighting in what will become the Battle of Santa Cruz. PPC, unidentified, probably from VP-11 or VP-51..." George Winter firstname.lastname@example.org
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...My Uncle, James J. Curry, Aviation Machinist's Mate, Second Class, was MIA in the Pacific on March 3, 1943. Below you will find many documents (i.e., Citiation, Purple Heart, etc)...Bill Petrolino email@example.com..." [04NOV2004]
"...Monument, Purple Heart, and Distinguished Flying Cross documentation..."
"...James J. Curry Flight Log Book - VP-51 28FEB1942 to 00MAR1942..."
"...James J. Curry NAS Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Scrap Book..."
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...Albemarle - DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER..." WebSite: Naval Historical Center http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/a5/albemarle-iii.htm [09APR2005]I FLEW WITH THE BEST
A town and a sound in North Carolina and a county in Virginia. All three were named for General George Monck, the first Duke of Albemarle and one of the original Carolina proprietors
(AV-5: dp. 8,761; 1. 527'4"; b. 69'3"; dr. 21'11"; s. 19.7 k.; cpl. 1,195; a. 4 5", 8 .50-cal. mg.; cl. Curtiss
The third USS Albemarle (AV-5) was laid down on 12 June 1939 at Camden, N.J., by the New York Shipbuilding Corp.; launched on 13 July 1940; sponsored by Mrs. Beatrice C. Compton, the wife of the Honorable Lewis Compton, Assistant Secretary of the Navy; and commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 20 December 1940, Comdr. Henry M. Mullinnix in command.
Albemarle remained at Philadelphia, fitting out, through mid-January, 1941. Underway for Newport, R.I., on the morning of 28 January, the seaplane tender arrived at her destination on the 30th, and loaded torpedoes. She sailed the following day for Norfolk, arriving on 1 February, and over the ensuing days remained in that area, loading bombs and pyrotechnics and calibrating her degaussing gear, before she sailed on her shakedown cruise on the afternoon of 6 February, setting course for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The seaplane tender shifted thence to Havana on the morning of 18 February, and over the days which followed her captain made the usual formal calls dictated by diplomatic protocol. In Havana harbor, Albemarle dressed ship for Washington's Birthday, her 21-gun salute to the American national holiday returned gun-for-gun by the Cuban gunboat Yarn. On the morning of 24 February, the ship got underway for the Canal Zone.
Diverted while en route, Albemarle anchored in the harbor at San Juan, Puerto Rico, on the morning of 28 February, and that afternoon received the official call of Rear Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, Commandant of the 10th Naval District. That same day, she embarked 91 men from VP-51 and VP-61 from VP-52 for temporary duty and transportation, and sailed for Norfolk, Virginia on the morning of 2 March. While en route, Comdr. Mullinnix was relieved as commanding officer by Comdr. H. B. Sallada.
Albemarle moored at Pier 7, Naval Operating Base (NOB) Norfolk, Virginia, on the afternoon of 5 March, but lingered there for less than a day, getting underway the following afternoon for Philadelphia. She returned to the Philadelphia Navy Yard and spent the rest of March there, undergoing post-shakedown repairs.
The seaplane tender departed Philadelphia on 6 April, and arrived back at Norfolk, Virginia the following afternoon; there she took on board depth charges and depth bombs. She sailed for Newport on the morning of 10 April, and soon after standing out into international waters past the Virginia capes, met her escort for the trip—six "flush-deck" destroyers, one of which was the ill-fated Reuben James (DD-245). That afternoon she fueled two of her escorts, Sturtevant (DD-240) and MacLeish (DD-220) at the same time, the former to starboard, the latter to port.
Albemarle then anchored in the harbor of refuge, off Block Island, late on the afternoon of 11 April and, accompanied by the destroyer Truxtun (DD-229), calibrated her radio direction finders. She then set out to finish her voyage up the eastern seaboard to Newport, arriving at her destination late on the afternoon of 13 April. She there joined a host of warships, ranging from the battleship Texan (BB-35) and the heavy cruisers Tuncaloosa (CA-37) and Wichita (CA^IS) to old and new-type destroyers and the destroyer tender Prairie (AD-15).
While Albemarle had been on her shakedown, the United States determination to aid the British in the Battle of the Atlantic had resulted in the establishment, on 1 March, of the Support Force, commanded by Rear Admiral Arthur LeRoy Bristol, to protect the vital lifeline between the United States and Great Britain in the North Atlantic. It was formed around destroyers and patrol plane squadrons; the latter would be tended by small seaplane tenders (ex-destroyers and ex-minesweepers) and Albemarle.
Over the next few days, the seaplane tender operated in local waters, at Narragansett Bay, off Martha's Vineyard and Quonset Point, Rhode Island, running drills of various kinds and conducting target practices. Rear Admiral Bristol came on board briefly on 28 April and wore his flag in Albemarle; that same day, she embarked her former commanding officer, now Capt. Mullinnix, who was now Commander, Patrol Wing, Support Force; men of VP-56 reported on board in connection with advanced base operations, as did men from VP-55. The following day, the planes from those two squadrons commenced night-flying operations.
Albemarle, after again wearing Rear Admiral Bristol's flag on 2 May, departed Newport for Norfolk, Virginia on 4 May, arriving the following day. The seaplane tender then cleared the Virginia capes on the morning of 9 May for Newport, and arrived there the following morning. She embarked officers and men of VP-52 on 12 May and then sailed the following morning (13 May) for Argentia, Newfoundland, Canada. Ultimately anchoring in Little Placentia Bay, Argentia, Newfoundland, Canada, on the morning of 18 May, Albemarle was soon laying 13 seaplane moorings and gathering data on the weather of the region, establishing the advanced base for VP-52's operations from Argentia, Newfoundland, Canada.
Over the days that followed, in addition to tending the planes assigned to her, she also fueled a succession of destroyers. On 20 May, she received a visit from not only Rear Admiral Bristol— his first visit to Argentia, Newfoundland, Canada, which he later made his headmarters— but Rear Admiral John H. Towers, the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, who both arrived separately in planes from VP-56. Both flag officers departed the following morning.
Twelve PBYs of VP-52 arrived at Argentia, Newfoundland, Canada from Quonset Point, Rhode Island on 18 May, and immediately commenced familiarization flights in the region—activities which were suddenly cancelled on 24 May. On that day, the German battleship Bismarck, which had left Norwegian waters shortly before in company with the heavy cruiser Prinz Eiu/en on what was to be a raiding cruise into the Atlantic, encountered and destroyed the British battle cruiser HMS Hood. An anxious Prime Minister Winston Churchill, concerned over the convoy routes that lay open to the powerful German battleship, immediately cabled President Roosevelt and requested American help.
Albemarle quickly refueled the aircraft that had been flying training missions that morning and readied others for the urgent mission. At 1440 the first group of four PBYs lifted off, followed a little less than three hours later, at 1720, by a second flight of seven. The pilots of the "Catalinas" were briefed for a long reconnaissance mission that would take them some 500 miles southeast of Cape Farewell, Greenland. They encountered foul weather and very dangerous flying conditions in the course of their extensive searches, did not find their quarry in the murk, and were compelled by the fog and darkness to seek haven at various bays in Newfoundland, Labrador, Quebec, and adjoining islands.
Albemarle remained at Argentia, Newfoundland, Canada until 12 June, when she sailed for Norfolk, Virginia, arriving on the 15th. There she loaded supplies, stores, ammunition and gasoline, before getting underway to return to Newfoundland on 20 June. Escorted there by the destroyer MacLeish, Albemarle touched at Halifax en route (22 June), and then proceeded on to Argentia, Newfoundland, Canada, screened by MacLeish and Cole (DD-155), arriving on 24 June. The seaplane tender supported the operations of VP-71, VP-72 and VP-73 until she sailed again for Norfolk, Virginia on 19 July, in company with Dallas (DD-199). Mooring at Pier 7, NOB Norfolk, Virginia on the morning of the 25th, she shifted to the Norfolk, Virginia Navy Yard later that same day and remained there, undergoing an availability, until 12 August.
Underway on the day, Albemarle, screened by the destroyer Broome(DD-210), sailed for Angentia once more, and reach her destination on the 16th, resuming her support of VP-73. She provided support for seaplane and flying boat operations out of Argentia, Newfoundland, Canada through October, 1941. Clearing Little Placentia Harbor on 1 November, Albemarle sailed for Casco Bay, Maine, arriving there on the 3d; she then pushed on for Norfolk, Virginia, arriving there on the 7th.
On the day that Japanese planes attacked the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, 7 December 1941, Albemarle lay at NOB Norfolk, Virginia, embarking passengers before she was scheduled to get underway for anchorage at Lynnhaven Roads. On Christmas Day, 1941, the seaplane tender got underway for Newport and Argentia, Newfoundland, Canada.
Ultimately, the ship proceeded to Reykjavik, Iceland, where she would encounter the most severe weather she would see in her career. One particular day, 15 January 1942, was memorable. She set her special sea, anchor and steaming watches and put out both anchors with 120 fathoms of chain on the starboard and 60 to port, with her main engines turning over and steam up on all boilers. The winds were clocked at 71 knots, with occasional gusts of 95, forcing the tender to drag anchor.
The gale lasted until 19 January, and caused heavy damage among the ship's patrol planes. The ship nearly collided with Wichita on one occasion, and was in danger of fouling several other ships during that time. Her starboard anchor was fouled once, and she lost the port anchor. She ultimately left Reykjavik on 19 January, steaming initially at greatly reduced speed because of the tempest, shaping course for Argentia, Newfoundland, Canada, where she would embark passengers for transportation to Norfolk, Virginia.
Reaching Norfolk, Virginia on 29 January, Albemarle then proceeded to Narraganasett Bay, and there provided tender services to VP-73 as that squadron worked with torpedoes there. On 5 March, Admiral Royal E. Ingersoll, Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet, made an unofficial call and inspected the ship informally. Albemarle completed her work with VP-73 and remained at anchor in Narragansett Bay until 3 April, when she proceeded to the Boston Navy Yard South Annex for an availability. Her overhaul lasted until 1 May 1942.
Upon completion of her refit, Albemarle got underway for Newport, on 5 May, and there, over the next few days, degaussed, calibrated her direction finders, and loaded aircraft for transportation to Bermuda. Underway on 15 May with Mayo (DD-422) and Benson (DD-421) as escorts, the seaplane tender reached her destination on the 17th, unloaded the planes she had brought, and immediately set sail for Narragansett Bay.
Relieving USS Pocomoke (AV-9) in connection with aircraft torpedo and submarine familiarization training, on the 19th, Albemarle remained anchored in Narragansett Bay until 12 August, providing torpedo services for a succession of squadrons: VP-94, VP-34, VP-33 and Torpedo Squadron 4. Underway on 12 August and escorted by the destroyers Livermore (DD-430), Kearny (DD-432) and Rowan (DD-405), the submarine tender sailed for Norfolk, Virginia. After her arrival there, Albemarle conducted gunnery exercises in the Chesapeake Bay operating area.
Shortly thereafter, escorted by Fletcher (DD-445) and O'Bannon (DD-450), Albemarle sailed for the Canal Zone on 5 September 1942. Damaging her starboard screw at Coco Solo, Panama, Canal Zone, the seaplane tender was ordered drydocked for repairs; after transiting the Panama Canal for the first time on 15 September, she entered dry dock at Balboa on the following day. Upon completion of repairs, she transported Army troops and marines to Rio Hato, Panama, for two days of joint Army-Navy maneuvers.
Over the next several months, Albemarle acted as fast transport of aeronautical material and men to naval air bases in the Caribbean and the Pacific coast of South America, as well as in the northern South Atlantic. During this time (September-November 1942), she visited Salinas, Ecuador; the air base at Seymour Island, in the Galapagos Islands; San Juan and Bermuda, primarily operating out of Colon and Balboa and escorted by the seaplane tender Goldsboroygh (AVD-5).
Relieved on station by the seaplane tender USS Pocomoke (AV-9), Albemarle sailed from the Canal Zone on 13 November 1942, escorted by Goldsborough and the small seaplane tender Matagorda (AVP-22). Proceeding via San Juan, Trinidad and Bermuda, the seaplane tender reached Hampton Roads on 30 November having completed her longest sustained tour of duty outside the continental limits of the United States.
Over the next seven months, Albemarle shuttled between Norfolk, Virginia and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Trinidad, British West Indies, San Juan, and Bermuda, on eight round-trip voyages. She varied this routine only slightly on the sixth and eighth of these, visiting Recife, Brazil for the first time (17 to 21 April 1943) on the sixth cruise and putting into the Canal Zone on the eighth. Her cargo included aviation gasoline and ammunition. Upon completion of that cycle of operations, she underwent repairs and alterations at the Boston Navy Yard between 15 June and 23 July 1943, departing on the latter date for Norfolk, Virginia, whence she resumed her cargo-carrying and transport run to Trinidad, Recife, San Juan and Guantanamo Bay. On this voyage, her last on this run, she brought back 27 German prisoners of war, survivors of a sunken U-boat.
Underway from Norfolk, Virginia on 16 September 1943, Albemarle sailed for the British Isles, escorted by the destroyers Bulmer (DD-222) and Barker (DD-213). Proceeding via Argentia, Newfoundland, Canada, the seaplane tender reached Swansea, Wales, with aeronautical cargo and passengers on 28 September, the men and freight she carried to support the newly inaugurated antisubmarine operations by patrol squadrons operating from the British Isles. Underway from Swansea on 4 October, she scraped a screw while leaving the harbor, and, after sailing via Argentia, Newfoundland, Canada, reached Boston on 15 October. She was drydocked the following day, and the damaged propeller was repaired. Albemarle returned thence to Norfolk, Virginia via the Cape Cod Canal, arriving at Norfolk, Virginia on 18 October.
Underway on 22 October as part of a task group formed around the escort carrier Croatan (CVE-25) and three destroyers, Albemarle sailed for Casablanca. Routed via Bermuda, the group reached its destination on 3 November. After discharging her cargo and disembarking her passengers, the seaplane tender then sailed for the United States on 10 November with another convoy, this one larger and formed around Croatan and the light cruiser Philadelphia (CL-41), escorted by seven destroyers, and containing Matagorda and three transports.
Albemarle made a second cruise to Casablanca before the year 1943 was out, underway on 28 November and escorted by the destroyers Barry (DD-248) and Goff (DD-247), and arriving on 7 December. She sailed on the 13th for Reykjavik, and reached that Icelandic port on the 19th. There she embarked men from VB-128 for transportation back to the United States, and proceeded out of Reykjavik on 22 December for Norfolk, Virginia. Battling heavy seas on the return voyage (making only five knots on Christmas Day), Albemarle returned to NOB, Norfolk, Virginia, on the last day of the year 1943.
Proceeding thence to Bayonne, N.J., on 4 January 1944, for upkeep and availability, Albemarle returned to Norfolk, Virginia on 17 January, and prepared for a voyage to San Juan. While outward-bound, however, on 18 January 1944, the seaplane tender fouled a buoy in a thick fog and put about for repairs. Drydocked on 20 January, Albemarle sailed again for her original destination, San Juan, the following day.
Subsequently touching at Trinidad, British West Indies and Recife, Brazil, and retracing her path calling at Trinidad, British West Indies and San Juan on the return leg of the passage, Albemarle returned to Norfolk, Virginia on 23 February for availability. She then steamed to Casablanca in company with the amphibious command ship Catoctin (AGC-5) and two destroyers, and, among her passengers on the westward bound trip, were 20 German U-boat sailors, prisoners of war. She arrived back at Norfolk, Virginia on 1 April 1944.
After upkeep at NOB, Norfolk, Virginia, Albemarle proceeded up to the Naval Supply Depot at Bayonne, where she loaded aviation cargo, between 7 and 13 April. She then sailed, via Norfolk, Virginia, to Guantanamo Bay, Trinidad, the Brazilian ports of Recife and Bahia, and San Juan, ultimately making arrival back at Norfolk, Virginia on 27 May for voyage repairs and upkeep. Loading cargo at the end of that period, including 29 dive bombers, Albemarle again shaped a course for North African waters, the seaplane tender making arrival at Casablanca on 20 June. She proceeded thence to Avonmouth, England, where she loaded cargo and embarked passengers for return to the United States. Underway for Boston on 6 July, she reached her destination on the 13th.
Albemarle spent the next month undergoing a 30-day availability for repairs and alterations at the Boston Navy Yard. Emerging from the yard on 15 August, the seaplane tender proceeded to Bayonne, to load cargo. Sailing via Norfolk, Virginia, the ship visited the familiar bases at San Juan, Trinidad, British West Indies, Recife, Brazil and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba before returning to NOB, Norfolk, Virginia, on 29 September.
After loading cargo at Bayonne (12 to 17 October), Albemarle headed south for the supply run to San Juan, Trinidad and Recife. Outward-bound the voyage proved uneventful; however, while loading ammunition and cargo at San Juan for the return leg of the voyage, an electrical fire damaged the ship's main distribution board, putting Albemarle's lighting and ventilation systems out of commission. Underway for Hampton Roads on 22 November, the seaplane tender reached Hampton Roads on the 25th, and moored at NOB, Norfolk, Virginia, on the 26th to commence an availability.
Underway for Guantanamo Bay on the last day of 1944, Albemarle dropped anchor there on 4 January 1945. Reporting to Commander, FAW-11, for temporary duty, she tended VPB-201 and VPB-210 at "Gitmo" until 17 January, when the seaplane tender sailed for Coco Solo, Panama, Canal Zone, arriving at her destination on the 19th. Thence she sailed for Trinidad, British West Indies where she tended VPB-213 from 1 to 11 February.
Shifting back to the Canal Zone soon thereafter, Atbemarle commenced tending operations for VPB-214 at Almirante Bay, Panama, on 18 February, and remained engaged in that duty until Washington's Birthday. On 25 February, the ship was designated as flagship for Commander, Air Force, Atlantic Fleet, the day after she cleared Limon Bay for the Galapagos group.
There, Albemarle tended VPB-74 and VPB-209 from 27 February to 6 March, when the seaplane tender got underway to return to the Canal Zone. She steamed thence to Guantanamo Bay and Norfolk, Virginia, arriving at the latter place on 17 March for an availability that lasted through mid-May 1945.
Albemarle cleared Norfolk, Virginia on 18 May for New York, laden with cargo, escorted by the destroyers Bernadou (DD-153) and Dallas. Two days later, the seaplane tender sailed for the British Isles in CU-71, a convoy formed around the venerable USAT George Washington. Albemarle's mission was to bring back to the United States those patrol squadrons whose task in the Atlantic had been completed with the end of the war in Europe, and whose presence was required in the still-active Pacific theater. Ultimately, Albemarle reached her destination, Avonmouth, on 30 May, and brought her passengers—men of FAW-7 — back to Norfolk, Virginia on 14 June.
Albemarle made a second voyage to Avonmouth, sailing from Hampton Roads on Independence Day 1945 and reaching her destination on 13 July. There she embarked 772 sailors and soldiers, the majority of the latter repatriated prisoners of war. Underway on the 17th, the seaplane tender arrived back at Norfolk, Virginia on the 26th.
Entering the Norfolk, Virginia Navy Yard on 28 July for repairs and alterations to fit her out for duty in the Pacific, Albemarle was in the midst of this availability when the war in the Pacific ended in mid-August, 1945. The Japanese capitulation suspended the work; and, soon thereafter, the orders to the Pacific to tend seaplanes were cancelled.
Shortly thereafter, however, Albemarle underwent alterations of a different kind, to fit her out for different duty. With repairs carried out to the ventilation and berthing arrangements, the seaplane tender departed Norfolk, Virginia on 25 September with 2,000 Navy replacements embarked, bound for the Canal Zone. She soon reported for duty as a transport under the Naval Transport Service.
Albemarle cleared Coco Solo, Panama, Canal Zone, for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, but while transiting the Panama Canal suffered damage to her port screw. Reduced to proceeding with a single propeller, the seaplane tender put into San Francisco for repairs. Assigned to the "Magic Carpet" fleet—the ships given the job of returning American veterans home for rotation or discharge—upon completion of her repairs, Albemarle sailed westward, arriving at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 1 November before pushing on for New Caledonia, arriving there on 13 November, eventually arriving at NAS Alameda, California, on 28 November.
Following a second round-trip voyage to Samar, in the Philippines, and back, Albemarle underwent a three-month overhaul at the Naval Shipyard, Terminal Island, Calif., in preparation for her participation in Operation "Crossroads." The seaplane tender arrived at the Marshall Islands on 4 May 1946, to provide laboratory and base facilities for the technical staff for the operation. On the date of the first test (Able), an air detonation of an atomic device, Albemarle lay 155 miles to the southeast, moored in Kwajalein, Marshall Islands lagoon. Departing there on 3 July, the ship reached Bikini Atoll the following day, and, except for a rehearsal exercise on 19 July, remained moored at Bikini until she departed the lagoon there on the 25th. She observed the second test (Baker) on that day, and after spending a brief period at Bikini departed Kwajalein, Marshall Islands Atoll for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, reaching her destination on 5 August 1946, her part in "Crossroads" completed. She continued on to the west coast, reaching San Pedro on 12 August, and remained there until she sailed for Norfolk, Virginia on 29 October.
Arriving at Norfolk, Virginia via the Panama Canal on 15 November, Albemarle underwent a six-week overhaul at the Norfolk, Virginia Naval Shipyard. She remained in the Norfolk, Virginia area until she sailed on 3 March 1947 with Commander, Training Command, Atlantic, embarked. Stopping briefly at Key West, Fla., from 6 to 8 March, Albemarle proceeded on down to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, reaching her destination on 10 March for a week's operations there. Clearing "Gitmo" on 18 March, the seaplane tender returned to Norfolk, Virginia on the 21st.
Departing the Hampton Roads area on 9 April, Albemarle sailed for Boston, arriving at the naval shipyard there on the llth. She remained there until the 21 April, at which time she sailed for Newport, making arrival the same day. Departing Newport on the 23d with ComTraComdLant embarked, Albemarle returned to Norfolk, Virginia on the 24th, remaining in that vicinity, conducting refresher training and routine upkeep, until 30 June, when she sailed for Boston.
Spending the 4th of July at Boston, Albemarle remained at that port for over a month, shifting to Newport on 5 August and then back to Boston on the 14th, remaining until 2 September, when she sailed for Norfolk, Virginia. She then conducted one more trip to Newport (22 to 31 October 1947) before coming back to Norfolk, Virginia on 1 November. She then underwent a restricted availability at the Norfolk, Virginia Naval Shipyard from 1 December 1947 to 15 January 1948, for "special temporary alterations" in connection with her next operation.
Albemarle sailed from Norfolk, Virginia on 16 January 1948 for the Canal Zone, and upon completing the transit of the isthmian waterway reported for duty with Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, for temporary duty with Joint Task Force "Switchman." Steaming thence to Terminal Island for final fitting out for her next task at hand, and arriving there on 4 February 1948, Albemarle sailed for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 1 March, in company with the radar picket destroyer Rogers (DDR-876), proceeding thence to the Marshall Islands, arriving at Eniwetok on 16 March, to take part in Operation "Sandstone." Specially altered for the task, Albemarle served as the laboratory ship during "Sandstone"—a three-detonation nuclear atmospheric test series— shots "X-Ray" (15 April 1948), "Yoke" (1 May 1948) and "Zebra" (15 May 1948). Departing Eniwetok on 21 May 1948, Albemarle arrived at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on the 27th, en route to Oakland, Calif., which she reached on 4 June. Sailing for Norfolk, Virginia on 11 June, she transited the Panama Canal on 20-21 June, and reached her ultimate destination on the 26th. She remained there undergoing overhaul at the Norfolk, Virginia Naval Shipyard until 23 August, when she sailed for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, reaching "Gitmo" on the 27th for a three-day stay. Over the two weeks following her departure from Cuban waters, Albemarle visited Key West, Boston, and Newport before returning to Norfolk, Virginia on 14 September.
Following an overhaul at Norfolk, Virginia Naval Shipyard, Albemarle stood out of Hampton Roads on 8 February, and over the ensuing weeks visited a succession of ports and operating areas: Key West; Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Kingston, Jamaica; and Bermuda, interspersing these port visits with training out of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Returning to the Norfolk, Virginia Naval Base on 19 March, she remained there into the summer, ultimately sailing for Boston on 13 July for a port visit. Subsequently visiting Newport and New York, Albemarle returned to Norfolk, Virginia on 27 July, and worked in the local operating areas into September. Further operations late in the summer and early fall of 1949 took the ship to Newport, New York, and the Norfolk, Virginia local operating areas. Standing out of Lynnhaven Roads on 2 March 1950, Albemarle subsequently worked out of Vieques, Puerto Rico, and Roosevelt Roads before she visited Martinique'\15-17 March 1950), Grenada (17-19 March), Willemstad, Curacao (20-22 March), and Ciudad Trujillo, Dominican Republic (23-25 March). Stopping briefly at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the ship returned to Norfolk, Virginia on 31 March and remained there until 11 May, when she got underway for the New York Naval Shipyard, arriving there the following day. Attached to the New York Group, Atlantic Reserve Fleet, the ship was decommissioned on 14 August 1950 and berthed at Brooklyn.
Shifted to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in February 1956, Albemarle was earmarked for conversion to tend Martin P6M "Seamaster" jet flying boats. She was reassigned from the Atlantic Reserve Fleet to the Commandant, 4th Naval District, for conversion, effective 6 February 1956. Equipped with stern ramps and servicing booms to handle the "Seamaster," as well as a semi-sheltered area and a service drydock, the ship emerged from the conversion possessing the capability to serve as a highly mobile seadrome capable of supporting jet seaplanes anywhere. Albemarle was recommissioned at Philadelphia on 21 October 1957, Capt. William A. Dean in command. After fitting out, she sailed for Norfolk, Virginia on 7 December, and arrived there on the 10th. The ship then sailed for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on 3 January 1958, made port there on the 7th, remaining there for ten days and carrying out shakedown training, before dropping down to Montego Bay, Jamaica. Proceeding thence back to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, concluding her shakedown on 21 January, Albemarle steamed thence to San Juan and Trinidad, carrying out tending operations with four squadrons of Martin P5M "Marlin" flying boats and participating in "Springboard" exercises. Albemarle arrived back at Norfolk, Virginia on 9 April, remaining there only five days before proceeding back to Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, where she remained under overhaul through mid-July. Returning to Norfolk, Virginia on 20 July, the ship got underway for operations in the North Atlantic on 14 August, and ranged as far as the Azores before returning to Norfolk, Virginia on 16 September. Over the next two months, Albemarle operated between Norfolk, Virginia and Bermuda; she rounded out the year at Norfolk, Virginia, arriving there on 19 November and remaining until 2 March 1959.
Albemarle continued to operate out of Norfolk, Virginia through 1959 and into 1960, although the cancellation of the "Seamaster" program meant that the ship would never service the aircraft for which she had been reconfigured. Her ports and places visited in 1959 encompassed the naval air facility at Patuxent River, Maryland; Pillsbury Sound, in the Virgin Islands; San Juan, and Savannah, Ga.; Halifax and Nova Scotia, Canada; New York City; York-town, Va., Port-au-Prince; Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and Bermuda. The ship commenced the year, 1960, operating out of San Juan, then moved in succession to Bermuda, back to San Juan, thence to Pillsbury Sound and Grand Turk Island, in the West Indies, thence to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and Pillsbury Sound again; thence to San Juan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, into March.
Unloading ammunition at the Naval Weapons Station at York-town, between 12 and 15 July, Albemarle moored at Norfolk, Virginia, commencing preparations for inactivation, from 15 to 18 July, before she proceeded to Philadelphia to unload material. Returning thence to Norfolk, Virginia on 30 July, she continued inactivation preparations through the summer.
Placed out of commission, in reserve, on 21 October 1960, Albemarle was initially berthed with the Norfolk, Virginia group of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet pending her transfer to the Maritime Administration (MarAd) James River Fleet. Placed in the custodial care of MarAd, Albemarle was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 September 1962.
On 7 August 1964, however, MarAd transferred the ship— earmarked for conversion to a floating aeronautical maintenance facility for helicopters—back to the Navy. On 27 March 1965, the ship received the new name and classification Corpus Christi Bay (T-ARVH-1), and was transferred to the Military Sealift Command (MSC) on 11 January 1966.
Converted at the Charleston (S.C.) Naval Shipyard, the ship emerged from the yard only faintly resembling her former self. Gone was the prominent seaplane ramp, aft, replaced by a built-up superstructure topped by a helicopter landing pad measuring 50 by 150 feet. Previously, damaged helicopters had had to be transported back to the United States for refit; with the advent of this "new" ship type, repairs could be accomplished near the forward areas, damaged helos barged out to the ship and lifted on board by two 20-ton capacity cranes.
Accepted by MSC in January 1966, Corpus Christi Bay's first commander was Capt. Harry Anderson, who had a crew of 129 men, a fraction of the ship's original complement, under him. Accompanying the ship on her first deployment in support of forces in Vietnam was the Army's 1st Transportation Corps Battalion (Seaborne), 308 aircraft technicians and specialists under the command of Lt. Col. Harry 0. Davis, USA. The ship operated out of Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam, during 1966.
Ultimately determined by MSC to be "in excess of current and future requirements," Corpus Christi Bay was taken out of service and berthed in ready reserve status at Corpus Christi, Texas. Corpus Christi Bay (T-ARVH-1) was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 31 December 1974. On 17 July 1975, the ship was sold to Brownsville (Texas) Steel and Salvage, Inc., and was scrapped subsequently.
USS Albemarle USS Albemarle (AV-5), 30 July 1943, in what is probably Measure 21 (Navy blue/haze gray) camouflage. (80-G-76629)
USS Albemarle USS Albemarle (AV-5), her stem showing the extensive modifications made to enable her to handle the projected Martin PGM "Seamaster" flying boats, in the Azores, 21 August 1958, in this photograph taken by Chief Photographer Leuko. (USN 1044231)
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...Hearings Before The Joint Committee On The Investigation Of The Pearl Harbor Attack - Congress Of The United States - Seventy-Ninth Congress...Squadrons mentioned: VP-11, VP-13, VP-14, VP-21, VP-22, VP-23, VP-24, VP-31, VP-32, VP-41, VP-42, VP-43, VP-44, VP-51, VP-52, VP-71, VP-72, VP-73, VP-74, VP-81, VP-82, VP-83, VP-84, VP-91, VP-92, VP-93, VP-94, VP-101, VP-102, CPW-1, CPW-2, CPW-3, CPW-4, CPW-5, CPW-7, CPW-8 and CPW-9..." WebSite: The public's library and digital archive http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/pha/misc/rainbow5.html [01APR2005]
Hearings Before The Joint Committee On the Investigation Of The Pearl Harbor Attack 333KB
A BIT OF HISTORY: "00MAY41--VP 52 flies patrol routes out of Argentia, Newfoundland base..." http://www.halisp.net/listserv/pacwar/1314.html
A BIT OF HISTORY: "00DEC41--Order of Battle December 1941 Patrol Wing Five - Norfolk VP-51 PBY5 n/a at Midway 6/42, Solomon's in '43, VP-52 PBY5 Natal, Brazil , later in Pacific '43-44, and VP-53 PBY5 n/a West Indies in '43..." http://www.halisp.net/listserv/pacwar/1314.html
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...The Neutrality Patrol - To Keep Us Out of World War II - Part 1 of 2 by Capt. William E. Scarborough, USN(Ret.)...Naval Aviation News March-April 1990 Page 18 through Page 23..." [24NOV2000]
VP-52-P-7 VP-52 In February 1941, VP-52 was at San Juan, P.R., and flew a survey party to British Guiana to inspect a "destroyers-for-bases" site for future naval air station. No. 7 is moored for an overnight stop on the Essequebo River, upstream from Georgetown. On September l, 1939, the German invasion of Poland began a long anticipated and feared WW II. Declarations of war against Germany by Britain and France two days later showed that the war would undoubtedly expand to all of Europe a repeat of the beginning of WW I in 1914. The Allies would again be dependent on support by the United States for supplies and munitions which could reach them only aboard ships crossing the Atlantic. Germany would surely make every effort to halt such trafftc by U-boat and surface raider attacks and the Atlantic would again, as it had in WW I, become a major battleground. It was a foregone conclusion that the war in the Atlantic would endanger the neutrality of the United States, and the Navy moved promptly to minimize the threat.
The day war began in Europe the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) informed U.S. forces that German U-boats were ready to begin operations in Atlantic shipping lanes, and reports indicated thata dozen German merchant ships were being armed as raiders. The advisory noted that neutral merchantmen, including U.S. flag ships, could expect similar actions by the British and that it was the duty of the U.S., as a neutral, to prevent such activities in our territorial waters and to assure no interference with our rights on the high seas. The Neutrality Act of 1935, made further restrictive by amendment in 1937, forbade arms exports, either direct or by transhipment. to any belligerent and was looked upon by isolationist groups as the best insurance against U.S. involvement in a European war.
At Coast Guard Air Station, Charleston, the Coast Guard flew Douglas RD-4, Grumman J2F-2, and Fairchild J2K-2 aircraft on coastal and inshore patrols. In return for shared facilities, VP-52 provided copilots for RD and J2K flights. Building at bottom center was a converted warehouse for squadron shops and offices. President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued his first proclamation of neutrality on September 5, 1939, declaring in part that any use of U.S. territorial waters for hostile operations would be regarded as unfriendly, offensive, and a violation of U.S. neutrality.
The Navy had initiated action on September 4, by CNO dispatch to Commander, Atlantic Squadron, directing establishment of air and ship patrols to observe and report by classified means movement of warships of the belligerents within designated areas. The patrol would cover an area bounded on the north by a line east from Boston to latitude 42-30, longitude 65; south to latitude 19; then around the the windward and leeward islands to Trinidad.
The next day CNO amplified his directive by ordering classified contact reports on foreign men-of-war approaching or leaving the U.S. East Coast or the eastern boundary of the Caribbean. Ships sighted by the patrols, both air and surface, were to be identified by name, nationality, estimated tonnage, color, and markings, and were to be photographed whenever possible. Course and speed were to be estimated and all information was to be recorded and reported on return to base.
VP-15-P-7 VP-15 VP-15 (later redesignated VP-53 and VP-73) P2Y-2 off Breezy Point, NAS Norfolk, Virginia, Spring 1939. Neutrality Patrol star on bow was not authorized until March 19, 1940.
On September 6, Commander, Atlantic Squadron reported to CNO that the patrol was operating and by the 20th, when a revised Atlantic Squadron OpOrder (20-39) became effective, Atlantic coastal waters from Nova Scotia, Canada, to the Lesser Antilles, West Indies, were under daily surveillance by surface and air patrols. Forces involved were primarily patrol planes from Patrol Squadron VP-51 (12 PBY-1s), VP-52 (6 P2Y-2s), VP-53 (12 P2Ys), and VP-54 (12 PBY-2s) of Patrol Wing (PatWing) 5 and VP-33 (12 PBY-3s) of PatWing-3, plus four Seaplane Tenders assigned to the PatWings.
Surface forces were battleships and cruisers of the Atlantic Squadron and their attached OS2U and SOC aircraft of Observation Squadron (VO) 5 and Cruiser Scouting Squadron (VCS) 7, Ranger (CV-4) with her air group and Wasp (CV-7), which was not yet in commission. Forty destroyers plus an undetermined number of old destroyers (to be recommissioned) and about 15 old submarines were the assigned surface forces.
Aircraft patrols were initiated by the patrol squadrons, deployed to assigned Neutrality Patrol bases - most of them ill-equipped to support aircraft and crews for flight operations at the level required for daily patrols. General orders to the patrols stressed safety of the operations, avoidance of nonneutral acts, and the exercise of care in approaching vessels to avoid actions which might be interpreted as hostile.
VP-52-P-10 VP-52 VP-52-P-10, Spring 1941. These PBY-5's were transferred from San Diego-based VP-14 in January 1941. To expedite operations and conserve funds. VP-14 markings (black stipes on tail) were retained and only squadron numbers changed.
VP-51: Deployed PBY-1 s to San Juan, P.R., departing NAS Norfolk, Virginia, on September 12, with first patrols flown on the 13th. The squadron utilized seaplane facilities, including ramp and hangar, of Pan American Airways at the San Juan airport, housing crew and supporting activities in tents on the airport. Ttle site utilized was the area on which the future Naval Air Station (NAS), San Juan would be built, construction starting in 1940. VP-51's patrols covered harbors and shipping lanes in the West Indies from Puerto Rico to Trinidad, with special attention to the southern approaches to the Caribbean through the Lesser Antilles.
VP-52 and VP-53: Both continued flying P2Ys from home port NAS Norfolk, Virginia, patrolling mid-Atlantic coastal shipping lanes, coordinating operations with Atlantic Squadron destroyers. VP-53 had returned to NAS Norfolk, Virginia September 1 after a regular summer deployment to Annapolis, Md., for midshipman aviation training.
VP-54: Based at NAS Norfolk, Virginia deployed a detachment of PBY-2s to Newport, R.I., operating from the Naval Torpedo Factory Air Facility on Gould Island in Narragansett Bay, R.I. Daily searches were coordinated with destroyer surface patrols in the assigned offshore areas.
VP-33: Deployed PBY-3s from NAS Coco Solo, Panama, Canal Zone, to NAS Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Patrols covered the area from Guantanamo to San Juan, coordinated with VP-51, destroyers, and the cruisers Tuscaloosa (CA-37) and San Francisco (CA-38), Cruisers Ouincy (CA-39) and Vincennes (CA-44): Patrolled sea approaches between Norfolk and Newport. Battleship Division 5 and Ranger were based at Norfolk as a reserve force.
Experience during the first month of operations dictated changes in the deployment of the forces to improve coverage of the assigned areas.
VP-52 moved to the U.S. Coast Guard air station located on the Cooper River in the Charleston, S.C., navy yard in December. Renovation and modification of existing buildings provided facilities to house crew and squadron administrative and maintenance activities. The air station supplied a seaplane ramp, aircraft parking area, and shared space in a small hangar. Officers were quartered in the Coast Guard BOO. Moving the squadron proved a major exercise in itself.
VP-52 had been home-ported at NAS Norfolk, Virginia since it was first commissioned as VP-14 on November 1, 1935, when the station was NAS Hampton Roads. As a self-supported squadron, a full allowance of maintenance equipment, spares, records, and myriad other authorized and unauthorized odds and ends accumulated required packing and loading aboard railroad cars for the move south. The operation was further complicated by a full schedule of training flights in addition to daily patrols of the assigned areas offshore.
VP-33's initial move to NAS Guantanamo Bay, Cuba posed problems similar to those of VP-52, somewhat diminished by the in-place facilities of the fully operational naval station there. However, the October move of the VP-33 detachment to Naval Station, Key West, Fla., long out of service and moth-balled, demanded much effort by the plane crews and their support personnel. Key West businesses and the population in general were so pleased by the arrival of the PBYs and several submarines that a celebration, including a parade on the main street, was staged! A VP-33 contingent turned out for the event. The Key West detachment flew regular patrols from Dry Tortugas to Miami, Fla., and to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, covering the Florida Straits and the Yucatan Channel.
In November 1939, VP-53 exchanged P2Ys for a mixed bag of older model PBYs-3 PBY-1s, 3 PBY-2s, and 3 PBY-3s. In February 1940, the squadron moved to Key West, remaining there until April 1941 when it returned to NAS Norfolk, Virginia and exchanged the old PBYs for new PBY-5s.
CGAS Charleston hanger shared with VP-52 for major P2Y maintenance. Coast Guard aircraft in photo, left to right: J2K, J2F, RD, and two J2Fs.
Also in October of that year, Ranger and her air group had joined the Cruiser Division (CruDiv) 7 ships and their VCS-7 SOCs to form a strike group with long-range search capability, on standby to fill gaps in the areas covered by the regular patrols. In November, a surface patrol of destroyers was established in the Gulf of Mexico to track shipping in that area. The Navy patrol effort was expanded by Coast Guard surface and aircraft coverage of inshore areas and cooperation by exchange of information, assuring complete area coverage and recording of all contacts.
On October 16, Commander, Atlantic Squadron expanded his earlier orders to the patrol forces with the issuance of OpOrder 24-39. In addition to reporting foreign men-of-war, "suspicious" vessels were to be noted and both they and men-of-war were to be tracked until their actions were considered satisfactory. All units of the Atlantic Squadron were included in the task organiza;tion but the major portion of the patrol activity was conducted by the patrol squadrons and destroyers, the latter primarily responsible for developing (visually checking at close range) contacts made by aircraft. Employment of the battleships was minimized and the ships of CruDiv-7 were soon withdrawn from the patrol for other duties.
The scope of Neutrality Patrol operations gradually expanded during 1940. Concurrently, the aircrews normally required training in all aspects of patrol plane operations - tactics, instruments, navigation, gunnery, bombing, etc. For example, VP-52 deployed detachments from Charleston to advanced bases such as Parris Island and Winyah Bay (both in S.C.) for operations with the aircraft tenders Owl (AM-2) in August and Thrush (AVP-3) in October. In addition to regular patrols, a normal schedule of training flights was flown from the advanced bases.
In spite of the increasing tempo of operations and the resulting workload, the effort proved well worth its costs; the experience markedly enhanced the readiness of Neutrality Patrol squadrons for the tasks that lay a scant year ahead in WW II.
The war in Europe during 1940 saw the apparently invincible German forces defeat France and threaten to bring Britain to her knees by the blitz on her cities and the success of the U-boat actions in the Atlantic. The specter of a British defeat and the danger to the United States of such an event were obvious and dictated further expansion of the forces in the Atlantic. In the famous destroyers-for-bases agreement negotiated by President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill in September 1940, sites for bases in the Atlantic and Caribbean were exchanged for 50 WW I destroyers. Two of the sites, Argentia, Newfoundland, and Bermuda, presented rent-free as a "gift" for 99 years, would become key elements in the Battle of the Atlan- tic. Six other sites, in the Bahamas, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Antigua, and British Guiana, were leased, rent-free for the same period.
Both air and surface elements of the patrol force expanded during 1940 as the scope of the operation grew. Pat-Wing 5 at NAS Norfolk, Virginia commissioned VP-55 on August 1 and VP-56 on October 1. Both were to be equipped with PBM-1 s but problems with the new planes delayed deliveries and severely restricted squadron training. Eventually, the squadrons would be merged into a single command, designated VP-74, with all early production PBMs assigned. On November l, 1940, the Atlantic Squadron was redesignated Patrol Force, Atlantic Fleet and on December 17, then-Rear Admiral Ernest J. King relieved Rear Admiral Hayne Ellis as Commander, Patrol Force. On February l, 1941, the augmented and reorganized patrol forces were established under Admiral King as the U.S. Atlantic Fleet.
This force reorganization included establishment of task forces responsible for operations in specific sectors of the Atlantic. Task Force 1 com posed of battleships, cruisers, and destroyers -covered the trade routes to northern Europe. Task Force 2 - aircraft carriers, cruisers, and destroyers -patrolled the central North Atlantic. Task Force 3 - cruisers, destroyers, and mine craft - was based at San Juan and Guantanamo to cover the South Atlantic. Task Force 4 was Support Force, Atlantic Fleet, under Rear Admiral A. L. Bristol, established on March 1, 1941. The support force included destroyers and the patrol wing, with VP-51, VP-52, VP-55, and VP-56, and the tenders Albemarle (A V -5) and George E. Badger (AVD-3) attached. On April 5, VP53 rejoined the wing at NAS Norfolk, Virginia and, during the month, exchanged its old model PBYs for new PBY-5s. The establishing directive for the support force required preparation of the force for service in high latitudes and em- phasized training in antisubmarine warfare, protection of shipping, and defense against air, submarine, and surface raider attack. Primary mission of the force was operations from North Atlantic bases to prevent Axis forces from interfering with the shipment of war material from the United States to Great Britain.
Other air and surface forces originally operating with the Neutrality Patrol were subsequently designated Task Force 6 and elements based north of the Gulf and Caribbean became the Northern Patrol. The mission of the Northern Patrol, operating from bases at Norfolk, Bermuda, Narragansett Bay and Argentia, would be to investigate reports of potential enemy vessels and other non-American activity in the North Atlantic. This task gave the PatWing Support Force major responsibility for the advance of Naval Aviation to the north and east to insure safe passage of war materials to Britain.
VP-53-P-9 VP-53 Courtesy of Fred C. Dickey. Prior to establishment of the Pat-Wing Support Force, a number of squadron redeployments were directed. VP-54 moved to NAS Bermuda, based on the tender George E. Badger and began Neutrality Patrol operations on November 15, 1940. In December, VP-52 exchanged its P2Y- 25 (last of the model in fleet service) for PBY-5s. The P2Ys were ferried from Charleston to Pensacola for use there in the training squadron. Replacement PBY-5s were ferried cross-country from San Diego by VP-14 and delivered to VP-52 at NAS Pensacola, Florida during January. VP-52 flew the new planes, as received, to its old home port, NAS Norfolk. The move from Charleston was essential as the facilities there could not support PBY operations.
On February l, 1941, VP-52 was transferred to San Juan for what proved to be a brief taste of tropical operations. The squadron joined VP-51 on still-unfinished NAS San Juan, sharing the Neutrality Patrols through the West Indies to Trinidad. In addition to the patrols there were mail runs and survey flights to island sites of the new stations being built under the destroyers-for-bases agreement. At the end of February, VP-52 was ordered back to NAS Norfolk, Virginia and, on March 3, all planes departed for the return. For the remainder of the month, the squadron flew patrols and convoy escort and contine. VP-53 was ordered to move from NAS Norfolk, Virginia to NAS Quonset Point, Rhode Island. Construction of the base at Argentia, another of the destroyers-for-bases sites, had not yet begun.
The deployment of VP-52 would be the first move toward im- plementing the mission of the Northern Patrol of the Support Force. The major North Atlantic shipping lanes would now be within range of the PBYs for convoy escort.
Albemarle arrived at Argentia on May 15, with VP-52's ground crew and squadron gear onboard. Preparations for aircraft operations were begun with a seaplane mooring area designated and buoys laid in the southwestern end of Placentia Harbor near the ship anchorage. This operating area was adjacent to the peninsula on which NAS Argentia, Newfoundland, Canada would eventually be built.
After an attempt on May 18, aborted because of below-minimums weather in Argentia, all 12 VP-52 planes arrived on May 20. The weather was again marginal but, utilizing Albemarle's radio beacon, all aircraft made instrument approaches and safe landings. The next day, the weather was excellent and all crews were scheduled for and flew area familiariza- tion flights. This proved most fortunate because the weather was below minimums on the following two days and, on the 24th, the squadron was ordered to fly a major operation -one of the least- known events in pre-WW II Naval Aviation history.
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...In March 1941, the United States Navy organized Patrol Wing Support Force, comprising VP-51, VP-52, VP-55, and VP-56 and Seaplane Tenders Albemarle, Belknap and George E. Badger. Issued on 5 May 1941, Operation Plan No. 1-41 provided that the Wing "proceed on advance base exercises [and] maintain at least one squadron based on tender(s) at Argentia." In accordance with this plan, Albemarle established Wing Headquarters at Argentia and on 18 May PBY-5A seaplanes of VP-52 commenced operations. The following week, American neutrality notwithstanding, they searched unsuccessfully for the German battleship Bismarck.
In July 1941, the Wing's name was changed from Patrol Wing Support Force, to Patrol Wing Seven (redesignated Fleet Air Wing Seven the following year). This adjustment included the renumbering of squadrons. Beginning in August, Patrol Wing Seven, in addition to convoy coverage, established a daily harbor patrol of the approaches to Argentia. It soon became evident, however, that Newfoundland's harsh winter weather would make tender-based aerial operations extremely hazardous. Consequently, efforts were begun to re-equip the Wing with land planes. Meanwhile, runway construction on the Argentia Peninsula had progressed such that by late 1941 three were available for emergency use. The new year brought change and success to Wing operations at NAS Argentia, Newfoundland, Canada as facilities improved, new squadrons arrived and aerial reconnaissance intensified. On 1 March 1942, U-656 became the first German submarine sunk by American forces during World War Two. The attack was carried out by Ensign William Tepuni piloting a Hudson bomber with Patrol Squadron 82 (VP-82). Two weeks later VP-82 pilot, Chief Aviation Machinist's Mate Donald Mason, sank U-503 southeast of the Virgin Rocks.
Throughout 1942 and much of 1943, the principle activity of Argentia based aircraft continued to be search and rescue, convoy escort, and anti-submarine patrol. A significant change came in April 1943 when United States, British, and Canadian authorities agreed that Canada assume responsibility for the protection of shipping in the Northwest Atlantic. Thereafter, operational direction of aircraft came from the combined Royal Canadian Air Force-Royal Canadian Navy headquarters at St. John's, Newfoundland. The Wing functioned under this system until its transfer overseas in August 1943. In July 1943, Coast Guard Patrol Bombing Squadron Six (VPB-6) began training and indoctrination at Argentia preparatory to North Atlantic operations. After its commissioning in October 1943, Coast Guard Patrol Bombing Squadron Six (VPB-6) reported to its main operating base at Narsarssuak, Greenland, however, a detachment of two aircraft (PBY-5A) was assigned to Argentia; administrative control was vested in Fleet Air Wing Nine. Duties included antisubmarine patrol, convoy coverage, and search and rescue. Lighter Than Air Blimp Squadrons provided additional support during the summer and fall of 1944. When war ended in 1945, Coast Guard Patrol Bombing Squadron Six (VPB-6) duties changed to ice observation, medical evacuation, and utility missions; it continued air-sea rescue operations..." WebSite: Aviation in Newfoundland and Labrador http://www3.nf.sympatico.ca/aviation.nf.lab/Argentia.htm [URL Updated 09JUN2002 | URL Updated 09JUN2001 | 08DEC2000]
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...FLYING BOATS TAKE OFF FROM S. D. NEST by Lt Ed Leiser, U. S. Navy, Retired/Traditions Adviser...Traditions San Diego's Military Heritage October 1995 Vol. 2 No. 5..." Contributed by 1998-2000 Heritage Press and Productions http://www.militaryvideo.com/ [11DEC2000]
Mudpuddle landing - that's how one magazine described the January 1941 splashdown of a San Diego built PBY-5 seaplane. The memorable incident, one of many in the long, colorful history of the PBY, took place in an unlikely but lucky location for a seaplane, despite it being a desert in Texas.
Photo Courtesy San Diego Aerospace Museum...Consolidated workers get ready to put detachable wheels, or "beaching gear," onto a PBY that has completed its test flight on July 2, 1944. The plane was wheeled down the ramp at Lindbergh Field, and the wheels were detached in the water.
Fame came early to the seaplanes from Consolidated Aircraft Corp. and to the men who made history flying them, like the crew from Patrol Squadron 14, or VP-14.
They encountered weather conditions so severe over Texas that five of seven crewmen elected to parachute. One died in his jump over Big Spring, 100 miles west of Abilene. The two remaining crewmen, Lt. j.g. Murray Hanson and Ensign Robert Clark, decided to stick with the ship and try to land it safely with the wingtip floats down.
They landed in a pond about 1,800 yards long by about 1,200 yards wide with an average depth of water of four to five inches over the entire surface. The bottom was a thin crust. Underneath was a slick type of mud, like heavy grease. After striking the surface of the water, the PBY slid to a stop in about 375 yards in a normal flight attitude.
A careful examination of the PBY hull revealed no damage after its lucky landing in the mud. All possibilities were examined to get the plane out. The plane might be able to fly out minus excess gasoline and loose gear; or a 2,000-foot channel could be dredged so the plane could take off in water; or some speciallanding gear could be attached so the plane could be flown out as a land plane. Normal beaching gear could be installed, then the plane could be towed to deeper water to take off, or the PBY could be disassembled and sent to an overhaul base for reassembly.
On the first day, as excess gasoline and extraneous gear were being removed, the pilots started the engines, and an effort was made to move the plane by the engines alone, without success. On the second day, after all excess weight was removed, the pilots were told to again run the engines. The plane, in its lightened condition, began moving. The pilots, on their own decision, kept on going at full throttle, and the PBY was in the air after about a 1,000-foot run. They flew to Corpus Christi and landed. The seaplane cum landplane was still undamaged.
Consolidated Aircraft at San Diego and other companies elsewhere produced PBY Catalina patrol planes in greater numbers than any other patrol plane in aviation history. In the years between 1935 and the end of World War II in 1945, five U.S. and Canadian plants delivered 3,281 of the flying boats. Russia built about 150. The "mother" plant at San Diego produced most of the famous planes -2,398 PBYs that carried thousands of aviators on military as well as civilian missions.
While Catalina is remembered as the nickname for the PBY, it is not so well remembered that the British gave it to her. The Navy did not adopt the name Catalina until October 1941, after it was decided nicknames for air planes were more easily remembered by the public than official designations like PBY-1.
In 1932, the Navy issued a requirement for a new pattol plane with a 3,000-mile range at 100 mph and a gross weight of 25,000 pounds. Several aircraft companies, including Consolidated, Martin, Douglas and Hall, had been competing for Navy pattol plane conttacts. Consolidated, then at Buffalo, N. Y., was the last big winner of the competition with the P2Y series in 1931. On Oct. 28,1933, the Navy ordered one seaplane from Consolidated, the XP3Y-I, or company Model 28. The prototype seaplane was designed by Isaac M. Laddon. Like the P2Y, it was built in Consolidated's plant at Buffalo.
The major construction material for the XP3Y-I was anodized duraluminum, alight, sttong alloy of aluminum, copper, manganese and magnesium. Anodizing covered the metal with a protective film against saltwater corrosion. The conttol surfaces, rudder and elevators on the tail, the two ailerons on the wings for banking, and the wing ttailing edges were covered with weight-saving cotton.
The Navy designation XP3Y-I translates like this: The prefix X was for experimental and applied during the test-flying phase for the new plane; P for patrol; B for manufacturer type sequence; Y for manufacturer Consolidated Aircraft Corp. and I for aircraft configuration sequence.
Two 825-horsepower Pratt & Whitney Wasp engines were inset in the wing leading edge. The 104-foot wing sat on a pylon atop the fuselage. The crew included pilot, co-pilot, navigator, radio operator and two waist gunners; the flight engineer watched the gauges and managed the engines at his cozy set in the pylon on top of the fuselage. Wing floats rettacted outward to form wingtips in flight. The pattol plane carried four .30-caliber machine guns, and two tons of bombs or two torpedoes.
After the company completed the new XP3Y-I seaplane at Buffalo, it was shipped to the NAS Norfolk, Virginia and assembled. Company chief test pilot William Wheatley with designer Isaac Laddon made I the first test flight on March 21, 1935. A three month series of tests, demonstrations and trials followed. After accepting the new seaplane, the Navy ordered 60 production models on June 29, 1935.
Reuben H. Fleet, the company president, made an exploratory ttip to Long Beach and (San Diego in August 1934 with his wife. They ( decided to move the company from Buffalo to San Diego in 1935 because ice closed the (Buffalo Marine Airport four months a year, a problem for a seaplane factory.
"San Diego was selected for our new home largely because airboats could be operated on the water and deliveries made at XPBY-1 flys over San Diego in April in San Diego, or 73 percent of the total time of the year," recalled test pilot Wheatley in an article he wrote for the company newsletter, The Consolidator, in August 1936.
Photo Courtesy San Diego Aerospace Museum...An XPBY-1 flys over San Diego in APril 1936. Consolidated Aircraft built 2,398 PBYs in San Diego, or 73 percent of the total built worldwide between 1935 and 1945.
Wheatley, who had trained on Army Curtiss Jennies and flown mailplanes before going to work for Consolidated, was no doubt pleased with the change in locale.
In the winter of 1929, he was testing a Commodore, flying from Niagara River to Port Washington, Long Island. That Dec. 4, he recalled, "The temperature at Buffalo was below freezing, and I remember that the spray, incident to the take-off, froze on the windshield. I considered using the hand fire extinguisher to break the glass to see out. However, I was able to see through a small comer of the glass, and finally melted the ice off part of the windshield immediately ahead of me by holding my bare hand against the inside of the glass."
The decision to move west delighted San Diego, too.
H. R. Bub, assistant harbor engineer for the city, wrote in a 1936 Consolidator article, "The crowning event in the history of the (Lindbergh Field) airport was the arrival of Consolidated Aircraft Corp.
In 1928, seven years earlier, the story was different. Fleet wanted to move his factory to San Diego after he got his first contract to build patrol planes for the Navy. He learned to fly at the Signal Corps Aviation School on North Island in 1917, and he realized the San Diego geograPBY would be ideal for his factory. Fleet 936. Consolidated Aircraft built 2,398 PBYs built worldwide between 1935 and 1945.
Offered the City of San Diego $1 million for the recently dedicated Lindbergh Field in 1929, but was turned down.
In June 1935, Consolidated began building a new factory at San Diego to assemble airboats, Fleet's favorite name for his large seaplanes.
The mammoth new factory buildings, 300-feet by 900-feet long, went up on the bay less than two miles from downtown. A 50 - year lease assured Fleet the company would stay there. The company moved to San Diego in 50 freight cars in September, and 300 key personnel and their families followed.
The new XP3Y-l arrived by air on Oct. 16. Cmdr. Knefler McGinnis and his Navy crew flew the new airboat from NAS Norfolk, Virginia to NAS Coco Solo, Panama, Canal Zone, to Alameda and then down to San Diego.
Four days later, on Sunday, Oct. 20, the company dedicated the new factory. The XP3Y-l was prominently parked in the open and flag-bedecked doors. Huge letters spelled "CONSOLIDATED" on the airport side of the experimental building, where all air travelers would see it.
By August 1936, after the Navy had learned the XP3Y could carry a substantial bomb load under the wings, the seaplane was redesignated PB Y -1 -PB for patrol bomber. The Navy had already ordered 50 PBY-2s in 1.
Lt. Cmdr. E. Chourre, a Navy aircraft inspector, predicted in September, "In the very near future it will be a common sight to see a Consolidated boat rolling across Lindbergh Field to the seaplane ramp for its first taste of salt water, and then for a hop to her new home wherever that may be.
Indeed, the company was well on its way. In November, the Navy granted Consolidated another of what would be many contracts. This one was for 66 PBY-3s. A newspaper editorial was headlined "$6,056,000 for San Diego."
With three shifts working, the gates never closed at the Consolidated plant along Atlantic Avenue. The busy street became Pacific Highway in 1937.
Consolidated launched the first of 60 PBY-ls down a newly constructed concrete ramp on the beach at Lindbergh Field on Oct. 5, 1936. The Navy accepted the PBY-1 that day. It joined VP-11. Quickly enough, considering the skill with which sailors invent nicknames, the PBY became known in the fleet as the P-boat. You may hear the name today whenever old PBY crew members talk about their old airplanes.
Naval aviators applied the term "truck drivers" to the pilots of the large seaplanes. At North Island, a special school for truck drivers was established under the command of Lt. Cmdr. William M. McDade. The first class consisted of seven officers and 24 enlisted men of various ratings, from VP-6 in Honolulu.
Photo Courtesy San Diego Aerospace Museum...Flight personnel at Consoldiated gather for a drawing to see who will have the honor of participating in the first flight of the last San Diego-built patrol bomber.
They learned to handle the seaplanes on the water and studied the "rules of the road." A flying boat on the water was a "steamboat" within the legal meaning of the term. The class flew the new PBY-1s to Honolulu in 1936.
During 1937, Navy pilots made aviation history with several long-distance, nonstop, transocean formation flights in their new PBY seaplanes. Twelve PBYs of VP-6 flew from San Diego to Pearl Harbor on Ian. 28-29. At 10,000 feet, the crew suffered keenly from the cold, although they wore fur boots and flying suits.
"It was about 3 degrees centigrade most of the entire trip both inside and outside of the plane," Consolidated pilot Wheatley reported in an article for the company newsletter. He and another Consolidated employee accompanied VP-6 on the flight. "Even when lying on a bunk wrapped in blankets, still wearing the suits, we were so cold that our teeth chattered and our knees shook."
Despite the cold, Cmdr. McDade's crew enjoyed good food. "One of the mechanics acted as mess boy and even prepared a menu stating the choice of soup, fruit, sandwiches, bacon and eggs, coffee, tomato juice, etc. which could be had," Wheatley wrote. "Coffee and bacon were cooked on the electric hot plate." But Wheatley concluded the P-boat was in dire need of something more substantial to warm the crew "... even between San Diego (Heaven on Earth) and Pearl Harbor (Heaven on the Pacific ), it is too damn cold at 10,000 feet, so that a heating system should be given serious and favorable consideration. (A little hell might be warmer.)"
Twelve more PBYs from VP-11 repeated the flight on ApriL 12- 13, 1937. Lt. Paul H. Ram say logged 21.9 hours in his Aviator Log Book. The Seaplane Tenders Wright (AV-l) and Langley (AV-3) also made the trip, albeit slower. Langley had been the Navy's first aircraft carrier before conversion to a tender.
There was a long flight on June 21-22, 1937. Consolidator described it as "another vivid chapter in the already glorious history of aviation when ...PBY-l patrol bomber airboats soared to new heights of achievement."
Twelve PBYs completed the longest nonstop mass formation flight and set a world's record when they flew 3,300 miles from San Diego to Coco Solo over Guatemala, Nicaragua and Costa Rica through bad weather in slightly under 30 hours.
On July 1, 1937, three squadrons flew from San Diego to Alaska via Seattle in 15 hours. Before the year ended, 14 more PBYs completed another flight to Coco Solo on Dec. 8.
Not all PBY news was good in 1937. The San Diego Union headline "6 die in S.D. airboat crash" on Aug. 25, 1937, stunned readers. It was the first fatal accident involving the locally manufactured flying boats. At about 7:40 p.m. on Aug. 24, a Tuesday, a PBY-l from VP-2 crashed in lower San Diego Bay south of the Destroyer Base in shallow water. The airplane, on a routine training flight, struck the partly submerged hull of Narwhal, an abandoned whaling ship. The PBY nosed over upside down in about eight feet of water 200 yards from the foot of Ninth Street in National City. Six crewmen were killed and two hurt.
The first PBY released by the Navy for civilian use made history in June 1927. Named Guba, the world's largest, privately owned airplane flew from San Diego Bay to North Beach Airport, N .Y., a 2,700 - mile stretch in 17 hours, 3.5 minutes. Harvey Gehrwig described her takeoff in the Consolidator.
"The Bay of San Diego glistened in the sunlit calm as myriads of lights danced on its surface and craft of all types rocked as they lay at anchor. Suddenly, the staccato coughs of powerful engines coming to life were heard, and then a full-throated roar rent the air as a giant, yellow-winged, two-motored airboat cast loose from her moorings and headed for the entrance of the bay where she would have a two-mile run.
"Circling like a bird dog on the scent, she headed into the wind and with a full blast of 2,000 horsepower skipped lightly over the waves, lifted her nose with majestic grace and soared up and over Point Loma."
Richard Archbold, a research associate of The American Museum of Natural History in New York, piloted the plane. It was identical with the Navy PBY -1, but carried no armament or armament fixtures. Equipment included a two-way radio, Sperry gyropilot and blind-flying instruments. Prior to the New York flight, Archbold had flown the airboat to Boulder Dam. It was the first seaplane ever to land on that body of water. He also practiced landing on Lake Tahoe, getting accustomed to the 7,000-foot altitude. Archbold planned to use Guba late in the winter on an expedition to New Guinea.
However, his plans changed. Soon after his arrival at New York, Russian flyer Sigismund Levaneffsky, the Lindbergh of Russia, en route to the United States from Moscow, was lost with his crew of five men shortly after crossing the North Pole.
The Russian government hired Sir Hubert Wilkins, a noted Arctic flyer from England, to take charge of a search party. An agreement was made between the Russians, the Navy and Archbold to sell Guba, his $250,000 airboat, to the Russians for the search. Levaneffsky and his crew were never found. Archbold returned to San Diego to buy another Guba, and releasing the plane to a civilian paid off for the Navy.
The Guba II, a PBY-2, rolled down the seaplane ramp at Lindbergh Field on Thursday, June 2, 1938. With Archbold at the controls, it took off at 2:46 p.m. for Hawaii, the first stop on the planned two-year expedition in New Guinea to collect birds, mammals and plants.
Consolidated test pilot Russell R. Rogers accompanied Archbold on the transoceanic flight as co-pilot. The expedition arrived at Hollandia, New Guinea, their base camp, on June 8 after a fuel stop at Wake Island. Total flight time from San Diego was 51 hours, 4 minutes. Total mileage was 7, 178 miles. San Diego shortwave radio operator Barney Boyd talked by wireless to the expedition every Saturday night with his radio station W6LYY. Constant communication with the Guba crew convinced Consolidated and Navy officials that Navy PBYs could operate satisfactorily in the tropics without the benefit of elaborate bases and large numbers of upkeep personnel.
Each succeeding PBY model received engines with more horsepower. The engines on the PBY-4s each put out 1,050 horsepower on takeoff. Two large Plexiglas waist gun blisters were installed on both sides of the rear fuselage. Each mounted one .50-caliber machine gun. One .30-caliber gun fired from the nose turret.
Another fired from the tunnel through a hatch cut in the belly of the rear fuselage. Oddly enough, the PBYs with waist blisteJ:"s flew 5 mph faster than the early ones without the blisters.
The year 1938 had some tragic endings for aviators at San Diego. On Thursday, Feb. 3, readers saw another terrible crash headline in the San Diego Union "10 lost in S.D. Navy air crash" with a subheadline stating, "4 rescued as 2 huge flying boats collide 70 miles off Pt. Loma."
On Wednesday evening two PBYs from VP-11, based at San Diego, roared through cloud-spotted skies in night maneuvers over the ocean. They collided in midair at 8:37 p.m. One crashed in flames. All aboard apparently died. No trace was found of the seaplane The other dove into the ocean near a line ofbattleships on naval maneuvers. Boats from Tennessee (BB-43) picked up four enlisted crew. One of them died aboard the hospital ship Relief (AH-I ), anchored at San Clemente. The accident occurred during fleet maneuvers with 96 warships and 200 airplanes.
Fatal air crashes at San Diego again saddened the community on Monday, Aug. 15. It was the first time in naval aviation history the traditional fatal three accidents occurred with such startling rapidity. Two of the accidents were with PBY s from VP-5 in nearly the same location in the bay near the end of Ninth Street in National City as the PBY crash in 1937.
The first PBY attempted to land in San Diego Bay after a short night practice flight and crashed at 9:14 p.m. Three crewmen were killed, including the pilot.
A few minutes later the second PBY crashed on landing. It turned upside down and killed one crewman outright. A second crewman died the next day. A special board of investigation was convened. One of the four crewmen killed, Aviation Machinist Mate 2nd Class Frank Freeman, was buried at Fort Rosecrans.
The third crash on Monday involved a torpedo bomber from the carrier Saratoga (CV-3) at NAAS Camp Kearny, California, north of San Diego. Three crewmen were killed.
There was a fourth airplane accident that day, a benign one because an airfield was nearby. An aviation cadet with Fighting Squadron 4 from Saratoga made an emergency landing at the airport near Del Mar without injury or damage to the airplane, when his fuel line clogged.
Despite these tragedies, the PBY continued to set important records.
Photo Courtesy San Diego Aerospace Museum...A pin is dropped into the side blister gun mount of the PBY to hold the rescue platform in place. Rescues can be made minutes after the plane alights.
Capt. Marc Mitscher commanded Patrol Wing One, 48 PBYs from VP-7, VP-9, VP-10, VP-11 and VP-12, in January 1939 during a flight from San Diego to Coco Solo, headed for Caribbean war games. There were 336 officers, flying cadets and enlisted men on the largest massed hop in U.S. aviation history. All but three made the 3,087 miles in one hop. Those three PBYs landed and refueled as a precautionary measure.
The annual report to the Secretary of the Navy described Patrol Wing One's part in the war maneuvers.
"Although part of regularly scheduled exercises, the operations of Patrol Wing One in connection with Fleet Problem XX are worthy of note. ...From Coco Solo, the wing flew to San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Jan. 23 and while based in that vicinity participated in Fleet Landing Exercise Number Five and Fleet Problem XX. After completion of Fleet Problem, Patrol Wing One proceeded nonstop from San Juan to Norfolk, Va., on March 9, and while on the East Coast participated in a Joint Air Exercise off the New England Coast, basing at Newport for that purpose. Two squadrons of this wing were retained on the East Coast, the remaining two returning to San Diego by way of Guantanamo, Coco Solo and the Gulf of Fonseca, leaving Norfolk on May I and arriving San Diego May 10. Exclusive of distance flown in connection with the Fleet Problem, Patrol Wing One covered a distance of over 10,000 miles on its cruise."
The long flights became routine and virtually without mishap.
American Export Airlines conducted survey flights across the Atlantic from New York to the Azores and France in the summer of 1939, in a Consolidated Model 28 flying boat. On the early morning of June 7, 1939, the two propellers of the plane began turning on the ramp at Lindbergh Field. "Once afloat the seaplane began to move, her propellers rumpling and skittling a soft pattern across the smooth water," the Consolidator reported.
"Quietly she eases on out and heads for the Broadway pier. About a hundred yards from its tip she is swung and headed into the channel. Engines are gunned. There's not the hint of a miss. Then they are opened steady and she starts her takeoff at 4:35 a.m. In just 25 seconds she is up off the step and climbing easily in a big swing around North Island and Coronado. To very sharp eyes she becomes visible for a moment as the fIrst full rays of the sun strike her wet hull, then is completely out of sight. And so another Consolidated twin engine Model 28 begins her career."
But soon, the PBYs would begin to fulfill their wartime mission.
Before World War II began in Europe in the fall of 1939, there were five Patrol Wings using 224 Consolidated PBYs based at San Diego, Pearl Harbor, Coco Solo, Seattle and Norfolk. The Navy renumbered all the patrol squadrons on July 1. The outbreak of war in September forced the organization of the Neutrality Patrol, air and surface patrols from the Atlantic Squadron over areas extending as far east as the 65th meridian just east of Maine and as far south as Trinidad. The squadron included a few battleships, cruisers and destroyers, all of old types, with 54 PBYs in Patrol Wing 3 and Patrol WIng 5. VP-33 moved its PBYs to Cuba. These patrols protected a coastal exclusion zone established around America. VP-51 took its planes from Norfolk to Puerto Rico, both squadrons advancing the protection of the Panama Canal. VP-13 and VP-26 flew from Pearl Harbor to bases in the Philippine Islands. The PBY production line had filled all its orders by late 1938. The last PBY-4 had been made into an amphibian, but no orders were forthcoming.
The war revived production. The Neutrality Patrol needed more airplanes. The British Royal Air Force also wanted its share to control the Atlantic. The Navy ordered 200 PBY-5s in December 1939. The last 33 aircraft on the Navy order were completed as PBY-5A amphibians.
The British Purchasing Commission bought Guba II. It landed at Stranraer Harbor in Scotland on Oct. 26, 1940. After Britain, France, Australia and Canada asked for 174 PBYs, a seaplane type they nicknamed Catalina Consolidated opened a new production line at San Diego. The Dutch East Indies received its order of 36 Catalinas in September 1941. To strengthen anti U-boat patrols in the North Atlantic, 51 PBY Catalinas were ferried to RAF Coastal Command starting in January 1941. The routing was San Diego-Elizabeth City-Bermuda and then a direct 2,889-nautical-mile flight to Scotland. The last one made the flight in May 1941.
The Coast Guard received its first PBY-5, numbered it V-189 in October 1940, then based it at San Francisco for search and rescue purposes. VP-42 operated PBY-2s out of Bennuda on the Neutrality Patrol in 1940. VP-52 PBYs arrived at Argentia, Newfoundland, in May 1941 and took off through melting snow on Neutrality Patrol. Navy PBYs began patrols from Iceland in August 1941.
After an RAP Catalina located Bismarck in May 1941, the British Navy destroyed the Gennan battleship. Gennan radio stations on the west coast of France and Gennan submarines always tried to mislead transatlantic air crews. They counted at least one success when a Catalina was shot down near Brest, Belgium.
These incidents no doubt sparked civilian interest in the P-boat, and syndicated columnist Henry McLemore obliged his readers by describing a ride he took, courtesy Consolidated.
In October, 1941, he wrote, "The PBY is about the size of a house that politicians like to be born in, big enough to have comfort but not large enough to have airs. It is between log cabin and bungalow in size, and if parked on a corner lot it would mark its owner as one who gave his family the comforts but not the luxuries."
McLemore also described how PBY crews felt about the Catalina. "The PBY is one of those planes that inspires confidence. You get in it with a feeling that you are coming back. It doesn't get off the water as fast as some of the other Navy ships do, but you feel deep down inside, as it cuts the water for a takeoff, that it definitely is going to get up and that once up it will stay up. It may not have the pickup of a gull but it has the dependency of a pelican, and that is what you want in patrol flights that sometimes last as long as 30 hours."
The pilot gave McLemore a feel for the P-boat's maneuverability in battle, too. "To show a means of escape from enemy tonnentors," McLemore wrote, "the PBY dropped down from her path in the stratosphere to within 25 feet of the ocean. She rode so close to the waves that I felt I could lean from the gun "blister' and drag my hands in the water as if I were riding in a rowboat.
"The big ship is safer near the water. At 25 feet no enemy fighter can get beneath her, and she is vulnerable only from above. Even if hit and badly hurt, she has only to sink a few feet to ride the waves."
A PBY was there when America entered World War II. While on the early morning patrol near Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, the P-boat dropped a smoke pot on a midget submarine, which was then attacked by a destroyer. Japanese planes destroyed or damaged the remaining PBYs on the ground at NAS Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and those at Kaneohe air station. Heavy PBY losses also occurred in the Philippines. All the PBYs had been built at San Diego.
Photo Courtesy San Diego Aerospace Museum...The Consolidated Aircraft rescue platform allows easy access from the side gun mount on the Catalina, allowing the Navy tp pick up downed aviators.
Before the decisive Battle of Midway in June 1942, a PBY-5 was the first to sight the Japanese warships. Four PBYs conducted a torpedo attack and sank an oiler the night of June 3. In Alaska a PBY waist gunner hit and forced down a Japanese Mitsubishi Zero airplane on June 4, 1942. The fighter was brought to North Island. After workmen secretly repaired the fighter in the blimp hangar, Navy pilots flew it with U.S. markings over San Diego County, where American planes "attacked" the Zero to discover its strengths and weaknesses. During the war, instead of attacking or being attacked, most PBY s simply spent thousands of hours patrolling the oceans seeking enemy shipping and submarines. But the Navy also organized Air-Sea Rescue squadrons to pick up downed aviators. Lt. Nathan Gordon I was awarded the Medal of Honor for rescuing 25 men from Kavieng Harbor, New Ireland, with his PBY-5Aunderfireon Feb.15, 1944. Wartime flying in PBYs was hours and hours of routine boredom punctuated by moments of deadly excitement.
At San Diego, Consolidated delivered 516 PBY-5s between April 1942 and July 1943. And 710 PBY-5As were delivered between December 1941 and March 1944. The Aviator Log Book of Navy Lt. Norris A. Johnson shows that in the month of September 1942 he test-hopped 36 of the PBY-5As after they left the factory at Lindbergh Field and before he landed them at North Island.
The San Diego Aerospace Museum exhibits PBY-5A, Bureau Number 48406, built in 1943, and donated by a civilian owner in 1985. It served in the Pacific war, the Coast Guard, and was parked at the Van Nuys airport before its last flight to North Island to be restored.
The British received 225 PBY-5B (Catalina IB) and 70 Catalina IVA flying boats between May 1942 and July 1943. A Dutch squadron in Ceylon got 12 PBY-5As in September 1942.
The war brought improvements to PBYs. The seaplanes received self-sealing tanks for part of their fuel load. Improved armament included two guns in the bow turret instead of one, and more ammunition all around. Five hundred pounds of armor protected the pilot, gunners and fuel sumps. Assemblers installed radar on the Consolidated PBY production line in May 1942.
Sailors quickly called them Black Cats. All-black PBYs carried out night bomber operations in the South Pacific. The planes flew out of Guadalcanal and Australia through 1943. They flew at night for two reasons. First, the comparatively slow PBYs were easy targets in daylight, and second, the enemy had difficulty seeing them in the dark, especially at 60 feet dropping delayed-action bombs.
Navy PBYs found the most targets in the Atlantic, where German U-boats had sent Allied ship after ship to the bottom with men and supplies that would never reach Europe. PBYs flew from Natal, Brazil, to patrol the South Atlantic, from Morocco to guard the Straits of Gibraltar, and from Great Britain over the Bay of Biscay.
Catalinas of VP-63 made the first detection of a submerged enemy submarine by the use of magnetic airborne detection gear near the Straits of Gibraltar on Feb. 24, 1944. Ships and planes attacked and sank U-761.
Canadian Flight Leader David Hornell received the Victory Cross posthumously after his successful attack on U-1225 on June 24, 1944, with a Canso, the Canadian nickname for the PBY. Before the sub sank. the German antiaircraft gunners shot off the plane's starboard engine. After the burning Canso landed the crew waited for rescue in the water for 21 hours.
In September 1944 a PBY-5 from VP-33 operating near the Philippines got a radar contact off Mindanao. A Japanese Seaplane Tender and two destroyer escorts soon became visible in the moonlight. Lt. j.g. William B. Sumpterdecided to attack. He dropped two 100-pound and two 500-pound bombs, which hit each of the three ships amidships. The P-boat crew felt the explosion and watched the ships erupt in smoke and flames. After a strafing pass, all that was left was the tender lying on its side and sinking.
Army PBYs, designated OA-10s, formed the Emergency Rescue Squadron in the Mediterranean in 1944 to pick up downed aviators and other survivors in the water. Both the Navy and the Army referred to the Catalinas used for rescues as Dumbo, the code name for a rescue mission.
In March 1944, the Consolidated Inspection Department at San Diego rubber-stamped its last Catalina; however, other factories continued making PH Y s. The Naval Aircraft Factory at Philadelphia built PENs and called them Nomads. In Canada, Hoeing built PBYs called Canso lIs and PH2Hs at Vancouver. Canadair Vickers built them at Montreal. Consolidated - Vultee New Orleans, the last company to build PBYs, began a contract for 60 planes in April 1944.
The last Catalina model produced was the PBY-6A amphibian. Russia got 48, the Army got 75 as the OA-10H, and the Navy got the rest.
After the war, perhaps 200 PBYs made their last landings at NAS Jacksonville, Florida. Although the Navy scrapped most of them wherever they gathered, many surplus Catalinas went to small air forces around the world. Perhaps the last military Catalina was retired by Denmark in 1970.
Civilian companies also purchased secondhand PBYs. They fought forest fires in Canada and the United States. A few individuals bought the airplanes for pleasure, business and economical reasons. They were comparatively inexpensive to operate with great reliability.
Navy Capt. William E. Scarborough described flying the P-boat as "hard work." It took a lot of physical effort without power steering. The airplane had an excellent autopilot, which was only good for straight-Iineflight. They cruised at about 110 miles per hour.
Takeoffs in water were blinded by spray over the windshield. Landings were made at about 80 knots (92 miles per hour) until reaching about 50 feet altitude. Power was then reduced. As the speed dropped, the nose was pulled up into a stall. If properly executed, the plane settled in the water at minimum forward speed. If not, a touchdown before a stall could result in a high bounce, popped rivets. and open hull seams.
The interior of a normally noisy PBY turned extremely cold in the Arctic. Tropical flying conditions caused high humidity inside the seaplane and temperatures in the 90s. Long patrols resulted in the loss of normal hearing for hours afterward.
The memory of flying in Consolidated PBY Catalinas shines brightly in the recollections of old P-boat aviators. An old Catalina will continue to be on exhibit at the San Diego Aerospace Museum to remind future generations what those men and those planes achieved.
Leisel; curator of the San Diego Aerospace Museum, used the following as major sources for this article; "Aero Biographies; The Story of the PBY Catalina" by Ray Wagner; The Consolidator magazine; "Historical Aviation Album, Consolidated PBY-5/-5A " by Capt. WE. Scarborough; and Journal of the American Aviation Historical Society.
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...I Flew With The Best..." Foundation Volume 22 Number 2 Fall 2001 Page 24 through 29 National MUSEUM of Naval Aviation [20NOV2001]
"A radioman remembers his time in a highly decorated PBY.
By ACC Prancrazio "Frank" Arcidiacono, USN (Retired) as told to CTC Edward E. Nugent, USN (Retired)
Frank Arcidiacono was assigned to VP-51 as an aviation radioman in 1941. The PBY crew of which he was part amassed an impressive combat record during World War II.
When the Naval Aviation Museum was dedicated in 1975, Commander Allan Rothenberg was among the honored guests. The event underscored what I and the rest of the crew of Rothenberg's PBY Catalina knew more than 30 years earlier. We were flying with one of the very best.
Our squadron, VP-51, was transferred from NAS Norfolk, Virginia to NAS Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii within days following the attack of 7 December 1941. We were assigned to routine patrol duty out of NAS Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii flying our PBY-5A's. The routine became a daily reminder that we had arrived there too late. On 3 June 1942 at 0700 our squadron was told to prepare to fly to NAS Midway Island. We took off with 500-pound depth bombs under our wings.
Upon arrival at NAS Midway Island, we were put on an alert that permitted only half the crew to leave the aircraft at a time and go to evening chow. I remained with the aircraft, and soon a crew of ordnancemen came and removed bombs and put a torpedo under one wing. I asked why the torpedo, and I was advised that a Japanese task force was approaching the island and we were part of the repelling force. I thought of our top speed of 110 knots and didn't consider this to be such a hot idea.
The first half of the crew returned from chow about the same time the torpedo was properly attached. We had not eaten since breakfast at Pearl, so we in the second group were crushed when the alarm sounded for us to return to our aircraft before we ate the first bite.
Four aircraft were armed with torpedoes. We proceeded to take off, although our plane lost a considerable amount of time because we had difficulty getting the boarding ladder loose. The other three PBYs were by then well on their way. Since we were under radio silence, we could not contact them and had to continue on our own. We were unable to find the enemy ships at night, and our pilot,.Ensign Rothenberg, elected not to try for a daylight attack on the main force alone. We began searching for other ships as a target. Not finding any, we began our return flight to NAS Midway Island.
I intercepted a message indicating there were many enemy aircraft on the Same course we were on and a very short distance behind us. I informed Rothenberg, and he dropped down to about 50 feet above the water. We would later learn that about 150 Zeros flew directly above us on their way to NAS Midway Island.
Soon we could see many columns of black smoke rising from NAS Midway Island. Not being able to determine if we still held the island, Rothenberg changed course for a second island called French Frigate Shoals. The water was extremely shallow and unsafe for landing, but aviation fuel was supposed to be available aboard a small ship anchored near the island. We flew by the ship, and I flashed a message with our Aldis lamp requesting permission to land and take on fuel. The ship informed us they were out of gas, so we headed for an alternate island. Since we were running low on fuel, the torpedo was set on safe and dropped. I should point out these were regular submarine torpedoes, and dropping them as aerial torpedoes had not been tried before.
When we arrived at the alternate site and began to taxi to the ship, both engines died. We were out of fuel. Had we not dropped the torpedo, we wouldn't have made it. I again used the Aldis lamp requesting a tow, and a launch came out to pull us in.
Since some of us had not eaten for over 24 hours, I requested sandwiches from the refueling ship. The best they could do was a quantity of apples. This was important because it took the better part of the day to refuel. We had to hand pump the fuel from 55-gallon drums. Night was near so Rothenberg requested permission to tie up to the stern of the ship. Then a second PBY landed and tied up behind us.
Later a third PBY landed, and while attempting to anchor they lost their anchor. This meant they would have no choice but to continue to taxi. The pilot therefore requested permission to tie up behind the PBY that was tied up behind us. The captain of the ship feared that if enemy aircraft approached, three PBYs would create too much of a risk. Cutting three loose in a timely manner would make it difficult for the ship to take evasive action. The third PBY pilot then began to taxi around until, due lack of sleep, he rammed into the ship. He hit with such force that the bow of his PBY was pushed up into the pilot's compartment. Their plane then drifted into our plane, knocking off the pitot tube and damaging one of our wingtip floats. Our crew prevented further damage to our aircraft by pushing the other PBY away. It finally drifted behind us and sank.
The next morning I was instructed to send a message to NAS Pearl Harbor, Hawaii informing them of our situation and requesting further instructions. We were told to put half of the sunken plane's crew on each of the remaining two aircraft and return to NAS Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
We were disappointed by how many things had gone wrong. We would have liked to have been able to claim some significant feat at NAS Midway Island, but we were pleased that as a result of the flight, each crew member was promoted. Since I had made radioman 3rd class on 1 June, and this made me 2nd class effective 4 June, it is believed I set a new record for the shortest time between pay grades.
We operated in the Guadalcanal area from 9 August 1942 until January 1943. Our missions were patrol, air/sea rescue, bombing and night torpedo attacks. We also made some supply runs.
Our real run of luck flying from NOB Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides Islands began 16 October 1942. Rear Admiral John S. McCain, commander of Air South Pacific, sent us out with a torpedo to intercept an enemy fleet in the Solomon Islands area. This was again a submarine-type torpedo. We found the ships by radar before daylight. Rothenberg, now a lieutenant junior grade, asked that we pick out the largest ship. First radioman Grey was on the radar and advised that the ship we had just flown over was the largest. We came in "up-moon" and slowed to drop speed, then descended to about 50 feet above the water.
We still had not been fired upon. We dropped the torpedo and flew over the ship, then descended back to just above the water to make it more difficult for the ships to hit us. The torpedo found its mark - a solid hit. Only then did we begin taking fire. The fire came from all directions but was ineffective. Elation filled the crew; we had sunk a cruiser and escaped with no damage.
A few days later, during the night of 19 October, an enemy cruiser was shelling the Marines at Guadalcanal. Vice Admiral William F. Halsey ordered action be taken to get the cruiser. We were called upon again along with two other PBYs to attack the cruiser. We took off under orders of radio silence with the understanding that if the cruiser was not found, we would drop our bombs on enemy installations on the island.
Our plane was the last plane in the flight as we flew toward the area. Our pilots spotted the wake of a ship and I was ordered to signal the other pilots who had not seen it. Neither of the other two aircraft saw my signal, and they continued on their way. We circled back and determined that it was not one, but two Japanese cruisers. Rothenberg ordered me to the tunnel gun position. He said he would drop bombs without using the bomb sight and that I would spot for him.
The crew that bagged two enemy cruisers within a four day period poses proudly for a photograph in the New Hebrides. In the back row, from left to right, are 1st Radioman W. C. Gray, 2nd Radioman Arcidiacono, Bombardier W. E. Totten, 1st Mechanic C. G. Lawler, enlisted pilot Pyle and 2nd Mechanic C. C. Roberts. Seated in the center of the front row is plane commander Lieutenant Rothenberg. The other two men are not identified.
We dropped the first two of our four 500-pound depth bombs. One was way off, the other a near miss. The ship we were stalking then picked up speed and the other ship launched its float plane. I got the plane in my gunsight with a perfect no-deflection shot, but Rothenberg ordered me not to fire. I understood that it would give away our position, but no one will ever know how hard it was for me not to shoot down that enemy plane. No shots were fired - again we had escaped detection. The engine exhaust on a PBY was on the top of the wing, making visual sighting from below difficult.
We dropped our two remaining 500 pounders. The ship stopped dead in the water and severe secondary explosions began. Then firing began from the other Japanese ships, but we had hit our target before they had seen us, so we were able to get out of there. We learned later that the enemy crew had to abandon ship, and the next day our cruisers and destroyers sank the ship we had put out of action.
Many people will best remember our skipper Lieutenant Rothenberg as the pilot who spotted the survivors of the destroyer USS Meredith (DD-434) and the tug USS Vireo (AT-144), who were stranded after a Japanese attack on 15 Octo- ber 1942. We had flown out on a routine search-and-rescue flight. We first spotted the tug with a gasoline barge still attached but abandoned. The American flag was flying upside down from the barge.
We later learned that the tug crew had been taken aboard USS Meredith (DD-434) for safety after the ships beat off an attack by two Japanese planes. USS Meredith (DD-434)s skipper ordered the old, slow tug abandoned. As the destroyer prepared to torpedo the tug so that it wouldn't fall into enemy hands, 27 planes descended from the sky and pounced on the destroyer, quickly sinking her.
Ironically here was the tug and barge still afloat while USS Meredith (DD-434) had been sunk. When we spotted the 73 survivors, they had been in the water 60 hours. We dropped life rafts and smoke floats to each group of survivors. Task unit 63.10, which included uss USS Grayson (DD-435), USS Gwin (DD-433) and USS Seminole (AT-65) were 30 miles north searching for USS Meredith (DD-434) and USS Vireo (AT-144), which were escorting gasoline-laden barges that were badly needed at Guadalcanal.
We radioed the ships, which then came and picked up the survivors. The survivors dubbed us "the rescue squad:' Other engagements brought our crew greater recognition, but there is none of which I am more proud.
Often as radioman I could not observe or even be aware of the type of engagement in which we were involved. Perhaps the best example was a day in this same time period when our aircraft alone attacked a number of Japanese cargo ships. The action inspired an oil painting that was ultimately presented to Lieutenant Rothenberg and still hangs in his living room.
Not many experiences in combat were humorous. One exception was the day Rothenberg called me forward and asked me to read what appeared to be a blinker light signal from a destroyer. "That's no signal, Mr. Rothenberg;' I responded. "They're shooting at us." We went down after the enemy destroyer just as it steamed into a fog bank. There the low-level fog cleared, but Rothenberg determined our chances were slim of getting a low-level hit before they got us, so we withdrew. Usually Rothenberg was extremely aggressive, which resulted in our many successful missions, but he also used skillful judgment to not endanger his plane and crew when there was little chance of success.
Later I volunteered to be radioman on Admiral Earnest L. Gunther's aircraft. I loved that duty for the remainder of the war. It also had its moments, such as landing at Okinawa in the middle of a kamikaze raid. Our pilot, Lieutenant Commander Wagner, was another great plane commander.
Rothenberg got back into fighters and finished the war flying off a carrier. He later commanded an F9F Panther squadron in the Korean War.
It was not until 1948 at NS Roosevelt Roads, PR, that I learned of and received my two Distinguished Flying Crosses. They were awards with pay in those days, and that back pay came in handy to an enlisted man just beginning a family. My wife Mary and our year-old daughter Andrea were at the ceremonies, making it special.
When the aviation radioman rate was phased out, I became an air controlman. However my two DFCS and several Air Medals are nice reminders of a time in my life of which I am especially proud. I was part of a PBY crew that got two enemy cruisers, and I flew as an aviation radioman alongside the finest men a man could ever know.
Air Traffic Controller Chief Prancrazio "Frank" Arcidiacono was born in Sicily but grew up in Fulton, New York. He joined the Navy in 1941 and served for 20 years, earning two Distinguished Flying Crosses, several Air Medals and a personal citation from Vice Admiral William Halsey for actions during his 35 months in the South Pacijic during World War II. After retiring, Arcidiacono worked as a training specialist in electronic air warfare and later aerospace medical, safety and survival at the Naval Training Equipment Center in Port Washington, New York. Among his acheivements there was the redesign of the parachute drag trainer. He retired in 1977. Arcidiacono and his wife Mary currently reside in Orlando, Florida. They have four children and 12 grandchildren.
A BIT OF HISTORY: VP-40 History "...Christmas photograph of VP-51 HQ. ...must be late 40's..." Contributed by Colonel Bill Anderson, Retired firstname.lastname@example.org [31AUG2007]
A BIT OF HISTORY: "00XXX40---Besides the composite squadrons (VC), several patrol squadrons (VP)had specific mission requirements that were different from its normal patrol and reconnaissance duties. However, these squadrons still maintained the normal VP designation. In the late 1940s there were two VP squadrons with a primary mission of photographic and one with an air early warning mission. VP-61 and VP-62 were the photographic squadrons and VP-51 was the air early warning squadron...." Contributed by John E. McKillop jmckillo@NOTES.CC.BELLCORE.COM
"VP-51 History Summary Page"