The PBY VP-45 in WW-II

"Cats Have Claws" An Original Painting by Don Feight

old pby patchA PBY squadron was commissioned VP-45 in Whidbey Island Washington on 21 April 1943 with LT Robert L. Donley as the C.O. The squadron departed NAS Sand Point, Seattle in six PBYs for duty with PATWING FOUR, Adak, Alaska. They arrived in the 2 May, and on 13 May departed for Massacre Bay on Attu, where USS CASCO should be at anchor. It took 11-12 hours of flight time (no NAVAIDs and seriously bad weather) but all crews made it safely.

Occasionally a PBY couldn’t find Massacre Bay at the flights end, or weather was so bad a landing couldn’t be attempted there, so an open sea landing was made and the crew had to wait for better conditions to get home.

LCDR Carl H. Amme became the CO in June and the squadron was expanded to twelve PBYs. One plane lost an engine near the Komandorski Islands on 24 July 1943 and made an emergency landing in a Russian lake. To keep the crew from being interred by the Russians, another crew landed in the lake, rescued the crew and destroyed the PBY.

That same month, two crews made an 1800+ mile night flight to try to bomb Japan but the weather was so bad the results are unknown...great for morale though. The Japanese abandoned Kiska and Attu in August, so the squadron flew sector searches and did what VP squadrons always traditionally do - patrol

Now a quote from the history... On a rare clear and beautiful day, word was received that Captain L. E. Gehres (wing commander?) would arrive for his first visit and inspection at Attu. He landed at Alexia Point, where an airstrip had been built. We were there to greet him. After landing, be proceeded to bestow the Air Medal to his pilot and the Distinguished Flying Cross to himself for... ‘hazardous and meritorious flying under extremely bad weather conditions’. No one was impressed. That night we prepared barbecued salmon for Gehres, his staff, and the squadron. The only recognition we wanted was a survival ‘ribbon.

The squadron returned to Sand Point in October 1943 and most of the PPCs were reassigned and the 1st pilots were promoted to PPC. A new CO, LCDR C. Atkinson, took over and the squadron built up to strength with PBY-5As. In March 1944, VP-45 moved via troop train to Norfolk, was outfitted with new PBY-5As and, in April, deployed to Belem, Brazil. The skipper and crew were lost shortly thereafter in the first fatal crash of a VP-45 aircraft. LCDR H. B. Stott became the new CO on 28 May 1944.  

In May 1945 VP-45 was ordered to Norfolk, and was disestablished 30 May 1945.  Note: The first PBY, the XP3Y-l, had its initial flight in March, 1935.

NOTE: Additional, more detailed information and documents about this wartime squadron are located in the Archives (Misc Archives) section of this website. A good amount of this information was provided to us by Dianne Hofbeck, the daughter of the first CO - LT Robert L. Donley.

WebMaster Note: This VP-45, according to the "Lineage" rules discussed on the Lineage page, is not actually the same squadron as the existing VP-45 today. The existing VP-45's lineage comes from VP-205 (PBM Squadron) that was established in 1942 and operated at the same time as the VP-45 (PBY Squadron). Nevertheless, the PBY VP-45 is included in our Association!!

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