Squadron History:  VPB-54


Established as Patrol Squadron FIFTY FOUR (VP-54) on 15 November 1942.
Redesignated Patrol Bombing Squadron FIFTY FOUR (VPB-54) on 1 October 1944.
Disestablished on 7 April 1945.

Squadron Insignia and Nickname

Although there is no record of any official insignia on file, a February 1943 photograph of the squadron commanding officer standing next to a VP-54 Catalina shows an insignia of a snarling black cat crouched on top of a bomb. Members of the squadron state that a full moon served as a background for the design. Colors: moon background, orange; cat and bomb, black with white outlining; cat’s tongue, red; teeth and whiskers, white.

Nickname: Black Cats, 1942–1945.

Chronology of Significant Events

15 Nov 1942–12 Feb 1943: VP-54 was established at NAS Kaneohe, Hawaii, as a seaplane squadron flying the PBY-5A Catalina under the operational control of FAW-2. Formation and training of the squadron continued through 11 February 1943. Although 12 aircraft was the normal complement for a squadron, 18 aircraft were on board by the end of the year. On 12 February 1943, VP-54 was ordered to convert to a night flying unit with two weeks training time prior to transfer to the combat zone.

1 Mar 1943: The first element of aircraft de-parted NAS Kaneohe for NOB Espiritu Santo, with the last aircraft arriving in early April. During this period of operations the squadron came under the operational control of FAW-1. While en route, four aircraft were caught at NAF Canton Island in a surprise night raid by Japanese Mitsubishi G4M1 Navy Type 1 (Betty) attack bombers. All four Catalinas were destroyed.

11 Mar 1943: VP-54 began sending its aircraft to Henderson Field, Guadalcanal, relieving VP-12. Its duties were to conduct antishipping patrols in the Solomons area in support of the forces occupying the island and Dumbo missions in support of downed aircrews. The initial landings on Guadalcanal had been made on 7 August 1942, encountering strong Japanese resistance. The island was not declared secure until 9 February 1943. Patrol tracks included Russell Island, the southwest coast of Santa Isobel and the northern tip of Malaita and Savo Island.

5 Aug 1943: During the Rendova and Munda Island campaigns in the Solomons, the Japanese attempted to remove as many of their ground forces as possible from isolated garrisons. VP-54 conducted numerous antishipping attacks on transports during this period.

7 Sep 1943: VP-54 was based at NAB Henderson Field, Guadalcanal, with seven aircraft, NOB Espiritu Santo with one aircraft and Noumea with three aircraft.

7 Oct 1943: VP-54 provided support for the forces attacking Vella Lavella, Solomons.

1 Nov 1943: VP-54 was tasked with providing anti-submarine coverage, search missions and air coverage at the beginning of the Bougainville campaign. By the end of the campaign the squadron’s tour of duty drew to a close. Since arriving in the combat theater the squadron had recovered 52 personnel from the water, including downed pilots and survivors of ship sinkings.

20 Nov 1943: VP-54 was relieved and flew its aircraft to Sidney, Australia. The aircraft remained at Sidney while the squadron personnel were returned to the U.S. aboard ship. After a period of home leave, a cadre of personnel were given orders to report to NAS San Diego, Calif., for reforming the squadron.

6 Feb 1944: VP-54 was reformed at NAS San Diego, Calif., under the operational control of FAW-14, with new PBY-5A aircraft to replace the ones left in Australia. By May the squadron had fully integrated its new personnel and equipment and was ready for re-deployment.

20 May 1944: VP-54 departed NAS San Diego in elements of three aircraft, with the last arriving at NAS Kaneohe, Hawaii, on 21 May 1944. The remainder of the squadron and its assets were sent to Hawaii aboard Breton (CVE 10). Upon arrival at NAS Kaneohe the squadron came under the operational control of FAW-2.

28 May 1944: A detachment of six aircraft and nine crews was deployed to Midway Island until 2 July 1944, conducting routine operational patrols. The remaining squadron assets at NAS Kaneohe continued to perform routine patrols in Hawaiian waters.

8 Jul 1944: VP-54 deployed to Guadalcanal in three-plane sections, leaving NAS Kaneohe every other day. The first section arrived at Espiritu Santo on 12 July, continuing on to Carney Field, Guadalcanal, to relieve VP-81. During this period the squadron came under the operational control of FAW-1.

31 Jul 1944: VP-54 was relocated to Luganville Airfield, Espiritu Santo, relieving VP-12. A detachment of four PBY-5As was maintained at Henderson Field, Guadalcanal, for duty with the 2nd Marine Air Wing through 10 September 1944. The squadron aircraft at Luganville conducted routine ASW patrols and Dumbo searches.

13 Sep 1944: VP-54 deployed 13 aircraft and 15 crews to Emirau. Two aircraft were sent to Funafuti. Both detachments returned to Espiritu Santo on 21 September 1944.

22 Sep 1944: Long-range navigation over large areas of the ocean was difficult for large aircraft with a full time navigator and extremely difficult for single-seat fighters. The Navy was frequently called upon by the Army Air Forces to provide seaplane escorts for fighter groups making long transits between island bases. The presence of amphibious Navy aircraft also ensured a quick rescue in the event of ditching. VP-54 conducted such a mission on 22 September, escorting the Western Caroline Air Force from Emirau to Peleliu Island, staging through Hollandia and Owi.

24 Sep 1944: A three-aircraft element was sent on a night search for enemy shipping in the passage north of Peleliu.

1 Oct 1944: VP-54 was redesignated VPB-54. On this date, the squadron provided an escort for Marine squadrons being transferred from Emirau to Palau.

4 Nov 1944: A detachment of six aircraft and crews remained at Peleliu Island, Palau, for Dumbo missions. The other seven squadron aircraft remained at Espiritu Santo.

10 Nov 1944: VPB-54 was relieved by RNZAF Squadron No. 5, but lacking further orders remained at Espiritu Santo until mid-December.

12–23 Dec 1944: The seven aircraft of the Espiritu Santo detachment of VPB-54 were relocated to the island of Los Negros. On 23 December 1944, the detachment relieved VPB-34 for air-sea rescue and evacuation work. Tender support at Leyte Gulf was provided by Orca (AVP 49) under the operational control of FAW-10.

27 Dec 1944–10 Jan 1945: VPB-23 relieved the squadron’s Peleliu detachment, but its aircraft were too worn out to be able to rejoin the squadron at Leyte Gulf. The six aircraft were first flown to Woendi for overhaul on 1 January 1945. The work was completed a week later and the detachment flew into Leyte on 10 January 1945. Upon arrival the detachment was put aboard Tangier (AV 8), while the remaining five aircraft and eight crews of the former Leyte detachment departed aboard Orca (AVP 49) for duty in Lingayen Gulf.

22 Jan 1945: The six aircraft and crews aboard Tangier (AV 8) were relocated to San Carlos (AVP 51) and continued operations in the Leyte Gulf.

14 Feb 1945: The Lingayen Gulf detachment was relieved by VPB-17 and then returned to Leyte Gulf to rejoin the rest of the squadron. Currituck (AV 7) provided this group tender support.

17 Feb 1945: VPB-54’s tour of duty formally concluded with its relief at Leyte Gulf by VPB-17. Three of the squadron aircraft were flown to Manus Island for transportation to the U.S. The remaining crews departed from Samar Island via NATS, returning to the continental U.S. The support staff and ground crews boarded Wharton (AP 7) for return to the States.

24 Feb–13 Mar 1945: The commanding officer and aircrew personnel reported to COMFAIRALAMEDA and FAW-8 at NAS Alameda, Calif.. On 13 March 1945, prior to the arrival of the ground crews and support staff, all personnel were given reassignment orders sending them to other squadrons.

7 Apr 1945: VPB-54 was disestablished at NAS Alameda, Calif.


Home Port Assignments

Location Date of Assignment
NAS Kaneohe, Hawaii 15 Nov 1942
NAS San Diego, Calif. Dec 1943
NAS Kaneohe, Hawaii 21 May 1944
NAS Alameda, Calif. 24 Feb 1945


Commanding Officers

Name Date Assumed Command
LT Carl W. Schoenweiss 15 Nov 1942
LCDR Kenneth J. Sanger 6 Feb 1944


Aircraft Assignment

Type of Aircraft Date Type First Received
PBY-5A 15 Nov 1942


Major Overseas Deployments

Date of Departure Date of Return Wing Base of  Operations Type of Aircraft Area of Operations
1 Mar 1943 * FAW-1 Espiritu Santo PBY-5A SoPac
11 Mar 1943 * FAW-1 Guadalcanal PBY-5A SoPac
20 Nov 1943 Dec 1943 FAW-2 Sidney PBY-5A SoPac
20 May 1944 * FAW-2 Kaneohe PBY-5A SoPac
28 May 1944 * FAW-2 Midway PBY-5A SoPac
12 Jul 1944 * FAW-1 Guadalcanal PBY-5A SoPac
31 Jul 1944 * FAW-1 Espiritu Santo PBY-5A SoPac
13 Sep 1944 * FAW-2 Emirau PBY-5A SoPac
4 Nov 1944 * FAW-2 Peleliu PBY-5A SoPac
12 Dec 1944 * FAW-10 Los Negros PBY-5A SoPac
Orca (AVP 49)
10 Jan 1945 * FAW-10 Leyte PBY-5A SoPac
Tangier (AV 8)
San Carlos (AVP 51)
10 Jan 1945 * FAW-10 Lingayen PBY-5A SoPac
Orca (AVP 49)
14 Feb 1945 17 Feb 1945 FAW-10 Leyte PBY-5A SoPac
Currituck (AV 7)
  • Continued combat deployment in the Pacific, moving from base to base.


Wing Assignments

Wing Tail Code Assignment Date
FAW-2 15 Nov 1942
FAW-1 1 Mar 1943
FAW-14 Dec 1943
FAW-2 20 May 1944
FAW-1 8 Jul 1944
FAW-2 4 Sep 1944
FAW-10 12 Dec 1944
FAW-8 24 Feb 1945


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).

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