Presidential Unit Citation: Patrol Squadron Eleven

VP11 was one of the first patrol squadrons in naval history to be awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. It was awarded for their attacks on Japanese shipping and for search missions in the Bismarck Archipelago.

Following is the text of that citation:

"For outstanding performance above the normal call of duty while engaged in search missions and anti-shipping attacks in the enemy Japanese-controlled area of the Bismarck Sea from 15 September 1943 to 1 February 1944. Rendering pioneer service in changing the passive, defensive search into a bold and powerful offensive, Patrol Squadron Eleven utilized the full potentialities of the PBY plane and its equipment, locating the enemy task force units, and striking dangerously by night in devastating masthead glide-bombing attacks to ensure vital hits on the target. Dauntless and aggressive in the fulfillment of each assignment, the gallant pilots of the squadron conducted daring lone patrols, regardless of weather, in a continuous coverage of the area, intercepting and attacking so effectively as to inflict substantial damage on hostile combat and other shipping, to deny the enemy the sea route between New Ireland and New Britain Islands, and thus prevent the reinforcing of important Japanese bases. The splendid record of this combat group is a tribute to the courageous fighting spirit of its officers and men, and reflects the highest credit upon the United States Naval Service."

Following are excerpts from a Navy Department news release on December 30, 1944:

"Combat Record of Patrol Squadron 11."

"VPB11’s Black Cat operations inflicted the greatest damage on the enemy. In the 75,000 tons of shipping sunk or damaged were included: a cruiser, a destroyer, a 10,000 ton fleet tanker, a 7000 ton freighter, and smaller warships and merchantmen."

The news release continues:

"Lieutenant Walker E. Shinn, USNR, All American when he captained the University of Pennsylvania football team several years back, was patrol plane commander of a Catalina crew which seriously damaged Japanese shipping.

"Sighting a convoy between Kavieng and Rabaul, when those waters were open to the enemy, Lieutenant Shinn’s Catalina attacked and damaged a tanker. Then he saw a cruiser ahead. Again, he attacked and scored two direct bomb hits on the stern of the warship. ‘Due to heavy anti-aircraft fire, retreat was hurriedly accomplished,’ said Lieutenant Shinn, when asked if he saw the cruiser sink.

"A Catalina crew commanded by Lieutenant Goodwyn Rhett Taylor, USNR, executive officer of Patrol Bombing Eleven, also had their inning.

"Off the coast of New Ireland, their bombs straddled two enemy destroyers. Heavy anti-aircraft fire from the destroyers hit the Catalina but the plane got home. A few nights later the same crew bombed an 8000 ton merchantman off Rabaul, again encountering severe flak but forcing the vessel to beach. Three nights later Lieutenant Taylor and his crew made a torpedo attack on a heavily armed merchantman. Anti-aircraft fire knocked out the Catalina’s port engine, but the pilot nursed the flying boat to its home base with one engine."

The log of dangerous, damaging, lethal, always tiring, often frightening action continues day by day.

"The Catalina commanded by Wesley B. Benschoten, USNR, served as air-sea-rescue escort for Army Mitchell medium bombers at Celebes and was attacked by four Zeros. Considerable damage was caused by bullets and cannon shells as the Zeros made a total of 15 attacks during a 25 minute, running attack. One Jap plane was shot down in flames by Melvin C. Hohnbaum, Aviation Ordnanceman, First Class, USNR, the Catalina’s waist gunner. Another Zero was smoking badly when last seen. The other two enemy aircraft broke of the fight and the Catalina got home safely.

"Lieutenant Van Benschoten’s crew bombed an enemy cruiser off Kavieng, sank an 8000 ton merchantman in attacking a six-ship convoy, sank a small tanker at Cebu in the Philippines and rescued three Army P-38 pilots forced down at sea.

"In November, 1943, a PBY piloted by Lieutenant Jack R. Penford, USNR, encountered a convoy of six ships between Rabaul and Kavieng. It left fires on a 10,000 ton freighter-transport which were visible for 30 miles. When last seen, the enemy ship was headed for the beach.

"In September, 1944, Lieutenant Penford and his crew came upon five small tankers, a barge and a sailboat in a harbor at Mindanao, Philippine Islands. Repeated low-level bombing and strafing assaults destroyed the barge and sailboat, left three tankers burning and sinking and two damaged. In a final run, the crew dropped float lights in an attempt to ignite oil on the water."

As Allied forces extended their campaigns in the Pacific West and North, more PBY effectiveness is related in the Navy news release.

"Lieutenant Lavern M. Nelsen, USNR, and his crew flew the squadron's first ‘Black Catting’ mission on 15 October 1943. A faster enemy plane which came upon the Black Cat that night fled when fired upon.

"Eight nights later, Lieutenant Nelsen and his crew found three Japanese destroyers in a bay at New Britain. Despite severe anti-aircraft fire from the destroyers and shore batteries, they made a masthead attack on one of the destroyers. Their bombs fired it immediately and 45 minutes later it sank. Lieutenant Nelsen was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for the achievement.

"This same crew had another big night on 29 August 1944 at a harbor in the Celebes, Netherland East Indies. It sank a small tanker, damaged a second, beached an enemy lugger, bombed a destroyer and left it badly damaged and listing.

"The Catalina crew commanded by Lieutenant Thomas L. Hine, USNR, bombed a vessel off New Britain in October, 1943. The bomb exploded prematurely, blowing off most of the Catalina’s tail and forcing a water landing two miles off the enemy-held shore. Lieutenant Hine and his crew paddled 100 miles from New Britain in the three days before they were found and rescued.

"VPB11’s most exciting air-sea-rescue mission involved the Catalina commanded by Lieutenant William A. Mason, Jr., USNR. On 30 October, an Army Mitchell medium bomber was hit by flak and forced to land in flames in a harbor at Zamboanga, in the Philippines. Despite heavy antiaircraft fire, Lieutenant Mason landed his plane to pick up survivors.

"With shells landing all around the flying boat, Victor L. Killgore, Aviation Radioman Second Class, USNR, and Jake N. Stice, Aviation Ordnanceman, Second Class, USNR, jumped into the water to swim to the aid of the Army fliers.

"Killgore and Stice helped four badly burned survivors into the flying boat. Just as the Catalina took off, enemy marksmen found the range and bracketed the spot where Lieutenant Mason’s plane had rested on the water a moment before."



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