Squadron History:  VP-71


Redesignated Patrol Squadron SEVENTY ONE (VP-71) on 1 July 1941.
Redesignated Patrol Bombing Squadron SEVENTY ONE (VPB-71) on 1 October 1944.
Redesignated Patrol Squadron SEVENTY ONE (VP-71) on 15 May 1946.
Redesignated Amphibian Patrol Squadron THREE (VP-AM-3) on 15 November 1946.
Redesignated Patrol Squadron THIRTY THREE (VP-33) on 1 September 1948, the third squadron to be assigned the VP-33 designation.
Disestablished on 15 December 1949.

Squadron Insignia and Nickname

The second insignia of the squadron was adopted when VPB-71 was operating in the South Pacific as a Black Cat squadron. The cat chosen by the squadron was a tough-looking customer all in black, wearing a flotation vest, seaman’s cap, cigar stub in mouth, holding a smoking Colt .45 in both paws. Colors: cat, black with white muzzle and yellow eyes; seaman’s cap, white; flotation vest, yellow; Colt .45, gray.

Nickname: Black Cats, 1944–1945.

Chronology of Significant Events

17 Dec 1941: With the start of the war several squadrons were relocated to the West Coast. VP-71 was reassigned to NAS Alameda, Calif., where the squadron began training for an overseas deployment. The PBY-1 aircraft were turned in for newer PBY-5 models.

25 Dec 1941: Arrived at Pearl Harbor and began day search operations.

1 Apr 1942: VP-71 completed its transpac from San Diego, Calif., to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Upon arrival the squadron was quickly detailed to search sectors with 700-mile legs out from Oahu.

1 May 1942: VP-71 was transferred to Noumea under the operational control of FAW-1, with tender support provided by Tangier (AV 8). Antishipping and ASW patrols were conducted daily. On 26 June the squadron was shifted to Curtiss (AV 4).

29 Jun 1942: VP-71 remained based at Noumea, with one PBY at Efate and another at Aukland, N.Z.  On 20 July 1942, the squadron was relieved by VP-12 for return to Pearl Harbor.

1 Sep 1942: The squadron maintained ten aircraft at Kaneohe, with one at Pearl Harbor and one remaining with VP-12 at Noumea.

6 Feb 1943: VP-71 deployed to New Georgia Island. Duties over the next month consisted primarily of routine patrol operations. On 29 March 1943, the squadron was relieved by VB-115 for return to NAS Kanoehe, Hawaii.

10 Apr 1943: VP-71 was split into two squadrons, with half of its assets going to form VB-104. The remaining part of VP-71 was quickly reformed with new personnel and new aircraft.

27 Jun 1943: VP-71, once again up to full strength, was redeployed to Vanikoro Island with tender support provided by Mackinac (AVP 13) and Chincoteague (AVP 24). On 17 July Chincoteague was bombed with minor damage. Operations were halted and the squadron and tenders were moved to Halavo, in the Florida Island chain.

14 Oct 1943: VP-71 was tasked with 650-mile patrol legs, night spotting and Dumbo operations around New Guinea, Rendova and the Treasury Islands. On 1November 1943, coverage was provided from this base for the landings at Bougainville.

6 Mar 1944: VP-71 was relieved by VP-81 for return to Kaneohe and transport back to the continental United States. Upon arrival at San Diego on 24 March, the squadron members were given 30 days home leave.

25 Apr 1944: VP-71 was reformed at NAS San Diego, Calif., under the operational control of FAW-14.  Training of new crews was begun on new PBY-5A aircraft fresh from the factory.

28 Aug 1944: The new crews and aircraft of VP-71 completed the transpac to NAS Kaneohe, Hawaii, coming under the operational control of FAW-2. Upon arrival training for combat operations commenced. Patrols were conducted off the coasts of the Hawaiian Islands with a detachment of aircraft at Midway conducting operational patrols for that area.

1 Oct 1944: VP-71 was redesignated VPB-71. Aircrews were given advanced training in ASW techniques. A six aircraft detachment was maintained at Midway for flight operations and gunnery practice.

10–24 Nov 1944: VPB-71 deployed to Manus Island, reporting to Commander, Air Seventh Fleet for duty on 13 November. A detachment of two aircraft was loaned to the 2d Emergency Rescue Squadron of the 13th Army Air Force. On the 24th, VPB-71 commenced Black Cat operations in the vicinity of Morotai, N.E.I. Black Cat operations in WWII were flown by U.S. Navy Catalina squadrons against Japanese shipping and shore installations at night. Although originally a tactic designed to afford some measure of protection for the highly vulnerable, slow moving seaplanes, Black Cat operations proved so successful that several squadrons were assigned the role. Flat black painted surfaces and the use of radar made the outdated aircraft into a formidable weapon of the night.

19–24 Dec 1944: VPB-71 was withdrawn from combat operations at Morotai for rest and maintenance of the aircraft. By 24 December the squadron was back in combat operations, this time conducting joint operations with a PT boat flotilla in the area between Morotai and North Halmahera Island. PT boats, officially designated Motor Torpedo Boats, were equipped with four torpedo tubes, a crew of 12, and could attack at a top speed of 45 knots. Although unable to stand up to heavy opposing fire, these light and extremely fast vessels were ideally suited for night attacks in cooperation with the Black Cat squadrons.

1–11 Jan 1945: VPB-71 berthed 9 air crews aboard Currituck (AV 7) and nine more aboard Barataria (AVP 33). On 11 January 1945, the squadron transferred its crews for berthing support from Currituck to Tangier (AV 8). During this period, routine searches were conducted between Formosa and the China Coast.

1 Feb 1945: VPB-71 conducted strikes on shipping in the China Sea while operating from tenders in the Lingayen Gulf, Luzon, P.I.

1–16 Mar 1945: VPB-71 relocated to Jinamoc Seaplane Base, P.I., from which it conducted routine daytime patrols. On 16 March the squadron moved again to Guinan Airbase, Samar, Philippines, where daytime patrols were resumed. The conclusion of the night-bombing campaign for the squadron showed significant results, with VPB-71 credited in sinking eight enemy ships and damaging nine others.

27 Apr 1945: VPB-71 relieved VPB-17 for air-sea rescue operations in the Central Philippines.

1 Sep 1945: The two aircraft detachment assigned to the 13th Army Air Force relocated to Puerto Princessa, Palawan Island. A second detachment of five aircraft was formed on this date from the main body of the squadron located at Samar, and deployed to Sangley Point, Philippines. On 2 September the remainder of the squadron was assigned to weather reconnaissance duties and air-sea rescue missions.

Apr–May 1946: VPB-71 returned to the continental U.S., with a homeport at NAS Norfolk, Va.


Home Port Assignments

Location Date of Assignment
NAS Floyd Bennett Field, N.Y. 8 Apr 1941
NAS Alameda, Calif. 17 Dec 1941
NAS Kaneohe, Hawaii 1 Apr 1942
NAS San Diego, Calif. 24 Mar 1944
NAS Kaneohe, Hawaii * 28 Aug 1944
NAS Norfolk, Va May 1946

* Once the squadron deployed from NAS Kaneohe on 10 November 1944 it moved from base to base and remained in the western Pacific for operations until its reassignment to NAS Norfolk, Va., in May 1946.


Commanding Officers

Name Date Assumed Command
LCDR Harry E. Sears Aug 1942
LCDR Cecil K. Harper 1 Apr 1943
LCDR Norman C. Gillette, Jr. 25 Apr 1944


Aircraft Assignment

Type of Aircraft Date Type First Received
PBY-5 Dec 1941
PBY-5A Apr 1944


Major Overseas Deployments

Date of Departure Date of Return Wing Base of  Operations Type of Aircraft Area of Operations
2 Jun 1941 17 Dec 1941 PatWing-5/7 Argentia PBY-3 NorLant
1 Apr 1942 * FAW-2 Pearl Harbor PBY-5 EastPac
1 May 1942 * FAW-1 Noumea PBY-5 SoPac
Tangier (AV 8)
Curtiss (AV 4)
6 Feb 1943 29 Mar 1943 FAW-1 New Ga. PBY-5 SoPac
27 Jun 1943 * FAW-1 Vanikoro PBY-5 SoPac
Mackinac (AVD 13)
Chincoteague (AVD 24)
1 Oct 1943 6 Mar 1944 FAW-1 Halavo PBY-5 SoPac
28 Aug 1944 1 Oct 1944 FAW-2 Kaneohe PBY-5 EastPac
10 Nov 1944 * FAW-17 Manus PBY-5/5A SoPac
19 Dec 1944 * FAW-17 Morotai PBY-5/5A SoPac
1 Feb 1945 * FAW-17 Lingayen Gulf PBY-5/5A SoPac
Barataria (AVP 33)
Currituck (AVP 7)
Tangier (AVP 8)
1 Mar 1945 * FAW-17 Jinamoc PBY-5/5A SoPac
16 Mar 1945 * FAW-10 Samar PBY-5/5A SoPac
1 Sep 1945 * FAW-10 Sangley Point PBY-5/5A WestPac

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


Wing Assignments

Wing Tail Code Assignment Date
PatWing-8 17 Dec 1941
PatWing-2   1 Apr 1942
PatWing-1 1 May 1942
PatWing-2/FAW-2 20 Jul 1942
FAW-1 6 Feb 1943
FAW-2 29 Mar 1943
FAW-1 27 Jun 1943
FAW-2      6 Mar 1944
FAW-14      24 Mar 1944
FAW-2      28 Aug 1944
FAW-17      10 Nov 1944
FAW-17      10 Nov 1944
FAW-10      Jan 1946
FAW-5      May 1946

† Patrol Wing 2 (PatWing-2) was redesignated Fleet Air Wing 2 (FAW-2) on 1 November 1942.
‡ The squadron remained part of FAW-5 but was assigned the tail code EB on 7 November 1946.


Unit Awards Received

Unit Award Inclusive Date Covering Unit Award
NUC 24 Nov 1944 16 Mar 1945
ADSM 22 Jun 1941 7 Dec 1941


A picture of VPB-71 in San Diego in the fall of 1944.
This photo was sent in by Joe Roseberry, whose dad is the seventh from the left, bottom row.

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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