|The Navy's presence in the Aleutians
just after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor
consisted of Captain Parker's small surface
force of old destroyers and a gun boat, the
"Charleston," docked at Kodiak, AK, which also served
as his flagship. Captain Parker
also had under his command six PBYs attached to VP-41.
VP-41 was commanded by Lt. Commander Paul Foley, Jr.
Foley's job was to conduct patrols over the Gulf of
Alaska and the North Pacific from Kodiak.
Lt. Commander Russell had taken his squadron, VP-42, back to its home base at Sand Point, Washington. VP-41, VP-42, VP-43 and VP-44 were subsequently assigned to Patrol Wing 4 at Sand Point, with Captain Leslie E. Gehres assuming command of the Wing on November 9, 1941. Captain Gehres left Tongue Point near the mouth of the Columbia River on the 25th of May, 1942, with four PBYs from VP-41 for Alaska, arriving two days later at Kodiak to establish his headquarters. The remaining Catalinas from Lt. Com. Foley's VP-41 joined forces resulting in a total of 20 PBYs now present in Alaska. Up until this point, Patrol Wing Four had been flying anti-submarine patrols of the Northwest Coast. The wing was now responsible for more demanding missions extending far into the North Pacific, and remained in Alaska for the duration of the war.
Patrol Wing Four, under Commander Russell (who had taken over from Foley in February of 1942) started patrolling the North Pacific. The number of Catalinas assigned to VP-42 increased to 12 of the newer PBY5A models. VP-41 also received a similar number. All were equipped with the British-designed SCR-521 ASV radar.
The patrols were long and uncomfortable due to the inhospitable weather experienced in the Aleutians. Regardless of the fact that they were dressed appropriately in warm, fleece-lined leather flight jackets, pants, gloves, and boots...everyone returned half frozen. Paul Carrigan relates the events of one such patrol:
"...droned for six hours just above the vicious, storm-tossed, cold gray waves on the outward leg, made a 90-degree turn at the end, flew another hour or so on the short cross let, then made another 90-degree turn to start the long homeward leg."
The patrols would last 13 hours or more and were made by dead-reckoning navigation, often in the snow, sleet, fog and the savage winds that plagued flying operations.
For more information about weather in the Aleutians, please click HERE.
[Ref: "The Aleutian Warriors," by John Haile Cloe, Part 1"]
Last Updated: 04 January 2013 11:54
Originally published 4 July 2001