VP-5 is a long-lived Patrol Squadron of the U.S. Navy, nicknamed the Blind Foxes or Empire Express from 1943-1946, and the Mad Foxes from 1948-present. It is the second squadron to bear the VP-5 designation. This article is about the second VP-5, but also includes information about the lineage of the first one.
The current VP-5 has the following history of designations:
- Established as VP-17F on 2 January 1937.
- Redesignated VP-17 on 1 October 1937.
- Redesignated VP-42 on 1 July 1939.
- Redesignated Bombing Squadron VB-135 on 15 February 1943.
- Redesignated Patrol Bombing Squadron VPB-135 on 1 October 1944.
- Redesignated VP-135 on 15 May 1946.
- Redesignated Medium Patrol Squadron (Landplane) VP-ML-5 on 15 November 1946.
- Redesignated VP-5 on 1 September 1948, the second squadron to be assigned the VP-5 designation. As of early 2014, VP-5 is still active and is based at NAS Jacksonville, Florida.
- Established as VP-5S on 1 Jul 1931
- Redesignated VP-5F on 1 Apr 1933
- Redesignated VP-5 on 1 Oct 1937
- Redesignated VP-33 on 1 Jul 1939
- Redesignated VP-32 on 1 Jul 1941
- Redesignated VPB-32 on 1 Oct 1944
- Redesignated VP-32 on 15 May 1946
- Redesignated VP-MS-6 on 15 Nov 1946
- Redesignated VP-46 on 1 Sep 1948. As of early 2014, VP-46 is still in existence, and is the oldest American maritime patrol squadron, and the second oldest squadron in the United States Navy.
- 2 Jan 1937: VP-17F was established at FAB Seattle, Wash., under the administrative command of PatWing- 4, Base Force. The squadron’s PM-1 seaplanes were tended by Thrush (AVP 3).
- 1 Oct 1937: VP-17F was redesignated VP-17 when all patrol squadrons were removed from the Base Force and placed administratively under Patrol Wings.
- 17 Mar 1938: VP-17 turned in its PM-1s in March for the new PBY-2 Catalina seaplanes. Tender support for the squadron was supplied by Teal (AVP 5). The squadron participated in Fleet Problem XIX (Phase II) as part of White Force, along with aircraft of patrol squadrons 7, 9, 11, 12, 16, 17 and 19. Missions included flights extending out to 600 miles to locate and successfully attack elements of Black Force. The exercises marked the first use of long-distance radio bearings for aircraft.
- 1 Nov 1938: PBY aircraft of the period lacked cabin heaters, resulting in great crew discomfort at high altitude or in northern regions. VP-17 was selected to test new electrically heated flying suits. In the first trials, the suits blew out fuses while at 18,700 feet. The general opinion was that the suits were too bulky and unreliable in the cramped confines of the aircraft. The manufacturer began to incorporate better heating and cabin insulation in later models of the PBY, greatly improving crew comfort on long flights.
- 30 Jan 1941: The squadron began a refit with new aircraft, turning in the older PBY-2 models for PBY-5 aircraft fresh from the factory.
- 15 Jul 1941: VP-42 was deployed to Sitka, Alaska, for advanced base operations and cold weather training. A detachment was maintained at Kodiak, Alaska. On 2 September 1941, the Kodiak detachment was visited by two aircraft from a Russian seaplane squadron under the command of General Gromof.
- 7 Dec 1941: Upon receiving word of the attack on Pearl Harbor, all squadron aircraft were put on alert and prepared for a move to Tongue Point, British Columbia. The movement of the squadron to the temporary location took place on 8 December 1941, and remained in effect until the next week.
- 29 Jan 1942: VP-42 flew all of its PBY-5s to San Diego, Calif., where they were turned in for new PBY- 5A amphibious models. Squadron strength was increased to 12 aircraft.
- 1 Feb 1942: VP-42 relieved VP-41 of patrol duties at Kodiak, Alaska. Beginning 1 March 1942, aircraft were sent in elements of two to NAS Alameda, Calif., for installation of ASD-1 radar.
- 3–15 Jun 1942: VP-42 participated in the first attack on Japanese vessels and positions while based at Dutch Harbor, in the Aleutians. Lieutenant (jg) Lucius D. Campbell flew through a snow squall to make contact with a heavy enemy concentration south of Umnak Island. Despite severe damage from enemy aircraft, he remained in the area until he had determined the extent of the enemy forces and their location. On his return to Dutch Harbor his Catalina ran out of fuel and he was forced to make an open sea landing. They survived the forced landing and were rescued later in the day. On 11 June 1942, Commander Patrol Wing 4 received a message from Commander in Chief Pacific which said, “bomb the enemy out of K i s k a . ” Following unsuccessful missions by USAAF B24s and B-17s, aircraft available from VPs 41, 42, 43 and 51 commenced continuous bombing missions against targets in Kiska harbor from 11 to 13 June. These missions became known as the “Kiska Blitz.” During these bombing strikes the aircraft were serviced by Gillis (AVD 12) at Nazan Bay, Atka Island. Efforts to use the PBYs as horizontal bombers dropping their bombs from above the clouds proved futile. Pilots began attacking singly, approaching from a direction that provided the best cloud cover. When they were over the harbor the Catalinas were put into a dive and bombs released at the appropriate time. The flak was intense. A pullout was initiated at between 500 and 1,500 feet, and the plane immediately again sought cover in the clouds. The raids continued until Gillis ran out of bombs and fuel. Lieutenant (jg) Campbell was awarded the Navy Cross for his conduct during the campaign in Alaska.
- 1 Jul 1942: VP- 42 relocated to Cold Bay, Alaska, to provide support to the FAW- 4 Air Search Group. On 20 July 1942, the s q u a d r o n moved again to Nazan Bay, Atka Island. Tender support was provided by Gillis (AVD 12, former DD 260).
- 3 Aug 1942: The squadron returned to Seattle for two weeks of leave, returning to Kodiak on 22 August 1942, for a continuance of combat operations.
- 23 Aug 1942: VP-42 was called upon to provide cover for the occupation of Adak.
- 31 Aug 1942: Lieutenant S. Coleman of VP-42 heavily damaged the Japanese submarine RO-61. The submarine, Commander Tokutomi commanding, was caught on the surface five miles north of Cape Shaw, Atka Island. RO-61 was located later on the same day by Reid (DD 369) and sunk. Several survivors were rescued from the frigid waters.
- 15 Feb 1943: While stationed at Umnak, Alaska, VP-42 was redesignated VB-135. On the same date, orders were received returning the squadron to Seattle, Wash., for a refit at NAS Whidbey Island, Wash., with new PV-1 Ventura medium bombers, the first to operate in the Pacific and Aleutians area. The squadron began training on 24 February 1943 after a short leave for all hands.
- 23 Mar 1943: VB-135 was soon en route to Adak, Alaska, with its full complement of new PV-1 Venturas, arriving on 12 April 1943. Until May of 1943, the primary duties of the squadron consisted of photoreconnaissance and high-speed patrols over enemy held islands. Most of the photo work was done with hand-held K-20 cameras, since the aircraft had not been fitted as photorecon models.
- 5 May 1943: On this date, VB-135 made its first fullscale attack on Japanese positions on Kiska in the Aleutians, using the aircraft ASD-1 radar to penetrate the cloud cover over the target area. The squadron was based during this period at Amchitka.
- 10 Aug 1943: VB-135 had moved to the island of Attu by August, and was given the task of providing antiaircraft patrols 500 miles west and south of the island operating from a partially completed air strip at Alexai Point. Severe crosswinds and tent quarters made living and flying from the island a nightmare.
- 5 Nov 1943–Feb 1944: The squadron returned to NAS Whidbey Island for leave and reassignment of personnel. Only four aircraft were able to depart Attu, the rest being unserviceable. On 3 February 1944, the squadron was reformed with new squadron personnel and aircraft. Transition training commenced for aircrews, many of whom had never flown the PV-1 Ventura.
- 19 Apr 1944: The squadron flew to Adak, Alaska, where special training began on the use of LORAN for long-distance navigation in the hostile environment of the far north. LORAN was a system of electronic navigation using fixed beacons that constantly transmitted repetitive signals. An aircraft could determine its relative position between the two beacons based on the strength and direction of the signals. Each beacon had an identifying signal prefix that matched its location on the map. The HEDRON installed the new LORAN gear in the aircraft during this period and on 4 May 1944 flew to Casco Field, Attu, to resume combat operations.
- 10 May 1944: VB-135 conducted night photoreconnaissance over the Japanese-held islands of Paramushiro and Shimushu in the Kuriles. Photo flash bombs were used to light the target areas. The missions soon became known as the “Empire Express” runs, since they were the first to encroach on the Japanese home islands. This time the aircraft had been fitted with bow-mounted Fairchild K19-A cameras.
- 14 Jun 1944: VB-135 aircraft conducted daylight photoreconnaissance over Paramushiro and Shimushu, resulting in the loss of two aircraft damaged and forced to land in Russian territory. The crews were interned by the Soviets for several months.
- 23 Jul 1944: Lieutenant Vivian attacked and sank a Japanese picket boat, but his aircraft was badly damaged by antiaircraft fire. He and his crew were forced to land in Russian territory to face an internment of several months.
- 23 Oct 1944: VPB-135 transferred back to NAS Whidbey Island, Wash., for reforming and training of new crews. Instrument training was conducted at NAS Whidbey Island, Wash., from February–June 1945.
- 1 Jun 1945: VPB-135 transferred to NAAF Mount Vernon, Wash., for transition training in the new PV-2 Harpoon. The squadron eventually received 15 of the aircraft. Repairs to the wing spars of the new planes at the Burbank factory from 23–30 June delayed the squadron’s return to combat for its third tour.
- 4 Aug 1945: The squadron returned to Attu, Alaska, for another combat tour. Indoctrination training on local weather conditions was given to all new crews through 18 August 1945, when the first sector searches were initiated.
- 20 Nov 1945: On this date VPB-135 aircraft and crews arrived at Edenton, N.C., for reforming of the squadron.
- 30 Nov 1946: VPB-135 was chosen to represent the U. S. Navy patrol squadron community during presidential inauguration ceremonies in Mexico City.
- Jun 1948: VP-ML-5 received the first P2V Neptune, and changed its nickname to the “Mad Foxes.”
- Jun 1958: The squadron deployed to Argentia, Newfoundland. “Ice reccos” and shipping patrols were flown without incident. “Ice reccos” were patrols over shipping lanes on the lookout for icebergs that might endanger surface vessels in the area. In July, half of the squadron deployed to Rota, Spain, to become the first patrol squadron based there.
- Apr 1959: VP-5 deployed to Keflavik, Iceland. Two other squadrons were stationed there during this period, participating in exercises with the fleet. A Soviet submarine was tracked for 24 hours at one point in the exercise, but finally surfaced and proceeded on its way after failing to shake the trackers.
- Jul 1960: The squadron was scheduled for a five month deployment to Rota, Spain, for duties with the Sixth Fleet, but in September the deployment was rescheduled. VP-5 became the first full squadron to be deployed to Sigonella, Sicily, after the base became operational.
- Apr–May 1961: VP-5 participated in exercises in the Caribbean as well as aiding in the recovery of America’s first astronaut, Commander Alan B. Shepard, Jr., on 5 May 1961.
- Jul 1961: As part of the Project Mercury recovery team, VP-5 aided in the recovery of Captain Virgil I. Grissom, USAF.
- 1 Sep 1962: The squadron was again called upon to assist in the recovery of astronauts, participating in the spotting of Commander Wally M. Shirra after his famous flight on 3 October 1962, orbiting six times around the earth.
- Oct 1962: The squadron was one of the first called up for the Cuban Quarantine during the Cuban Missile Crisis. VP-5 staged patrols from Jacksonville, Fla.; Roosevelt Roads, P.R.; and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It was the first squadron to spot and photograph a Soviet ship, Bucharest, carrying missiles, and later the first to locate and track the first Soviet ship departing Cuba with dismantled missiles aboard.
- 1 Jul 1966: VP-5 received its first three P-3A Orions. The squadron was the last fleet operational unit to fly the SP-2E.
- 1 Jun 1967: VP-5 deployed to WestPac with the majority of the squadron based at NS Sangley Point, R.P. Duties consisted of Yankee Station patrols (the operational staging area at 16N-110E in the South China Sea off the coast of Vietnam), anti-infiltration surveillance, and open ocean shipping surveillance flights. Yankee Station patrols provided night radar coverage of the Gulf of Tonkin as one measure in the defense of the fleet’s strike carriers from attack by high-speed surface craft.
- 23 May 1968: VP-5 deployed to Rota, Spain, supported by Tallahatchie County (AVB 2) off Souda Bay, Crete. The use of a support vessel for land-based aircraft at an advanced base site was an experimental concept. The detachment at Crete proved that the idea had merit, but there were no subsequent deployments with support supplied solely by tenders.
- 7 Dec 1979: VP-5 deployed to Bermuda with squadron detachments sent at different times to Keflavik, Iceland; Lajes, Azores; Dakar, Africa; and Roosevelt Roads, P.R. From January–March the squadron flew in relief supplies to earthquake victims in the Azores.
- May 1982: VP-5 deployed to Sigonella, Sicily. The squadron’s ASW activities during the deployment earned it a Meritorious Unit Commendation. For its support to the Sixth Fleet during the evacuation of the Palestine Liberation Organization from Lebanon and the subsequent deployment of Marines into that locality, the squadron was awarded the Navy Expeditionary Medal. During this period the squadron was one of several evaluating the effect of female personnel on squadron operations. Approximately 45 women had been assigned to the roster.
- Feb 1986: The squadron was sent on a SAR mission after the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. An aircraft from VP-5 located the nose cone from the shuttle and directed surface recovery vessels to the critical item.
- Aug 1986: VP-5 deployed to NAS Bermuda. During the deployment the squadron conducted seven Harpoon exercises with other squadrons. In October the squadron spotted a Soviet Yankee-class submarine on the surface in sinking condition. The hour-by-hour monitoring of the Soviet warship was continued until it sank beneath the waves, earning the squadron a recommendation for a Meritorious Unit Commendation from CINCLANTFLT. Dec 1986: While operating out of Bermuda, VP-5 participated in the Coast Guard’s drug interdiction program. The resulting operations in the Caribbean netted over 17,000 pounds of marijuana.
- Jun 1990: VP-5 participated in the drug interdiction program established by the Secretary of Defense. Detached to bases in the Caribbean and South America, the “Mad Foxes” played a key role in the interdiction effort spotting suspicious ships and aircraft in the patrol areas.
- 1 Jan 1991: VP-5 deployed to NAS Rota, Spain. Detachments were deployed to NAF Souda Bay, Crete; NAS Sigonella, Sicily; NAF Lajes Field, Azores; and NAS Keflavik, Iceland. During the Gulf War one aircraft of the Souda Bay detachment maintained surface surveillance patrols north of Egypt.
- 19 Jul 1991: During a change of command dinner at NAS Jacksonville, Fla., in honor of out-going commanding officer Commander Franklin D. Bryant, Jr., an honored guest was in attendance—Captain Vazhov, Flotilla Staff Officer from the Soviet Union’s Northern Fleet, was participating in an exchange program for foreign officers.
- 3 Sep 1992: VP-5 deployed to NAS Keflavik, Iceland. During the deployment the squadron participated in anti-surface/mining operations with USAF F-15 aircraft. Ten different NATO countries were visited during this period, including the United Kingdom, Norway, Netherlands, France, Germany and Canada.
- 19 Aug 2014: A J-11 "flew in a potentially hazardous" manner around one of the P-8As in international waters near Hainan during the squadron's first deployment to Japan with the new aircraft.
Home port assignments
The squadron was assigned to these home ports, effective on the dates shown:
- FAB Seattle, Wash. 2 Jan 1937
- NAS Edenton, N.C. 20 Nov 1945
- NAS Quonset Pt., R.I. 15 May 1946
- NS San Juan, P.R. Jan 1947
- NS Roosevelt Roads, P.R. Jun 1947
- NAS Jacksonville, Fla. Dec 1949
The squadron first received the following aircraft on the dates shown:
- PM-1 Jan 1937
- PBY-2 Mar 1938
- PBY-5 Jan 1941
- PBY-5A Jan 1942
- PV-1 Feb 1943
- PV-2 Jun 1945
- P2V-1 Jun 1948
- P2V-3 1951
- P2V-5 1952
- SP-2E 1964
- P-3A 1 Jul 1966
- P-3A (DIFAR) Dec 1971
- P-3C Feb 1974
- P-3C UIIIR 1989
- P-8A Aug 2013
- Maritime patrol aircraft
- List of Lockheed P-3 Orion variants
- Squadron (aviation)
- Naval aviation
- List of inactive United States Navy aircraft squadrons
- List of United States Navy aircraft squadrons
- History of the United States Navy
- Roberts, Michael D. (2000). Dictionary of American Naval Aviation Squadrons, Volume 2, Chapter 3, Section 2: Patrol Squadron Histories for 2nd VP-5 to 2nd VP-8. Washington, D.C.: Naval Historical Center, Department of the Navy. pp. 42–51. Retrieved 2014-02-28.
- "PATRON FIVE - Command History". Official U.S. Navy Website. Retrieved 2014-02-28.
- Roberts, Michael D. (2000). Dictionary of American Naval Aviation Squadrons, Volume 2, Appendix 7: Lineage Listings for Patrol Squadrons. Washington, D.C.: Naval Historical Center, Department of the Navy. p. 773. Retrieved 2014-02-27.
- "PATRON FOUR SIX - "The Oldest and the Best"". VP-46 Website. Official U.S. Navy Website. Retrieved 2014-02-28.
- BURGESS, RICHARD D. (27 August 2014). "Boeing Delivers Another P-8A Poseidon to the Navy". seapowermagazine.org (SEAPOWER Magazine). Retrieved 27 August 2014.