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WWII Patch, USN, VPB-44 VP-44 #1

WWII Patch, USN, VPB-44 VP-44  #1

Product Information
WWII US Navy Squadron Patch #1
Navy Patrol Squadron 44
Navy Patrol Bomber Squadron 44
Black Cats

Walt Disney Design?
5 x 5.75 inches

VP-44 ---> VPB-44
VP = Patrol Squadron
VPB = Patrol Bomber Squadron

Nickname: Black Cats, 1942 – 1945
Operated: June 1941 - June 1945
Theater: West and South Pacific

Established as Navy Patrol Squadron 44 (VP-44) on 3 June 1941.
Redesignated Navy Patrol Bombing Squadron 44 (VPB-44) on 1 October 1944.
Disestablished on 20 June 1945.

Squadron Insignia
VP-44 was one of the later Black Cat squadrons in WWII. The nickname came from the black paint scheme applied to the Catalinas for night operations. The Black Cat in the squadron’s insignia depicted its stealth in the dark as well as surprise and viciousness in its attack. The outline of the yellow moon emphasized the night operations, suggesting that cats operate best when the moon is full. Colors = yellow moon;
black & white cat; black background.

The 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.  Following its two highly successful 15 month deployments in the Pacific, the squadron returned to San Diego where it was "temporarily decommissioned."  The war ended, and the squadron was not recommissioned.

During WWII, it was a VP-44 plane piloted by Ensign Jewell Harmon that sent a report of the sighting of the "Main Body" of the Japanese fleet as it headed toward Midway.  Frequently identified as the "single most important patrol plane contribution,"  that action helped to shift the tide in U.S operations in the Pacific.  And during its proud history, the squadron was recognized for many Meritorious Unit Citations and special recognition from the Fleet Air Wings to which the unit was assigned.

The first VP-44 evolved from VP-20, which was commissioned prior to 1939.
    Redesignated Patrol Squadron FORTY FOUR (VP-44) 1 July 1939.
    Redesignated VP 61 in November 1940; subsequently redesignated VP-82, VB 125, and finally VPB-125.
    Decommissioned on 8 June 1945.

The second VP-44 of record, Patrol Bombing Squadron 44 was commissioned 3 June 1941 (originally designated VP-44, but changed to VPB 44 in October1943) - "temporarily decommissioned" 8 May 1945.
    Established as Patrol Squadron TWO HUNDRED FOUR  (VP-204) on 15 October 1942.
    Redesignated Patrol Bombing Squadron TWO HUNDRED FOUR (VPB 204) on 1 October 1944.
    Redesignated Patrol Squadron TWO HUNDRED FOUR (VP 204) on 15 May 1946.
    Redesignated Medium Patrol Squadron (Seaplane) FOUR (VP-MS-4) on 15 November 1946.

Overseas Deployments
Departure Date/Return Date       Wing          Operations Base   A/C Type   Operations Area
26 Mar 1942  to  22 May 1942   PatWing-2     Pearl Harbor       PBY-5A      WestPac
22 May 1942  to  22 Dec 1942   PatWing-2     Midway                PBY-5A      WestPac
22 Dec 1942  to  20 Jul 1943      FAW-1           Espiritu Santo     PBY-5        SoPac
18 Jan 1944   to   ?                       FAW-2           Kaneohe             PBY-5A      WestPac
11 Mar 1944  to   ?                       FAW-1          Espiritu Santo      PBY-5A      SoPac
15 Jun 1944   to  1 May 1945     FAW-1/2       Green Island         PBY-5A      SoPac

Home Port Assignments
NAS San Diego, Calif.              3 Jun 1941
NAS Alameda, Calif.              14 Dec 1941
NAS Pearl Harbor, Hawaii     26 Mar 1942
NAS Kaneohe, Hawaii           26 Sep 1942
NAS San Diego, Calif.                   Jul 1943
NAS Kaneohe, Hawaii            18 Jan 1944
NAS San Diego, Calif.             1 May 1945

VP-44 was ordered to Midway for extended operations.  It arrived at Eastern Island on the 22nd and 23rd of May.  Operations before the 30th May were routine and entirely similar to those of the pre-ceding weeks out of Pearl Harbor.  On May 1st and June 1st contacts and aerial engagements were experienced with fast, maneuverable patrol bomber-landplanes which presumably were operating out of Wake.

When Ensign Jewell (Jack) Harmon Reid sent a contact report, “Main Body” to Midway Island on the 3rd June, 1942, he had just made the most important patrol plane sighting of World War II.  By this action he furnished the first positive information that a Japanese task force of imposing proportions was headed for Midway.  Ensign Reid did a workman-like job.  He remained in close proximity to the enemy force for two and one-half hours, sending amplifying reports until he was ordered back to base.

On the evening of the same day, at 2145 Midway time, four PBY-5A’s, under command of Lieut. Richards of this squadron. took off and headed for the enemy fleet to deliver a memorable night torpedo attack.  Two of the planes, flying through clouds, lost contact with the leader – one of them, however, subsequently found a target.  The other planes, with radar on homing, intercepted a force of fifteen transports and destroyers.  They delivered their attack down moon, throttles chopped, in a straight silent glide.  That the attack was a complete surprise is evident from the fact that the ships did not open fire until after Lieut. Richards, who was leading, had completed his torpedo run.  Men in the waist of this first plane saw a tremendous explosion “as if the whole ship had blown up.”

The hours flown incident to the Battle of Midway made heavy demands upon the mental and physical resources of the VP-44 flight crews.  For the period 27 May to 5 June – a total of ten days – these twelve crews averaged 88.5 hours each of combat flying.  Four of the crews flew more that 100 hours each during this period, one, the amazing total of 114 hours.   

Rescue, for which no other plane is as celebrated as the Catalina, was a necessary adjunct to the patrol work.  On 5 June 1942, LTJG Shelby Olaf Cole, USNR, made a noteworthy rescue when he landed at sea and picked us Ensign George H. Gay, USNR, the lone survivor of Torpedo Squadron Eight.  Ensign Gay had been adrift in a rubber life raft for a day.  He was later able to furnish the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet, with timely and important information.

On 6 June 1942, Ensign Richard Vern Umphrey, USN (T),landed a heavily loaded plane in a rough sea, and rescued the personnel of a disabled PBY who had been afloat for three days.  On two occasions during this flight Ensign Umphrey was jumped by enemy aircraft.  In both instances he handled his plane so as to avoid personnel injury.  The second attacking plane broke off the engagement when it dove away trailing white smoke, the result of direct hits upon it by .50 and .30 caliber machine gun fire.

15 Jun 1944: VP-44 moved to Green Island, halfway between Bougainville and Rabaul, only 150 miles from the enemy stronghold. A PATSU was available for maintenance of squadron aircraft and the berthing and feeding of unit personnel. Patrol missions involved flying daily search sectors extending in a northerly direction to within 200 miles of Truk. ASW operations were discontinued. Patrol missions ceased after 18 August when the primary mission of the squadron was changed to keeping 17 nearby enemy airfields neutralized and to prevent shipping at night from getting to the bypassed Japanese garrisons. Nightly Black Cat raids were conducted and the squadron maintained standby aircraft for ASW and Dumbo missions during the day. Nightly hunts were usually coordinated with one of the PT boat squadrons stationed on Green Island. The Cats would spot the target at night with their radar, then illuminate the scene for the PT boats. Both would then join in on the kill. Attacks were usually made with 4 500-pound ANM-64 bombs and 40 20-pound fragmentation bombs. On one nighttime mission over Rabaul, an enemy floatplane fighter attacked Lieutenant Lloyd Garrison and his crew. In the ensuing combat they managed to shoot down the fighter. Upon return, the jubilant crew was informed that confirmation was needed before credit could be authorized. Undaunted, the crew returned early the next morning and took pictures in broad daylight of the smoking wreckage still floating in the bay at Rabaul. They were duly given credit for the deed.

4 Sep–Dec 1944: VP-44 operational control was changed from FAW-1 to FAW-2. By this stage of the war, Japanese resistance had been broken and Rabaul neutralized. It was the squadron’s job to see that 17 enemy airfields were regularly bombed to prevent their use and to intercept resupply ships and barges attempting to reinforce Japanese troops on Bougainville and New Ireland. A detachment of three aircraft was maintained for a few months at Torokina airstrip on Bougainville for Dumbo work with Marine air units. This group was nearly overrun during a Banzai attack by the last remaining Japanese troops on Bougainville in December 1944.

1 Dec 1944: VPB-44 operational control was shifted from FAW-2 to Commander Air Seventh Fleet (ComAir7thFlt). Six squadron aircraft were utilized for passenger and mail runs between Hollandia, New Guinea and Leyte, Philippines. The squadron also conducted resupply for the Australian coastwatchers, flying to such remote islands as Pinipel, Feni, Nuguria, Lehir and Ontong Java.

Price: $150.00 $130.00

Product Code: PatchUSN.044.VPB44.v1
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