Squadron Lineage

WebMaster Note: After reading this page, look for the navigation bars at the top and bottom of this page and click on the links to view each period in the squadron's history.

The lineage (or historical ancestory) of U.S. Naval Aviation squadrons has been a source of confusion since the birth of naval aviation in 1911. Much of this confusion pelican_history arose from the terminology used by the "Black Shoe" Navy, the lack of a consistent policy in selecting the alphanumeric designations for squadrons, and the many establishments, redesig-nations and disestablishments of aviation squadrons, especially during and after World War II.

When addressing a squadron‘s lineage, the only correct terms to use are establishment (when it began), disestablishment (when it ended) and redesignation (when the squadron number changed). The terms "commissioning" (for a ship) and "establishment" (for a squadron) have been used interchangeably for years but that is not correct. Only ships are commissioned, decommissioned and receive commissioning pennants. Squadrons, on the other hand, have establishment and disestablishment ceremonies. This seems quite wrong since aircraft have always been more important than ships.

A unit’s history and lineage begins when it is established and ends at the time it is disestablished. Determining a squadrons family tree may seem cut and dried, but that is not the case. A squadron may undergo numerous redesignations during the period between its establishment and disestablishment. A newly established squadron bearing the same designation of a unit that had previously existed may carry on the traditions of the old organization but it cannot claim the history of lineage of the previous unit. The same is true of United States naval ships and, thus, the rationale for such a policy becomes apparent. For example, USS Ranger (CV-61), the seventh ship to bear the name, may carry on the traditions of the previous six ships. Ranger (CV-61) is obviously not the same Continental Navy ship commanded by Captain John Paul Jones during the War of Independence. The history of USS Ranger (CV-61) begins with its commissioning date, not with the commissioning date of the first Ranger.

There have been, based on the best information available, three separate units that have been designated VP-45. The first had only a six month lifespan when, on 1 July 1939 at Pearl Harbor, Patrol Squadron Twenty-One was redesignated Forty-Five, and then on 1 December 1939 was redesignated Fourteen. The Commanding Officer of all three was Frederick Mackay Trapnell (USNA ‘23) who retired in 1952 as Vice Admiral. His squadron tour was two years.

The next squadron to be designated VP-45 was the PBY unit from NAS Seattle that was deployed as the first squadron at Attu in the 1943 Aleutian campaign of World War II. Its first Commanding Officer was LT Robert L. Donley, a member of our Association. The PBY squadron history was chronicled in Pelican Post Number Nine, and we intend more historical data about that in later Pelican Post issues. The official war diary of this unit is on file in our Association archives and is included in a scrapbook on display at all reunions. This VP-45 was established 10 March 1943 at Seattle and was disestablished 9 June 1945 at Norfolk after returning from duty patrolling Atlantic waters from Brazil to Ascension Island, according to official Navy records. 

The currently active VP-45 was originally established as Patrol Squadron Two Zero Five (VP-205) on 1 November 1942 at NAS Norfolk, and was assigned PBM seaplane type aircraft. The lineage below shows the evolution to VP-45:

VP-205 Established 1 November 1942
VP-205 Redesignated VPB-205 1 October 1944
VPB-205 Redesignated VP-205 15 May 1945
VP-205 Redesignated VP-MS-5 15 November 1946
VP-MS-5 Redesignated VP-45 1 September 1948 

Our Association also has a copy of this unit’s war diary in the archives. It hasn’t been displayed at reunions due to its size, but a considerable amount of historical data has been published in issues of The Pelican Post. 

A unit’s history and lineage begins when it is established and ends at the time it is disestablished. Designations, like ship’s names, are reused but, if there is a break in the active status of the unit and its designation, there is no connection between the units bearing the same designation. Even though the same squadron insignia may be also used by a new unit, with official approval, this does not confer upon the new squadron the previous squadron’s history and lineage. So, a squadron’s history and lineage covers only the period during which a unit is officially declared active (established by CNO), has personnel assigned to it, and is listed in the Naval Aeronautical Organization. When a squadron is disestablished, its history and lineage ends. If a squadron is redesignated while it is active, the lineage and history are carried on by the newly redesignated squadron—as noted above for the currently active VP-45.

The squadron insignias (patches) of the various VP-45s have not been adopted by others. There may have been an insignia for the first VP-45 in 1939 but no official or unofficial evidence has been found. The PBY VP-45 of 1943 submitted a proposed drawing to Walt Disney in 1943. Disney reworked the design and produced the one shown in the masthead of this Pelican Post. When VP-205 was stationed at Trinidad, just before being transferred from the Atlantic area of operations, an unofficial insignia was proposed similar to the one shown above in the masthead. Before it could be officially submitted, the squadron was transferred to the Pacific area of the war and a similar insignia was proposed showing a red ball on the submarine conning tower in place of the German swastika. The end of hostilities occurred before the latter was officially submitted, so the squadron went to Norfolk and then Bermuda without an official insignia. We use a combination of both, with the original conning tower, because that was the original idea.

The official VP-45 squadron insignia used in our masthead was officially approved by CNO letter serial 728P05 of 1 December 1955. This design has been modified and used in various ways over the years but the basic design remains; the Pelican with ordnance, the submarine periscope, and the sky and ocean. A black-and-white as well as a color negative of the officially approved insignia is in the Association archive files. An attempt was once made to change the insignia but CNO rejected the design, so the Pelican has withstood the test of time and attempted change. (Parts of this article are from NavAirNews)

If you would like to view a video about the history of the squadron, made for showing at the 2008 reunion, please click here: VP-45 1942 - 2008.


The above video is over 20 minutes in duration and is of relatively high quality. It may take (depending on your connection speed) up to 20 minutes to download and play. Patience....it will be worth it.

Send questions, comments or suggestions regarding this website to: vp45association.org