Jump to content

VP-24 and VPB-24 | Patrol Squadron TWENTY FOUR | Black Cat squadron


Recommended Posts

VP-24 and VPB-24 | Patrol Squadron TWENTY FOUR


Redesignated Patrol Squadron TWENTY FOUR (VP-24) on 1 August 1941.
Redesignated Patrol Bombing Squadron TWENTY FOUR (VPB-24) on 1 October 1944.
Disestablished at NAS San Diego on 20 June 1945.


Aircraft: Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina


In the Pacific the legend of the "Black Cats" was born when the PBY Catalina amphibian aircraft was painted flat black and flew night assaults against the Japanese fleet. The Navy's "Black Cats" performed reconnaissance, air sea rescue, dive bombing, mine laying, and torpedo attack missions using just star sightings for night navigation. These night operations were very successful. In this role you might even say that the "Black Cat" was the first stealth fighter, as it was nearly impossible to see flying low above the water at night. Not all PBY's were used in an attack role. The "Cat" was also used for Air Sea Rescue missions, which became known as the "Dumbo" missions. Many a downed pilot was picked up in what were sometimes very dangerous conditions.


Deployments | Location: West and South Pacific, including period of Black Cat (Consolidated PBY Catalina Unit) operations.
11 Jun 1944     *     FAW-1     Majuro
10 Oct 1944     *     FAW-2     Marshalls
1 Feb 1945     25 Apr 1945     FAW-1     Majuro
* Continued combat deployment in the Pacific, moving from base to base.




Embroidered on twill.





Although no official letter of approval by CNO exists in the records for the VP-24/VPB-24 insignia, BuAer sent the insignia for VPB-12 (the prior unit designation) to National Geographic to be included in its publication, Insignia and Decorations of the U.S. Armed Forces, Revised Edition, December 1, 1944, which appears on page 180.





Since night operations were much too dangerous to involve large numbers of aircraft, a decision was made to use unorthodox methods to harass the Japanese. They came up with the idea of using the PBY, which was found that after some aircraft modification and daring by the crew, might be the perfect answer.


The most visible modification made was its color. From nose to tail every part of the plane was painted matte black. Even the national emblem was darkened (later reversed) to prevent a target for searchlights to focus on. Later on, to keep with the moniker, some sported eyes and whiskers daubed on the nose. For electronics, radars and radio altimeters were installed to ensure navigational safety, and weapons of various types were hung under the wings. Now, with their once clumsy looking ocean blue albatrosses looking more like menacing vultures, the first official Black Cat missions commenced in December flown by crews from Navy squadron VP-12 under Commander Clarence Taff.




They were an immediate hit. Flying all night, soaring slowly alone or in small groups, above the dark waters they dipped down to ship mast height, to bomb and torpedo Japanese vessels of all shapes and sizes, as searchlights and tracer bullets swept the skies in vain trying to find the lumbering birds unseen, save for the deep chop of their engines.


With their greatest ally, the darkness, stolen from them the Japanese would watch in horror as one random ship, and then another, exploded in a blinding mass of flame and oily smoke that seemed to occur almost every night and at the beckon of those engines.


Not content, Black Cats also worked their magic against islands, terrorizing the enemy as America’s response to ‘Washing Machine Charlie. This was a nickname pinned on a lone Japanese night raider who had frequented Henderson field, dropping bombs, hitting nothing but keeping nerves on edge. The Black Cats felt obliged to return the favor, so they visited different airfields dropping bombs of all sizes, as well as beer bottles with razors in the neck to make them scream as they fell. One pilot even dropped hand grenades, door knobs, chains and even shrapnel from an exploded Japanese bomb to rattle the cages of those below.

In missions like these, they would make 4 successive runs in half hour intervals over the target before they got rid of everything carried. To say they deprived the enemy of sleep or work when doing this was an understatement.


The Black Cats knew, though, they had little defense should a fighter be nearby, so they developed tactics to keep their vulnerable planes from getting tracked by roaming patrols. The best moves, they found, was low over land and near wave top level over water. This latter technique was especially effective as it confused an enemy’s depth perception. Since the Cat was nearly invisible against a dark ocean it took an almost suicidal pilot to dive on it unaware of where the Cat’s silhouette ended and the water began.


Chronology of VP-24/VPB-24

7 Dec 1941: The squadron’s six aircraft were among the few spared during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Its planes were conducting joint submarine exercises off the coast of Hawaii when the attack came; the crews were subsequently given sectors by radio to conduct searches for the attacking Japanese forces. Having made no enemy contact, the squadron returned to NAS Ford Island to begin the cleanup and restoration of its devastated facilities.


31 May 1942: VP-24 was directed to send one PBY-5A and three crews in a detachment to Midway Island. The detachment was involved in the Battle of Midway, the next day. The group remained on Midway until 17 July 1942, when it returned to NAS Pearl Harbor.


21 Sep 1942: A three-plane detachment was sent to Espiritu Santo, with tender support by Curtiss (AV 4).


1 Oct 1942: VP-24 transferred it assets and personnel back to NAS Kaneohe. Five PBY-5A aircraft were traded to VP-23 for nonamphibian PBY-5s before the move, since the amphibian version would not be needed in the South Pacific, where VP-24 was soon to be sent. Most of the squadron’s coming operations would be based afloat, serviced by seaplane tenders. Many of the flight crews actually preferred the older PBY-5, as they felt that the retractable gear of the newer PBY-5A added to the weight of the aircraft, reducing power and range.


1 Nov 1942: Two additional aircraft were sent to Espiritu Santo to supplement the original detachment, bringing it up to six operational planes.


1 Feb 1943: The remainder of VP-24 began to transfer by detachments to Espiritu Santo. The transfers were completed by April.


30 Mar 1943: VP-24 conducted Dumbo missions for the forces taking part in the New Georgia campaign, concluding on 29 September 1943. This was the first time that an entire squadron had assumed Dumbo work as its primary duty. The squadron rescued or evacuated 466 men during the campaign.


29 Sep 1943: Preparations were made to depart the island of Espiritu Santo for return to NAS Kaneohe and eventual return to the United States.


7 Dec 1943: VP-24 was given home leave while administrative details covering reforming of the squadron and reassignment of personnel were undertaken. Training of new personnel and reforming of the squadron began at NAS San Diego, Calif., on 1 January 1944. In mid-March all of the squadron aircraft were given coats of flat black paint, dropable wing tanks were attached, and improvements in radar and flight instruments were made.


27 Mar 1944: VP-24 made its second transpac to NAS Kaneohe, Hawaii. Upon arrival combat patrols and training missions were conducted concurrently.


9 May 1944: Lieutenant (jg) Wade Hampton was lost with his entire crew while on patrol. His last reported message gave a position 150 miles from Midway.


11 Jun 1944: The squadron arrived at the island of Majuro in the Marshalls chain. Typical Black Cat night bombing missions were conducted, along with more mundane Dumbo and patrol missions.


27 Jun 1944: Lieutenant (jg) Mancini attempted to land in rough seas to rescue a downed fighter pilot one mile from a Japanese-held island. Both engines broke off on impact and the hull of the aircraft split in two. The entire crew managed to get into life rafts, and joined the fighter pilot in awaiting rescue. Fortunately, a destroyer had overheard the message from the aircraft and rushed to the scene in time to rescue the aircrews before they washed ashore on the island.


1 October 1944: VP-24 was redesignated VPB-24 while based at Majuro. Duties remained essentially the same during this period.


10 October 1944: A detachment of three aircraft and crews was formed and sent to Eniwetok to provide Dumbo coverage for air operations in the area. On 19 October the squadron was broken down into smaller one-and two-aircraft detachments that were sent to Apamama, Makin, Tarawa, Roi, Saipan and Guam. Through 1 December 1944, the squadron rescued 25 aircrew without surface assistance.


28 October 1944: Ensign Troy C. Beavers received a call to medevac a crew member of an LCI who had a suspected case of acute appendicitis. Beavers landed near the ship and loaded the patient aboard. During the liftoff a rogue wave struck the starboard float, ripping off the wing. The crew and patient exited the aircraft before it sank and were picked up by the LCI.


23 January 1945: The VPB-24 detachments were reformed with two aircraft at Eniwetok, four at Kwajalein, one at Tarawa and one at Roi.


1 February 1945: The various detachments of the squadron reformed on Majuro to conduct missions in support of the psychological warfare campaign against defending Japanese forces on the island of Wotje. Additional duties included continuing Dumbo missions.


25 April 1945: VPB-24 was relieved at Majuro Atoll by VH-5. Elements of the squadron proceeded to NAS Kaneohe Bay for transport back to the United States.


1 May 1945: The personnel of the squadron loaded aboard USS Hollandia for transport to NAS North Island, San Diego, California.


20 June 1945: VPB-24 was disestablished at NAS North Island.





Perry, Mike. Black Cats Rule The Night

Roberts, Michael D. Dictionary of American Naval Aviation Squadrons. Volume 2. Naval Historical Center. p pp 435-437.

San Diego Air and Space Museum VP-24

VP Navy


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...