Squadron Flight Log Entry

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Comission Place: NAS San Diego

VP-12"Black Cats"

Patrol Squadron Twelve was the first official "Black Cat" squadron. Formerly VP-24, it was redesignated to VP-12 on 1 August 1941. The original VP-12 was out of NAS San Diego and was divided in half with one half becoming a new VP-24 and the other half joining the newly formed VP-12 in Kaneohe Hawaii. The squadron brought six newer PBY-5s replacing the PBY-1 aircraft and was stationed at NAS Ford Island, Pearl Harbor. On 7 December 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Imperial Japanese Navy, but fortunately only one of the new PBY-5s was damaged. It received bullet holes in one wing while on ready alert in the hangar. The other aircraft were on a training exercise thus escaping any damage. VP-12's hangar was undamaged but damage was done to the hangars of VP-21 and VP-22 along with several aircraft. NAS Kaneohe had lost most of its aircraft on the ground, therefore NAS Ford Island was the only installation with PBY Catalinas able to fly. From 8 December 1941 to 30 October 1942, VP-12 was transferred to NAS Kaneohe and conducted patrols in the waters around Hawaii as well as sending detachments to Midway Island. During this period, crews were trained in the new PBY-5A. On 22 November 1942, VP-12 was transferred to the Fiji Islands and operated out of Nandi. At this time, operational control was transferred from FAW-2 to FAW-1. On 15 December 1942, VP-12 officially became know as a "Black Cat " squadron along with VP-11, VP-91 and VP-51. At this time operations were concentrated around Guadalcanal. The name "Black Cat" was derived from the matte-black paint scheme and night-time bombing operations conducted by the PBY Catalinas. Although the Catalinas were the only long-range patrol aircraft available in large numbers, they were no match for the fast Zero. By March 1942, only three of the original 45 aircraft from PATWING 10 had survived. The PBYs were dependable and tough, and were able to bring their crews home safely after a long mission and with the use of airborne radar, it was discovered that they could see in the dark Even though they were slow and awkward during the day, the Catalinas became deadly at night waging attacks on enemy surface ships and shore installations. Crews from VP-11 started to experiment with soap and lamp black, making a mixture that when applied to the aircraft, made it difficult to see in the dark nights. Then, most enemy ships had no radar to warn them of the Catalinas approach. Under Commander Clarence Taff, VP-12 Catalinas were painted black, equipped with radio altimeters enabling them to skim low over the water conducting torpedo or bombing runs. VP-12, along with other "Black Cat" squadrons, made night raids on enemy airfields. They pushed the Japanese to the northwest along the Solomon Islands chain and damaged their seaborne supply lines. In July 1943, VP-12 returned to NAS San Diego and new personnel began training in preparation for a December return to Kaneohe, Hawaii with seven PBY-5As. On 20 December, a detachment of six aircraft with nine crews was sent to Midway Island to relieve VP-144 and in January four aircraft and six crews returned to Kaneohe. The remaining two aircraft and three crews rejoined the squadron a week later. Under the operational control of FAW-1, VP-12 arrived in Guadalcanal in early February 1944 with 15 PBY-5As dispatching one plane and crew to Tarawa and Majuro for photoreconnaissance duties. Later that month, VP-12 was relocated to Ondonga, New Georgia, ferrying supplies between Kaneohe and Ondonga. In March, the squadron resumed combat duties that consisted of anti-shipping searches, Dumbo missions and artillery spotting. On the night of 3 March 1944, the squadron conducted a bombing raid on Saipasi Island. In April two "Black Cats" aircraft were sent on Dumbo duty seaching for downed Army bomber aircrews. One of the crews was based at Green Island and the other at Torokina. Each crew worked with a submarine that cruised the route of the returning aircraft from a bombing mission. When a crew was spotted, the Dumbo would contact the submarine which would pick them up or the aircraft would land and pick them up if the seas were not too rough. During the months of May and June of 1944, aircraft from VP-12 conducted anti-shipping searches north of Emirau Island. The entire squadron was then dispatched to Espiritu Santo where several aircraft were assigned to anti-shipping patrols and one aircraft assigned to air and sea rescue. The squadron saw an end to combat duty at the end of July 1944, when it was relocated to Kaneohe, Hawaii en route to the United States. By October 1944, VP-12 was back on U.S. soil and assigned to FAW-6 at NAS Whidbey Island. VP-12 was redesignated VPB-120 on 1 October 1944 and began the process of transitioning from the amphibious PBY-5A to the land-based PB4Y-2 before being deployed in July 1945 to Shemya, Aleutian Islands under FAW-4. During the months of August and September 1945, VPB-120 conducted anti-shipping patrols north of Kuriles. Subsequently the squadron was relocated to Attu Island where it remained until the end of the deployment, returning to NAS Whidbey Island in early 1946. In 1948, the squadron was redesignated VP-20, the third squadron to be assigned VP-20 designation before disestablishing on 31 March 1949.

Commanding Officers

LCDR John P. Fitzsimmons April 1941
CDR Clarence O. Taff August 1942
CDR Francis R. Drake July 1943
LT Archie D. Saint (actg) 1 October 1944
CDR Frank G. Reynolds 27 October 1944
CDR Richard J. Davis 16 January 1946
LCDR John Fl. Litsey (actg) 25 June 1946
LCDR Winford A. Swenson 17 July 1946
LCDR John F. Litsey 16 June 1947
CDR Hart D. Hilton 26 January 1949

Aircraft Assignment

PBY-5 August 1941
PBY-5A September 1942
PB4Y-2 August 1944

Major Overseas Deployments

Date of departure Wing Base of Operations Aircraft Area of Operations
22 November 1942 FAW-1 Nandi, Fiji PBY-5A WestPac
15 December 1942 FAW-1 Guadalcanal PBY-5A WestPac
20 December 1943 FAW-2 Midway PBY-5A WestPac
7 February 1944 FAW-1 Guadalcanal PBY-5A WestPac
17 February 1944 FAW-1 Ondonga PBY-5A WestPac
14 June 1944 FAW-1 Espiritu Santo PBY-5A WestPac
25 July 1944 FAW-4 Shemya Santo PB4Y-2 NorPac
29 September 1944 FAW-4 Attu PB4Y-2 NorPac

Unit Awards Received

Unit Award Inclusive Date Covering Unit Award
PUC 24 November 1942 1 June 1943

Based on code developed by Richards Consulting Group