Squadron History:  VP-53


Established as Patrol Squadron FIFTY THREE (VP-53) on 1 May 1942.
Redesignated Patrol Bombing Squadron FIFTY THREE (VPB-53) on 1 October 1944.

Squadron Insignia and Nickname

None on record.

Chronology of Significant Events

1 May 1942: VP-53 was established at NAS Norfolk, Va., under the operational control of PatWing-5 and assigned a complement of 12 PBY-5 Catalinas. The squadron commenced training and equipping over the next two months, operating from a field at NAF Breezy Point, near Norfolk.

1–24 Jul 1942: VP-53 flew to NAS Banana River, Fla., to conduct night flight training and then to Quonset Point, R.I., for torpedo training.

25 Jul 1942: VP-53 returned to NAS Norfolk, departing the next day for NAS Key West, Fla. The squadron conducted operational combat patrols from this site off the coast of Florida, providing coverage for convoy routes.

24 Sep 1942: VP-53 departed Key West for its new base of operations via NAS Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and NAS San Juan, P.R. Upon arrival in Cuba the squadron came under the operational control of PatWing-11. The squadron left Guantanamo Bay the next day for NAS San Juan, P.R., then on to NAS Trinidad, B.W.I., arriving on 1 October 1942.

1 Oct 1942: NAS Trinidad was the base of operations for the squadron over the next seven months. During this time VP-53 conducted routine antisubmarine searches and convoy protection patrols.

8 Mar 1943: Lieutenant J. E. Dryden attacked and sank U-156 east of Barbados with the loss of the entire crew of 52 officers and enlisted ratings aboard. The submarine, commanded by Korvettenkapitän Werner Hartenstein, had been responsible for the sinking of the Allied liner Laconia west of Africa on 12 September 1942, in what became known as the Laconia incident. After sinking the ship, Hartenstein discovered that it had been transporting 1,800 Italian  prisoners of war and a large contingent of British military personnel. He radioed for assistance, which soon arrived on the scene in the form of U-506, U-507 and  the Italian submarine Cappellini. The four vessels were able to take on board or under tow the majority of the survivors. On 16 September 1942 a U.S. Army B-24 operating from Ascension Island spotted the assembly with Red Cross flags flying. The pilot requested instructions from base and was told to attack. The submarines cut loose their tows and escaped without damage. The survivors on the surface were picked up a few hours later by neutral French warships from Dakar. As a result of that incident Admiral Dönitz ordered his U-boat captains to take no part in future rescue operations.

13 Jul 1943: VP-53 was relieved from duty in the Caribbean. Immediately after returning to NAS Norfolk, Va., the squadron was given a brief period of leave, then transferred to NAS San Diego, Calif., under the operational control of FAW-14.

30 Sep–Dec 1943: VP-53 began the transpac to NAS Kaneohe, Hawaii. The last aircraft arrived on 5 October and the squadron came under the operational control of FAW-2. A six-week period of training followed, including operational patrols off the coasts of the islands. By 1 December VP-53 was en route to Funafuti.

Jan–May 1944: During the squadron’s deployment to Funafuti, Gilbert and Marshall islands it scheduled a minimum of two patrols a day. Although these search patrols produced negative results they provided the fleet with the knowledge that its flank and rear sections were free of enemy forces. Besides the routine patrols the squadron also flew Dumbo missions. While deployed the squadron maintained detachments at Noumea, Apanama, Tarawa, Majuro and Makin.

May–Jun 1944: The squadron operated a six-plane detachment from Kwajalein and engaged in night harrassment bombing of Wotje, Mille, Maloelap and Jaluit. The bombing was designed to annoy the Japanese garrisons and keep them from repairing the airstrips.

Jun–Jul 1944: VP-53 was relieved and returned to NAS Kaneohe, Hawaii, for a short rest period prior to embarking on aboard Barnes (CVE 20) on 2 July for the trip back to the U.S. and a period of home leave.

15 Aug 1944: VP-53 was reformed at NAS Whidbey Island, Wash., under the operational control of FAW-6. Training of new personnel and refitting with new equipment and aircraft continued through the end of the year.

27 Jan 1945: VPB-53 began preparations for the transpac to NAS Kaneohe, arriving there and reporting to FAW-2 in early February. The squadron was given the customary period of combat training through the end of March.

31 Mar 1945: VPB-53 began deployment to Manus for duty with the Seventh Fleet. Deployment was by flights of three aircraft via Palmyra, Canton, Funafuti and Guadalcanal.

6 Apr 1945: VPB-53 was ordered by Commander Aircraft Seventh Fleet to relieve VPB-44 and to operate under tactical command of Commander Air North Solomons and administrative command of Fleet Air Wing 10.

10 Apr 1945: VPB-53 received dispatch from Commander Fleet Air Wing Two advising that PBY-5A’s in series 46500 and 46600 had workmanship defects on bottoms and that all planes in this series should be inspected.

11 Apr 1945: VPB-53's planes in the affected series were inspected at Manus seaplane repair base. Commander Air Seventh Fleet was advised major repairs were required and VPB-53 was ordered to turn the planes over to VPB-44 for ferry flights to Kaneohe Bay, T. H. for major repair. VPB-53 was ordered to operate with the older planes assigned to VPB-44.

15 Apr-Jun 1945: VPB-53 relieved VPB-44 at Green Island and at Emirau. Aircraft were exchanged per Seventh Fleet orders. VPB-53 assumed VPB-44's responsibility to provide air sea rescue support for daily bomber attacks on Rabaul, New Britain and Kavieng, New Ireland. Daily day and night harassment of enemy forces in Rabaul, Buka and Bougainville were conducted in spite of difficulty in keeping the overage planes from VPB-44 in operating condition. Detachments were maintained at Emirau, Manus and Jacquinot Bay on New Britain.  Other types of missions included providing night and day coverage for a battle damaged corvette, support of Australian coast-watchers and missionaries, three attempted night interceptions of a flying boat reportedly carrying high Japanese officials from Truk to Buka, anti submarine and reconnaissance flights, searches for downed aircraft, pick up and transport of Japanese prisoners. Dumbo (air sea rescue) support was provided for ferry flights of single engine bombers and fighters.

8 June 1945: Commendation was received from Commander Aircraft North Solomons for air sea rescue support and other operations conducted by VPB-53..

22 Jun 1945: VPB-53 was relieved of all operational duties under ComAirNorSols. and ordered to report to Commander Task Unit 73.5.7 at Samar and to Commander Fleet Air Wing Ten for administrative control. The squadron’s principal function was to fly two daily weather observation patrols on assigned sectors out to 400 miles east of Samar to prevent loss and damage to the fleet in the Philippines from uncharted typhoons. A third sector and other additional missions were to be flown when directed by Commander Aircraft Seventh Fleet.

Apr–Jun 1945: VPB-53 arrived at Green Island, coming under the operational control of FAW-10. Squadron operations were primarily air-sea rescue missions in connection with the daily strikes on Bougainville and Rabaul, New Britain. The squadron also conducted some night harrassment attacks on Rabaul, Buka and Bougainville.

15 Jun–Sep 1945: VPB-53 maintained a six-plane detachment at Samar for Dumbo missions and routine patrols. On 22 June the rest of the squadron joined the detachment at Samar, operating there through September 1945. On 1 August the squadron’s primary mission became antisubmarine patrols both day and night. The first weather fights were flown on 22 June and two were flown daily thereafter. Availability of aircraft continued to be very unsatisfactory due to the over age planes received from VPB-44.

2 July 1945: LT. Mullane investigated and charted the position, track and intensity of a typhoon in the assigned weather reconnaissance area. The information enabled ground forces on Luzon to prepare for severe weather. Commander Aircraft Seventh Fleet commended LT. Mullane and crew for excellence of the investigation.

21 July 1945: LT Broocke, LTJG Battle and crews departed Samar via NATS for Manus in accordance with Commander Air Seventh Fleet dispatch directing two crews to report to Manus as soon as possible for purpose of ferrying two PBY-5's from Manus to the Hawaiian Islands. The crews judged the planes to be unseaworthy and unairworthy because of major hull damage and engine problems. After several attempts, the crews departed Manus 25 July 1945. Enroute the planes made an unplanned overnight stop at the nearly abandoned Green Island to avoid severe weather.  While at Green LT Broocke and a skeleton crew volunteered to risk a trip in the storm to take a man with a crushed skull to Bougainville where there was a hospital. Using their only two flares, they found there was no seaplane landing area in the Bougainville harbor. They made an open sea night landing in a thunderstorm and rough seas. A small boat found them and took the injured man to the hospital where his life was saved.  Maintenance problems caused delays in reaching Palmyra Island where an engine on LTJG Battle’s plane would not run. After 10 days trying to repair it, the plane was sunk by gunfire from a DE and both crews flew to Kaneohe on BuNo 08142 arriving 14 August.

25 July - 27 July 1945: Eleven PBY-6A’s arrived at Samar to replace the overage PBY-5A’s from VPB-44. Nine overage PBY-5A’s were ferried to Kaneohe by the crews who delivered the PBY-6A’s. Aircraft complement was 11 PBY-6A’s and 5 PBY-5A’s.

2 Aug 145: VPB-53 was detached from Task Unit 73.5.7 and placed under the operational command of Commander Philippine Sea Frontier. LCDR Duffy assumed command Task Unit 75.1.3. Commander Air Seventh Fleet directed all weather planes to be armed with depth charges and briefed for anti-submarine warfare in view of increased Japanese submarine activity in the area.  By direction of Philippine Sea Frontier LT Watson, LTJG’ s Kennedy and MacDonald flew special night air sea rescue mission and anti-submarine patrol to assist in rescue of survivors from U.S.S. Indianapolis. Life rafts were dropped to survivors and flares were dropped to assist surface craft in locating survivors. All three planes landed at Peleliu.

3 Aug. 1945: LT Watson returned to Samar because of maintenance problems. LTJG’s Kennedy and MacDonald were retained by Commander Western Carolines to continue with coordinated air-surface search of rescue area. on 4 August.  Pursuant to orders from Philippine Sea Frontier VPB-53 commenced flying four regular anti-submarine patrols daily and other special anti-submarine patrols and "Hot Spot" searches as directed by the Sea Frontier.

4 Aug 1945: LT Potter flew special anti-submarine day search under direction of the Salamau, CVE 96, hunter-killer group tracking a submarine reported at 11005' N, 1270 05' E. LT Potter was relieved by LT Ackerman who was relieved by LT Mullane. Latter two were night missions. Results negative.  LTJG’s Kennedy and MacDonald flew air sea rescue missions from Peleliu as part of coordinated search plan to rescue Indianapolis survivors. No additional survivors were located. Planes returned to Samar.

8 Aug 1945: An all night search was initiated for enemy submarine where there had been multiple sightings on the surface at. 100 37' N, 1280 19'E. LT Myers was off at 2330 for all night search. LT Myers was relieved by LT Conrad who was relieved by LT Good. Results negative.

9 Aug 1945: Received orders from Philippine Sea Frontier that, ordered to discontinue coverage, a plane was to be kept in the area 600 miles north east of Samar where the Salamau hunter killer group was operating. Several submarines , including at least one midget had been sighted in the shipping lanes. LT Mullane was off at 2240.   LT Calhoun relieved LT Mullane. LT Calhoun was forced down at sea on 10 August because of a broken fuel line. He made a successful landing in five to six foot swells alongside DE443, one of the Salamau group. Repair of the fuel line was impossible. DE443 took the crew aboard then sank the plane by gunfire per orders of Commander Philippine Sea Frontier. Reliefs followed at approximately four hour intervals until VPB-53 was relieved at 0650 11 August. A total of six planes were required to provide the continuous support ordered. Length of missions was 14 or more hours.

11 Aug - 28 Aug 1945: The four regular anti-submarine search sectors were flown. In addition special air sea rescue missions and anti-submarine mission were flown nearly daily.

29 Aug 1945: LT Brooke and LTJG Battle, and crews, returned from Kaneohe after ferry trip of non-useable PBY-5's.

Sept 1945: VPB-53 continued flying armed anti-submarine patrols through out the month. Even though the war was ended, there was concern that un-accounted for enemy submarines could be operating east of Samar. Starting 10 September the number of daily patrols was reduced from four to two as crews were detached to Fleet Air Wing One on Okinawa. Additional missions flown from Samar included searches for missing aircraft and surface craft, air sea rescue, and destruction of floating pontoons which were a hazard to navigation. On 29 September the remainder of the squadron, nine crews and six aircraft, were ordered to report to Fleet Air Wing One. Due to bad weather the first section was unable to depart Samar until 1 October.  During September eight officers and twenty two enlisted men were transferred for demobilization, discharge, or reenlistment leave. One relief crew reported aboard.

Oct 1945: By 2 October all planes had arrived at Okinawa. On 3 October these planes and those previously detached to Fleet Air Wing One were ordered to report back to VPB-53, under the command of Fleet Air Wing One. The squadron’s complement was fourteen crews and twelve planes.  Operating under Fleet Air Wing One, courier flights were flown from Okinawa to Japan and China. Courier and reconnaissance flights were flown from Yokosuka to all sections of Japan. Two additional replacement crews reported aboard at Okinawa. On 29 October LCDR J. P. Morelock reported aboard to relieve LCDR G. H. Duffy who departed for Kaneohe 5 November 1945.


Home Port Assignments

Location Date of Assignment
NAS Norfolk, Va. 1 May 1942
NAS Key West, Fla. 26 Jul 1942
NAS Trinidad, B.W.I. 1 Oct 1942
NAS San Diego, Calif. Jul 1943
NAS Kaneohe, Hawaii Oct 1943
NAS Whidbey Island, Wash. Aug 1944
NAS Kaneohe, Hawaii Feb 1945


Commanding Officers

Name Date Assumed Command
LCDR F. M. Nichols 1 May 1942
LCDR C. Ingrahm 15 March 1943
LCDR David Perry, Jr. Oct 1943
LCDR G. H. Duffy 15 Aug 1944
LCDR J.P. Morelock 29 Oct 1945



Aircraft Assignment

Type of Aircraft Date Type First Received
PBY-5 May 1942
PBY-5A July 1943
PBY-6A July 1945


Major Overseas Deployments

Date of Departure Date of Return Wing Base of  Operations Type of Aircraft Area of Operations
24 Sep 1942 13 Jul 1943 PatWing-11 Trinidad PBY-5 Carib FAW-11
30 Sep 1943 * FAW-1 Kaneohe PBY-5 EastPac
1 Dec 1943 * FAW-2 Funafuti PBY-5 SoPac
29 Feb 1944 † * FAW-1 Noumea PBY-5 SoPac
29 Feb 1944 † * FAW-1 Tarawa PBY-5 SoPac
29 Feb 1944 † * FAW-1 Apanama PBY-5 SoPac
30 Apr 1944 † * FAW-1 Makin PBY-5 SoPac
30 Apr 1944 † 30 Jun 1944 FAW-2 Majuro PBY-5 SoPac
Feb 1945 * FAW-2 Kaneohe PBY-5A SoPac
14 Apr 1945 * FAW-10 Green Is. PBY-5A SoPac
15 Jun 1945 * FAW-10 Samar PBY-5A/6A SoPac
3 Oct 1945 * FAW-1 Okinawa PBY-5A/6A SoPac

* Continued combat deployment in the South Pacific, moving from base to base.


Wing Assignments

Wing Tail Code Assignment Date
PatWing-5 1 May 1942
PatWing-11/FAW-11§ 24 Sep 1942
FAW-14 Jul 1943
FAW-25 Oct 1943
FAW-6 Aug 1944
FAW-2 Feb 1944
FAW-10 14 Apr 1945
FAW-1 Oct 1945

§ Patrol Wing 11 (PatWing-11) was redesignated Fleet Air Wing 11 (FAW-11) on 1 November 1942.


Unit Awards Received

Unit Award Inclusive Date Covering Unit Award
None on record.

The information on this page is from the   Dictionary of American Naval Aviation Squadrons - Vol. 2 CD-ROM (which is unfortunately no longer available)
with additional information and corrections provided by Fred Henning of VP-53.

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