STORY OF FORTY-FOUR
|James Mills Blue Catalinas of World War II, published by Sunflower University Press, Manhattan, Kansas.|
|Nevil Frankel's outstanding website dedicated to all VP squadrons, www.vpnavy.com, and|
|The Dictionary of American Naval Aviation Squadrons.|
|This website: www.vp44goldenpelicans.com -- webmaster: Ray Beck|
There are numerous books about the patrol arm of the U.S. Navy identified on Frankel's website, and they can be purchased over the net.
first squadron designated VP-44 was born on 1 July 1939, when
Patrol Squadron 20 was redesignated 44 under the operational
control of Fleet Air Wing Four.
The squadron operated from Sitka, Alaska, with PBY
Catalinas, twin-engine patrol seaplanes.
Its designation was short
term for in November 1940 it was redesignated VP-61. Just before World War II, a second VP-44 was born and
assigned the newer PBY-5 aircraft.
The operational command was then Fleet Air Wing One. It retained its designation until October 1944 when it became
VPB 44. Extensive
operations with continuing engagements with the Japanese forces
brought the Black Cat Operations world wide recognition and
appreciation by our military leaders.
Not only did the planes and crews of 44 fly patrols, but
also aggressively sought out, identified, and attacked both
surface and submersibles. Many
crews distinguished themselves in air-to-air combat.
Their heroic deeds are carefully and thoroughly described
in Mills' Blue Catalinas
of World War II which states that following its two highly
successful 15 month deployments in the Pacific, the squadron
returned to San Diego where it was "temporarily
war ended, and the squadron was not recommissioned.
of its predecessors in the lineage of VP 44, VP 204 was
established at NAS Norfolk, VA. In 1942 as a seaplane squadron
flying PBM-3C Mariners. The squadron moved to San Juan Puerto Rico,
and operated extensively in the Caribbean, conducting surveillance
flights and actively engaging in many attacks upon German U-boats
operating in the area. The
Navy's third PATRON FOUR FOUR was named in the Caribbean area in
1948. Although it
operated primarily from Coco Solo, in the Canal Zone, detachments
were sent to San Juan, Key West, the Galapagos Islands, and
Trinidad to extend the squadron's patrol capabilities.
1950, the squadron was moved to Norfolk, and shortly thereafter
1951, a newer squadron was commissioned, with 9 PBM Martin Mariners,
at Breezy Point, NAS Norfolk, Virginia. Its primary mission,
all-weather ASW, the unit is employed in training for any
potential threat which might exist from enemy subs.
Its secondary mission is aerial mine warfare, and it has
been called upon to fill the role of an SAR squadron, aiding in
the rescue of distressed merchantmen, downed aviators, and even
1952, VP-44 was the first squadron to receive the P5M-1 Marlin
aircraft. Crews and
pilots were sent to Corpus Christi, Texas, for training and the
squadron was soon on its way towards building a record studded
with firsts. Some two years later, the squadron deployed to the Eastern
Atlantic-Med area. The
planes flew to Newfoundland, Greenland, Wales, and on to Taranto,
Italy. It was the
first Trans-Atlantic flight for the Marlin.
In 1955, 44 was the first to receive a modified P5M, the
"two-boat", with a streamlined hull and a T-tail.
The planes were berthed, refueled, and replenished by the
tender USS Currituck, and three converted destroyers.
FORTY-FOUR became the first seaplane squadron to win the Battle
Efficiency "E" for three consecutive years, commencing
in1956. In 1959, the
squadron was awarded the Captain Jay Isbell Award for excellence
in ASW, another first for an East Coast seaplane squadron.
1960, it again changed aircraft, shifting to the Lockheed P2V Neptune,
a land based ASW aircraft
with a crew of ten marking the beginning of a new era.
The transition began quickly for the diminishing numbers of
"boat" pilots. Crew members were delighted to find that the new planes
required no beaching gear, and ramp duty was a relic of the past,
except for the infrequent need during visits by the Bermuda based
seaplanes. And pilots
had to learn to "get their gear down."
1962, the personnel of VP 44 were called upon to make the
transition to yet another new aircraft, the P3V-1 Orion. The squadron also permanently moved duty stations from NAS
Norfolk, Va. To NAS Patuxent River, Md.
Patron 44 received its first P3A in August of that year,
and was declared operational in October, truly a rapid transition
to a highly sophisticated ASW search and weapons system.
Very quickly the operational skills of the squadron were
put to the test in the Cuban missile crisis.
First on the scene, and photographed extensively was
LM-4, which became a poster plane for excellence in patrol and
efforts of the crew members and support personnel earned two
Battle "E's" in a row, in 1963-64, and once again, the
coveted Isbell Trophy for Continuing Excellence in ASW.
Because of its demonstrated proficiency in ASW work, the
squadron was identified as the Task Group Delta Squadron,
responsible for intensive program of equipment research and
tactical procedure analysis. In 1968, the Pelicans snagged its
sixth Battle "E."
year 1970 brought another relocation, this time to NAS Brunswick,
Maine. The move did
not impact the squadron's tradition of readiness and efficiency.
The P3A allowed flexibility and mobility unparalleled in
Navy patrol and ASW operations. The squadron deployed all over the globe:
Rota, Bermuda, Sigonella, Argentia, Keflavik, Lages,
Okinawa, and Souda Bay, Crete. Pilots and crews learned what it was to live out of a
travelling kit, for they answered the bell and went to wherever
they were needed. Additional recognition included five Meritorious
Unit Citations, and one more Battle "E."
Those who flew for the Golden Pelicans of the last two
decades completed the squadron history proudly and with honor.
fourth and final VP 44 was decommissioned on 28 June 1991.
Ten years later, we celebrate all that went into making the
Pelican history. Let
us celebrate that we were and are a part of U.S Navy Patrol