Blackcats Of Patrol Bomber Squadron Fifty-Two

VPB52 was no stranger to action when it arrived in the South Pacific. It had been on duty in the Atlantic, flying "Neutrality Patrols" as early as 1940, and had served in the Caribbean and Canal Zone until spring of 1943. Patrolling and sub-chasing from Bermuda, Guantanamo Bay, San Juan and Natal, Brazil, Catalinas of VPB52 were more than ready for duty in the tropics of Milne Bay, New Guinea.

VPB52 Catalinas became Black Cats in the late summer of 1943, and became pioneers in the night low altitude glide bombing attacks made famous by Catalina squadrons for the remainder of the war.

Lieutenant William J. Lahodney, who devised the multiple 50 – caliber bow guns, commanded a Black Cat crew on November 24, 1943, which attacked a Japanese cruiser escorted by three destroyers some 70 miles north of Rabaul. In the darkness, Lieutenant Lahodney was handicapped by the convoy having just sustained an attack from another aircraft, and having been alerted, anti-aircraft fire was intense and close-by. But the Lieutenant pressed his glide bombing attack to within 150 feet of the cruiser before releasing his bombs. Two of his charges hit the target. The Catalina also sustained numerous hits but Lieutenant Lahodney nursed it back to base. For this action, he was awarded the Navy Cross.

William J. Pattison commanded a Black Cat on the night of November 30, and spotted a large convoy heading south between Kavieng and Rabaul. As did Lieutenant Lahodney the week before, Lieutenant Pattison braved heavy anti-aircraft fire and attacked a 15,000 – ton tanker, scoring with two bombs and sinking the vessel. He was awarded the Silver Star.

VPB52 ended its specific Black Cat duties as 1943 came to a close. Their toll of Japanese shipping was impressive: sunk, two submarines; damaged, two cruisers and three destroyers; sunk, 34,000 tons of merchant vessels and probably sank 10,000 more tons of enemy shipping.

The squadron covered a number of naval bombardments at Gamata, New Britain, and the invasion of Arawe on December 14, 1943.


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