VPNAVY VP-5 Mercury Capsule Recovery
http://www.vpnavy.org
VPNAVY Address

HistoryVP-54 HistoryHistory

Circa 1939

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...14SEP39 - Atlantic Squadron Neutrality Patrol assets deployed this date: destroyers Davis (DD-395), Jouett (DD-396), Benham (DD-397) and Ellet (DD-398) operate between Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Placentia Bay, Newfoundland (Grand Banks Patrol); destroyers Hamilton (DD-141) and Leary (DD-158) operate off Georges Shoals; Goff (DD 247) and Hopkins (DD-249) and PBY-2s (VP-54), supported by minesweeper [small seaplane tender] Owl (AM-2) operate out of Narragansett Bay; destroyers Decatur (DD-341), Barry (DD-248), Reuben James (DD-245) and auxiliary [high speed transport] Manley (AG-28), with shore-based VP-52 and VP-53 (P2Y-2s) operate out of Chesapeake Bay; destroyers Babbitt (DD-128) and Claxton (DD-140) patrol the Florida Straits; heavy cruisers San Francisco (CA-38) and Tuscaloosa (CA-37), destroyers Truxtun (DD-229), Simpson (DD-221), Broome (DD-220) and Borie (DD-215) and patrol squadrons VP-33 (PBY-3s) and VP-51 (PBY-1s), supported by small seaplane tenders Lapwing (AVP-1), Thrush (AVP-3) and Gannet (AVP-8) watch the Caribbean and the Atlantic side of the Lesser Antilles; heavy cruisers Quincy (CA-39) and Vincennes (CA-44) operate off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina; held in reserve in Hampton Roads is a striking force consisting of carrier Ranger (CV-4) (her embarked air group consisting of squadrons VB-4, VF-4, VS-41 and VS-42) and battleships New York (BB-34) and Texas (BB-35). Arkansas (BB-33) and gunnery training ship (ex- battleship) Wyoming (AG-17) are carrying out training cruise for USNR midshipmen. The destroyers find the going rough on the Grand Banks; they will be replaced by 327-foot Coast Guard cutters that will be administratively assigned to Destroyer Division 18..." WebSite: HyperWar http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/USN-Chron/USN-Chron-1939.html [14SEP2005]


Circa 1938

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...History of PATROL SQUADRON-11F, PATROL SQUADRON-54, PATROL SQUADRON-51, VB-101, PATSU 1-2, and CASU F-56" WebSite: http://www.geocities.com/Pentagon/Quarters/6439/ Contributed by John Lemley jhlemley54@hotmail.com via George Winter pbycat@bellsouth.net [20MAR99]

History of
PATROL SQUADRON-11F, PATROL SQUADRON-54, PATROL SQUADRON-51, VB-101, PATSU 1-2, and CASU F-56


Patron Squadron ELEVEN F(VP-11-F) was commissioned in Hanger #68 at Naval Air Station(North Island), San Diego, California on July 1, 1936. Laverne A. Pope, Commanding, Commander A. Mills as Executive Officer. A nucleus of 20 enlisted men transferred from the USS Wright to the new squadron. Some are named below;

BEYER, George M. Sea2c
CHRIST, J. E. Sea2c
COPPIN, Billy Sea2c
EALEY, P. H. Sea2c
GILLIAM, Jack Sea2c
GIORDANO, J. P. Sea2c
HART, H. L. Sea2c
KANZIGG, W. L. Sea2c
LAKE, Martin W. Sea2c
REID, S. E. Sea2c
SLOAN, J. V. L. Sea2c
TOTZ, H. A. Sea2c

At the commissioning, this squadron was equipped with the following types of Patrol Seaplanes:

Hall PH
Consolidated P2Y
Martin PM-1

The above mentioned planes were used for training of both flight and maintenance personnel until the dawn of the Consolidated PBY-1 in late 1936. (This plane was later Known as the famous "Catalina" of World War II fame.) VP-11F was issued 12 new PBY-1 aircraft in late 1936. These planes were used to check out flight crews and maintenance personnel in this new aircraft. On April 12 & 13, 1937, VP-11F flew these 12 planes to NAS Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The ground personnel arrived at NAS Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii some time later on the USS LANGLEY and the USS Wright where the entire squadron tended by the USS LANGLEY (Commanded by Captain A. H. Douglas) and the USS Wright (Commanded by Commander Marc A. Mitscher) and the USS PELICAN (Commanded by Lieutenant A. P. Storrs) engaged in Fleet Problem 17 in the Midway and French Frigate Shoals area. After completion of Fleet Problem 17, the 12 PBY-1 aircraft were then turned over to VP-8F at NAS Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and all of VP-11F personnel (both ground and flight personnel) returned to San Diego on the USS LANGLEY and the USS Wright via San Francisco in June 1937.

Upon arrival at San Diego, this squadron was issued 12 new PBY-2 aircraft. (These 12 PBY-2 aircraft were the only PBY-type to be equipped with Curtiss Electric Propellers.) About June of 1937, VP-11F became host squadron for an airborne radio operations school which came under the able instructorship of John Wendhab, RM1c. The primary mission of this school was to supply airborne radio operations for Patrol Wing One.

After returning from Fleet Problem 17, VP-11F continued operating from the Naval Air Station, North Island until Fleet Problem 18 commenced on February 3,1938 with a tragic collision of two PBY-2 aircraft of VP-11F.

This happened off the Southern California Coast of the night of February 3,1938 at 2037 hours, killing all but 3 of the both crews. 11-P-3 was flown by Lieutenant E.G. Cooper, 11-p-4 was flown by Lieutenant C.B. Hutchins. Eleven officers and men perished, three survived, namely: Vernon O. Hatfield,ACMM [NAP], D.B. McKay, ACMM, and L.S. Carpenter, AMM2c.

VP-11F, a part of Patrol Wing One, continued operating from North Island until Fleet Problem 19 commenced on June 26, 1938. One of VP-11F's aircraft, 11-P-2, piloted by Lieutenant JG George Hughes crash landed at sea, 2 miles off Point Loma with minimum damage to the aircraft and no serious injuries to the crew. The plane was towed back to North Island for repair at the A&R Department. Another plane was substituted and the flight for Seattle continued with the two planes that turned back to aid Lieutenant Hughes and 11-P-2.

Patrol Wing One operated with its tenders in Alaska from 26 June 1938 to 9 August 1938 in the Sitka and Kodiak areas. VP-11 carried on routine squadron operations from the San Diego area until Fleet Problem 20 commenced in late December 1938. VP-11 and sister squadrons took off from San Diego for FAB Coco Solo, C. Z. on January 10, 1939. Patrol Wing One operated briefly from NAS Coco Solo and then the whole wing flew to San Juan, P. R. VP-11 had the senior Patrol Squadron Commander, namely: Rossmore D. Lyon. His seniority gave his squadron the privilege of living on the beach in a tent camp called "Rancho Rossmore". The other squadrons of Patrol Wing One didn't fare so good as they had to live on the USS Wright. All aircraft operated from seaplane buoys for the month or so the Wing operated out of San Juan. Fleet Problem 20 ended in the Newport R. I. area. The Wing arrived at NAS Norfolk and it was there that VP-11 and VP-12 was ordered to stay in Norfolk as a part of Patrol Wing Five under the command of Y'all Griffin. VP-7 and VP-9 would fly back to the West Coast and be a part of Patrol Wing One at San Diego. VP-11 became VP-54 and VP-12 became VP-51 and was transferred to San Juan, P.R. for duty. VP-54 stayed in Norfolk as a part of Patrol Wing Five. In June 1939, 4 planes of VP-54 were transferred to Gould Island (Newport, R.I.) to run a neutrality patrol daily (weather permitting) from Newport to Nova Scotia. On Gould Island the facilities were: Hanger and seaplane ramps, barracks, Weather Station and Radio Station. This detachment was commanded by Lieutenant L. B. Southerland (Senior Aviator, Fleet Air Detachment, Newport, R. I.)

In September 1940, three of VP-54's PBY-2 aircraft were sent as a detachment to Bermuda, B.W.I., to run a neutrality patrol daily.

In February 1941, the Newport Detachment was dissolved. Planes and crews transferred to NAS Norfolk. VP-51 is commanded by Lieutenant Commander Arnold J. Isbell.

The second group relieved the first group in the Bermuda Detachment on January 15, 1941. (Neutrality Patrol).(VP-54 is now VP-51 as of June 1941)

The third group relieved the second group in the Bermuda Detachment on April 22, 1941. (Neutrality Patrol).

On June 25, 1941, six VP-51 plane crews left Norfolk via train for San Diego to accept and ferry 6 new PBY-5 aircraft to NAS Norfolk. This ferry trip was completed on July 18, 1941.

The fourth group relieved the third group of planes in Bermuda with new PBY-5 aircraft on August 18, 1941.

The fifth group relieved the fourth group of planes in Bermuda on October 17, 1941.

The sixth group relieved the fifth group of planes in Bermuda on November 18, 1941.

December 7, 1941 --- Squadron received orders to load all squadron gear and personnel and proceed to NAS; Norfolk. On December 9, 1941 this detachment of 6 PBY-5 aircraft took off for Norfolk and they encountered their first experience with the "Bermuda Triangle" as the formation ran into a most violent storm for an hour or so. A down draft took us from about 6000 feet to 500 feet in a frightening short time. All radio communication was out. The planes hit the North Carolina Coast between Cherry Point and Elizabeth City. The formation landed at Norfolk intact.

VP-51 was completely assembled for the first time in years. All 12 planes recieved a 120 hour check. The entire squadron departed NAS Norfolk on December 11,1941 for Pensacola. Departed Pensacola December 13,1941 for Corpus Christi. Departed Corpis Cristi December 14, 1941 for San Diego. Departed San Diego December 15, 1941 for Alameda. Departed Alameda for Kaneohe Bay, T.H. on December 20th and December 21st. Flight time: 19.2 hours.

VP-51 was the first VP squadron to leave the continental limits of the United States after December 7,1941 and was the first VP squadron to land at Kaneoha Bay after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. On December 25,1941 the squadron was ordered to NAS Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii where VP-51 gave up their 12 PBY-5 planes to VP-22 who were ordered to Australia , and VP-51 accepted 22 PBY-3 aircraft from VP-22. VP-22 flew and maintained the 22 PBY-3 planes for a period from December 25,1941 to June 1942.

From June 1942 to October 1942 VP-51 was the first and only squadron to operate it's planes simultaneously in three diffrent areas of the Pacific Theatre --- all being combat areas at the time: Midway, Dutch Harbor, Fiji and Espiritu Santos.

May 1942 --- 6 plane crews were ordered to the United States to pick up and ferry 6 new PBY-5 aircraft to NAS Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The 6 plane crews, and skipper , Lieutenant Commander D.T. Day, was transported from Hawaii to Alameda via the USS HENDERSON. While this ferry group was in California , Dutch Harbor in the Aleutians was raided by the Japanese. The group's orders were modified and this group and its planes were sent to Dutch Harbor for the purpose of patrol and bombing missions against the Japanese forces in that area. VP-51's base was Dutch Harbor (when it could find it in the foul weather). About a month after our arrival at Dutch Harbor, a suitable base was made for us at Sand Point, Alaska which we occupied for the remainder fo the time there. VP-51 operated from this advance base for about 2 months doing mostly patrol and bombing missions against the Japanese forces on Kiska Island. Most missions against Kiska Island were made from Nazon Bay (about 7 flying hours by PBY from Kiska). The USS CASCO tended VP-51 at Nazon Bay. The planes here were operated from seaplane buoys.

June 3, 1942 --- Two planes (PBY-3) of VP-51 made the first torpedo attacks on the Japanese Fleet then attacking Midway Island.

August 7,1942 --- A plane of VP-51 was the only plane to make contact with the Tenth Fleet under command of Admiral Kinkaid. This lone plane preceded the Tenth Fleet into Kiska Bay acting as a weather relay and anti-submarine patrol.

August 20, 1942 ---At Kodiak, Alaska VP-51 Detachment was relieved of all duty involving flying. All of VP-51's PBY-5 aircraft were turned over to the squadron at Kodiak. VP-51 personnel was issued orders to report to NAS San Diego and accept 6 new PBY-5A aircraft to be ferried to NAS Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii VP-51's Skipper, Lieutenant Commander D.T. Day, was transfered to Admiral Gehres' Staff in the Aleutians and about September 1,1942, Leiutenant Commander William A. Moffett Jr became Skipper of VP-51.

Around the 1st of September VP-51 personnel reported in at NAS San Diego and accepted 6 new PBY-5A aircraft for ferring to NAS Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On September 6, 1942 the 6 PBY-5A's landed at NAS Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Flight Time approximately 19.0 hours.

September 27,1942 --- VP-51 was returned to NAS Barbers Point, T.H., and around October 1,1942, VP-51 received 3 PB4Y-1 aircraft (USAF B-24-D) for training of pilots and crew members. VP-51 was the first naval combat squadron to receive PB4Y-1 aircraft and was the first to take them into combat against the enemy.

Around January 1,1943--- VP-51 received 13 new PB4Y-1 aircraft. The original 3 planes used for training were transfered to NAS Kaneohe.

On January 15, 1943 VP-51 departed Barbers Point for Palmyra. January 16, 1943 they departed Palmyra for Canton. January 17, 1943 departed Canton for Nandi and on January 18, 1943 departed Nandi for Espiritu Santo. Flight crews and planes of VP-51 landed on bomber strip 2 on Espiritu Santo on January 18.1943. VP-51's first bombing mission was flown in this area on January 23,1943. Between January 27,1943 and February 10, 1943 ,seven patrol missions were completed. Among these were VP-51's participation in the Battle of Rennell Island. A PB4Y-1 (51-P-1) ran anti-submarine patrol for 8 hours for the crippled USS CHICAGO that was torpedoed by enemy "Bettys" during the night of January 29,1943. The CHICAGO was being towed by a tug. Late in the afternoon of January 30.1943, 51-P-1 was relieved of patrol by a PBY-5 on station. Later a group of Japanese torpedo planes attacked and sank the CHICAGO and badly damaged the USS LA VALLETTE. The next day on station, a different situation appeared as the tug that was towing the CHICAGO the day before now had the USS LA VALLETTE in tow.

The next day,February 14,1943, off the coast of Southern Bougainville Island. nine PB4Y-1 aircraft fully armed, bombs and ammunition, bombed and sank a large enemy transport and a destroyer from 22,000 feet altitude. After the flack came 50 to 60 enemy fighters from Kahili airfield to intercept the bombers and their cover. The top cover consisted of 4 Army P-38's and the lower cover consisting of Navy F6F's and Marine Corps Corsairs (F4U). The Marine Corsair was in combat for the first time in this mission. Two PB4Y-1 Bombers -- 101-B-3 and 101-B-4 and entire crews were shot down. The entire top cover was destroyed and six of the lower cover aircraft were destroyed. It was reported by observers that the enemy lost 26 aircraft in this fight. This "skirmish" was named in most military history books as the "Saint Valentines Day Massacre". The losses for both sides were very heavy for the day.

The patrol and bombing missions described above were rather typical of operations carried out by VB-101 over the next six months,until the squadron was relieved by VB-104.

During the period, January 1943 to September 1943,VP-51 alias VB-101 maintained the highest aircraft availability schedule of any VP squadron in the Guadalcanal area operating the same equipment. During this period not one aircraft was lost due to maintenance. VP-51 alias VB-101 was the first squadron to use their PATSU as an integral part of the operating squadron, training and employing PATSU personnel as replacement combat crews.

VP-51 was the first operating squadron to conduct a complete mobile course on the PB4Y-1 aircraft using working "mock ups" made from actual parts salvaged from damaged aircraft. The school trained over 850 Army, Navy, and Marine Corps Personnel in the maintenance and operations of the PB4Y-1 aircraft in areas still under bombing attack.

VP-51 became VB-101 around February 1, 1943. This squadron chalked up 7 1/2 months of combat flying (550 hours). Finally it is felt that VP-51 alias VB-101 commanded by Lieutenant Commander William A. Moffett Jr , deserves the final first in that this squadron has contributed in lives and effort above and beyond the normal call of duty, to this date has not been cited of commended for a job "Well Done". Combat squadrons were supposed to be relieved after six months of combat flying. This squadron did 7 1/2 months, January 18,1943 to September 1, 1943, before being relieved.

September 1943 : Not much has been said about PATSU 1-2, which was the Service Unit for VB-101 and was made up former VP-54 and VP-51 personnel. Most of these men were ground maintenance personnel. Lieutenant W.W. Suydan was first Officer in Charge. Later the unit was commanded by Lieutenant H.E. Wood.

PATSU 1-2 was formed about the same time VP-51 was re-designated VB-101. The unit moved from Hawaii to the south Pacific in early 1943 as the Service Unit for VB-101. Their Headquarters was at Espiritu Santo with advance units sent up to Henderson Field on Guadacanal to service VB-101 and VB-104, maintaining twenty-four PB4Y-1s. This was an around-the-clock job for all hands.

The high availability of VB-101's aircraft was due to the expertise of the maintenance personnel of PATSU 1-2. WebSite: http://www.geocities.com/Pentagon/Quarters/6439/ Contributed by John Lemley jhlemley54@hotmail.com via George Winter pbycat@bellsouth.net [20MAR99]


Return
"VP-54 History Summary Page"

Selection Page

VPNAVY Copyrighted  1996 - 2012