Squadron History:  VP-12


Established as Patrol Squadron EIGHT-S (VP-8S) from elements of VT-9S on 1 July 1929.
Redesignated Patrol Squadron EIGHT-F (VP-8F) on 3 April 1933.
Redesignated Patrol Squadron EIGHT (VP-8) on 1 October 1937.
Redesignated Patrol Squadron TWENTY FOUR (VP-24) on 1 July 1939.
Redesignated Patrol Squadron TWELVE (VP-12) on 1 August 1941.
Redesignated Patrol Bombing Squadron ONE HUNDRED TWENTY (VPB-120) on 1 October 1944.
Redesignated Patrol Squadron ONE HUNDRED TWENTY (VP-120) on 15 May 1946.
Redesignated Heavy Patrol Squadron (Landplane) TEN (VP-HL-10) on 15 November 1946.
Redesignated Patrol Squadron TWENTY (VP-20) on 1 September 1948, the third squadron to be assigned the VP-20 designation.
Disestablished on 31 March 1949.

Squadron Insignia and Nickname

A few years after the redesignation of VP-24 to VP-12, the squadron applied to CNO for another change of insignia. The design requested in June 1944 was a "...life-saver cat (with boxing gloves, life saver ring, and bomb), which symbolized the many tasks performed by all Black Cat squadrons, from bombing to sea rescue." Colors: black details with white background.

Black Cats, 1944–1946.

Chronology of Significant Events

(Squadron history from 1 Jul 1929 to WWII removed as not pertinent to this website.)

1 Aug 1941: VP-24 with 14 PBY-1s on hand was redesignated VP-12. The original VP-12 at NAS San Diego, Calif., was split into halves with one group becoming a new VP-24 and the second half flying transpac to NAS Kaneohe on 2 September 1941, to join the newly redesignated VP-12 in Hawaii. The San Diego contingent of the squadron brought with them six newer model PBY-5s as replacements for the older PBY-1 aircraft. Upon arrival, the squadron and its six aircraft were based at NAS Ford Island, Pearl Harbor.

7 Dec 1941: Only one of the squadron’s six new PBY-5s was damaged during the attack on Pearl Harbor. One in front of the hangar on ready alert received bullet holes through one wing, but was otherwise intact. The remaining four aircraft been sent on an early morning exercise and were not caught on the ground by the Japanese fighters. The VP-12 hangar was undamaged, but the VP-21 and VP-22 hangars had burned, along with several aircraft. For a while, Ford Island was the only installation with flyable Catalinas, as NAS Kaneohe had lost nearly all of it aircraft on the ground.

8 Dec 1941–30 Oct 1942: During this period VP-12 was transferred to NAS Kaneohe conducting patrols in the waters off Hawaii and rotating detachments to Midway Island. Crews were trained on the new replacement PBY-5A aircraft received in September 1942.

22 Nov 1942: VP-12 was transferred to the Fiji Islands, with an operational base on Nandi. Operational control for the squadron was transferred from FAW-2 to FAW-1.

15 Dec 1942: As a result of the matte-black paint schemes and night-time bombing operations conducted by the squadron, VP-12 officially became known as a "Black Cat" squadron, along with VPs 11, 91 and 51. The area of operations during this period was concentrated around Guadalcanal.

24 Jul 1943: VP-12 was withdrawn from combat and returned to NAS San Diego, Calif.. The squadron was reformed and new personnel given training through 1 December 1943, when preparations for the transpac back to NAS Kaneohe were begun.

13 Dec 1943: VP-12 began the transpac from San Diego to Kaneohe, Hawaii, with seven PBY-5As.

20 Dec 1943: The squadron sent a detachment of six aircraft to Midway Island to relieve VB-144. Four of the aircraft and the six crews returned to Kaneohe on 13 January 1943, leaving two aircraft and three crews behind which rejoined the squadron on 18 January 1944.

7 Feb 1944: VP-12 arrived at Guadalcanal for duty under the operational control of FAW-1. The squadron’s complement at this point had been boosted to 15 PBY-5As. Two days after arrival one plane and one crew were dispatched to Tarawa and Majuro for photoreconnaissance duties.

17 Feb 1944: VP-12 was relocated to Ondonga, New Georgia. Over the next month the principal duties of the squadron consisted of ferry and supply trips between Kaneohe and Ondonga.

1 Mar 1944: The squadron switched from ferry duties to combat missions on this date. The squadron’s duties consisted of antishipping searches, artillery spotting and Dumbo missions. On 3 March 1944, VP-12 conducted a night bombing raid on Saipasi Island.

1 Apr 1944: Two aircraft were detached from the squadron for Dumbo duty searching for downed Army bomber aircrews. One crew was based at Green Island and another at Torokina. Each worked with a submarine along the routes of aircraft returning from bombing missions. When a crew was spotted on the water the Dumbo would contact the submarine to pick them up, or if the sea was not too rough, land and pick them up.

17 May–14 Jun 1944: VP-12 aircraft were detailed to conduct antishipping searches north of Emirau Island. These duties continued until 14 June 1944, when the entire squadron was relocated to Espiritu Santo. After the relocation, three aircraft were detailed to conduct antishipping patrols, and one aircraft for air-sea rescue.

30 Jul 1944: VP-12 was relieved of duty in the combat zone and was en route to Kaneohe, Hawaii, for further transfer to the continental United States.

1 Oct 1944–Jul 1945: VP-12 had been relocated to NAS Whidbey Island under the operational control of FAW-6 for refitting and reforming of the squadron. On this date the squadron was redesignated VPB-120. The new squadron was in the process of transitioning from the amphibious PBY-5A to the land-based PB4Y-2. The training period was extended through 19 July 1945, when the squadron deployed to Shemya, Aleutian Islands, under the operational control of FAW-4. Upon arrival on 25 July 1945, area indoctrination training was undertaken.

1 Aug 1945: VPB-120 began antishipping patrols north of Kuriles. These missions and photo-reconnaissance missions were conducted until the end of September when the squadron was relocated from Shemya to Attu Island.

29 Sep 1945: VPB-120 was relocated to Casco Field, Attu. The squadron remained at this location for the remainder of the deployment and then returned to NAS Whidbey Island in early 1946.

31 Mar 1949: VP-20 was disestablished.


Home Port Assignments

Location Date of Assignment
NAS Kaneohe, Hawaii 10 Mar 1941
NAS Ford Island, Hawaii Aug 1941
NAS Kaneohe, Hawaii Dec 1941
NAS San Diego, Calif. 24 Jul 1943
NAS Kaneohe, Hawaii Dec 1943
NAS Whidbey Island, Wash. Aug 1944


Commanding Officers

Name Date Assumed Command
LCDR John P. Fitzsimmons Apr 1941
CDR Clarence O. Taff Aug 1942
CDR Francis R. Drake Jul 1943
LT Archie D. Saint (actg) 1 Oct 1944
CDR Frank G. Reynolds 27 Oct 1944


Aircraft Assignment

Type of Aircraft Date Type First Received
PBY-5 Aug 1941
PBY-5A Sep 1942
PB4Y-2 Aug 1944


Major Overseas Deployments

Date of Departure Date of Return Wing Base of  Operations Type of Aircraft Area of Operations
25 Mar 1938 1938 PatWing-2 Pearl Harbor PBY-1 WestPac
22 Nov 1942 * FAW-1 Nandi, Fiji PBY-5A WestPac
15 Dec 1942 * FAW-1 Guadalcanal PBY-5A WestPac
20 Dec 1943 * FAW-2 Midway PBY-5A WestPac
7 Feb 1944 * FAW-1 Guadalcanal PBY-5A WestPac
17 Feb 1944 * FAW-1 Ondonga PBY-5A WestPac
14 Jun 1944 * FAW-1 Espiritu Santo PBY-5A WestPac
25 Jul 1944 * FAW-4 Shemya PB4Y-2 NorPac
29 Sep 1944 Dec 1945 FAW-4 Attu PB4Y-2 NorPac
May 1946 Sep 1946 Kodiak PB4Y-2 NorPac
Mar 1947 Jun 1947 Kodiak PB4Y-2 NorPac
Dec 1947 Mar 1948 Kodiak PB4Y-2 NorPac
Aug 1948 Nov 1948 Kodiak PB4Y-2 NorPac

* Continued combat deployment in the Pacific, moving from base to base.
† While deployed to NAS Kodiak, Alaska, the squadron came under the operational control of Commander Alaskan Sea Frontier.


Wing Assignments

Wing Tail Code Assignment Date
Patrol Wing-2/FAW-2 * 1 Oct 1937
FAW-1 22 Nov 1942
FAW-14 Jul 1943
FAW-2 Dec 1943
FAW-1 Feb 1944
FAW-6 Aug 1944
FAW-4 DD     † 19 Jul 1945

* Patrol Wing 2 was redesignated Fleet Air Wing 2 (FAW-2) on 1 November 1942.
† The squadron remained a part of FAW-4, but was assigned the tail code DD on 7 November 1946.


Unit Awards Received

Unit Award Inclusive Date Covering Unit Award
PUC 24 Nov 1942 1 Jun 1943

The information on this page is from the   Dictionary of American Naval Aviation Squadrons - Vol. 2 CD-ROM (which is unfortunately no longer available).

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