VP-21 Blackjacks P-4M Model
Fly with the Blackjacks of VP-21 in this hand crafted P-4M model. Each model is crafted from wood and hand painted to provide a piece you’ll love. 18 inches
30 July 1943: VB-111 was established at NAS Norfolk, Virginia. Half of the personnel from VP-201 formed the cadre of the new squadron. The next day a new commanding officer was designated and all personnel began relocating to NAAS Oceana, Virginia, for training in the PB4Y-1 patrol bomber. Operational control of the squadron came under FAW-5.
15 August 1943: Six crews were sent to San Diego, California, to pick up half of the squadron’s allotment of aircraft. After their arrival the crews completed their familiarization training using auxiliary fields at NAAS Chincoteague, Virginia, and MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina.
1 October 1943: The squadron received its orders to deploy to RAF St. Eval, England, under the operational control of FAW-7.
4 November 1943: VB-111 transferred to NAS Port Lyautey, French Morocco, under the operational control of FAW-15, to guard the western approaches to Gibraltar.
8 February 1944: The squadron had its first contact with the enemy on this date, carrying out an attack on a German U-boat. Postwar records indicate no enemy losses on that date.
2 March 1944: Over a period of four months, sections of three aircraft at a time were transferred back to St. Eval, England, under the operational control of FAW-7. By 13 July 1944, the entire squadron was gathered at St. Eval in preparation for its return to NAS Quonset Point, Rhode Island.
14 July 1944: The first section of three aircraft departed England for the U.S., arriving on the 19th. The last section arrived at NAS Quonset Point on 23 July 1944. The squadron began a training program that was conducted through 19 August 1944.
20 August 1944: The first section of VB-111 aircraft began the transit across the U.S. to the West Coast, with the last section arriving at NAAS Camp Kearney, California, on the 22nd. The squadron came under the operational control of FAW-14. A brief period of training for South Pacific operations was undertaken through the end of September.
24 September 1944: VB-111 personnel (13 officers and 102 enlisted) boarded USS Makassar Strait for transportation to NAS Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. Aircrews began the trans-Pacific flight on 1 October 1944, with the last section arriving on 5 October 1944.
29 November 1944: VPB-111 was given combat indoctrination training under operational control of FAW-2 through the end of November. On the 29th, the squadron received orders to transfer to the combat zone at NAB West Field, Tinian. The last section of aircraft arrived on 1 December 1944, and the squadron came under the operational control of FAW-1. Strategic long-range searches were conducted from that location through the middle of January 1945.
5 January 1945: Two squadron PB4Y-1s, flown by Lieutenant Howard E. Sires and Franklin B. Emerson, spotted an attacked a midget submarine 2 miles (3.2 km) southwest of Chichijima. The submarine was sunk using 250-pound G.P. bombs and strafing with 50-caliber guns.
15 January 1945: The squadron and its headquarters were relocated to NAB Morotai under the operational control of FAW-17, with a detachment of four aircraft at Tacloban Air Base, Leyte, Philippines, under FAW- 10. Long-range reconnaissance missions and anti-shipping patrols were carried out from both locations.
1 February 1945: VPB-111 began transferring personnel and assets to the Tacloban Air Base from Morotai. By 6 February 1945, the entire squadron had been relocated, with a detachment of four crews at McGuire Field, Mindoro. Long-range reconnaissance missions and anti-shipping patrols were carried out from both locations.
17 March 1945: The Mindoro detachment rejoined the squadron at Tacloban to prepare for the upcoming invasion of Okinawa. Interdiction cover patrols for TF 58 en route to Okinawa began on 21 March 1945.
11 April 1945: VPB-111 relocated to Palawan Army Air Field. On 1 May 1945, the squadron received several new PB4Y-2 Privateers as replacements for its worn-out PB4Y-1s. With its new and refurbished complement of aircraft, the squadron commenced a series of daytime strikes on targets along the Borneo and Malaya coasts. On one such mission against the enemy installations at Singapore, two squadron Privateers were teamed up for an attack. One of the aircraft was badly damaged during its bombing run, and the second, flown by Lieutenant (jg) Romayn F. Heyler, flew through heavy enemy fire to protect its withdrawal from the area. During the escape from the target area a squadron of enemy fighters attacked the Privateers. Lieutenant (jg) Heyler’s crew managed to shoot down one fighter and damage several others while escorting their squadron mates safely back to base. For his heroic actions while protecting his comrades Lieutenant (jg) Heyler was later awarded the Navy Cross.
7 Jul 1945: A detachment of five aircraft was sent to Mindoro, Philippines, for a two-week tour of duty, returning to Palawan on 20 July.
27 October 1945: After a brief period of standdown for maintenance, the squadron began the transit back to NAS Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, and from there to the U.S.
24 November 1945: VPB-111 concluded its transit from the South Pacific to NAS New York, where crews were given leave. Over the next three months many of the wartime personnel were discharged from military service to civilian status.
1 March 1946: VPB-111 began a period of postwar reforming and retraining of new crews at NAS New York.
June 1946: The squadron was designated an Atlantic Fleet Antisubmarine Warfare Squadron.
3 January 1949: VP-21 deployed to Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, for training. One squadron aircraft crashed at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, killing two crewmen.
28 June 1950: The squadron received its first P4M-1 Mercator. VP-21 was selected to be one of the few Navy patrol squadrons to fly the new Mercator. On 1 July 1951, the untested aircraft were flown on a 6,500 miles (10,500 km) circuit from NAS Pensacola, Florida, to San Diego and NAS Alameda, California, and Seattle, Washington. During the test flights all of the aircraft were operational, with no down time for repair.
21 October 1952: The squadron gave a demonstration of the P4M-1’s capabilities to Chief of Naval Operations and Bureau of Aeronautics officials,which included minelaying to show the bomber’s ability to carry 13,000 pounds of mines in an internal bomb bay.
February 1953: VP-21 replaced its P4M-1s with P2V-6 Neptunes, carrying the latest equipment for minelaying and Anti-submarine warfare (ASW), a steerable nose wheel and reversible pitch propellers.
1 August 1958: The squadron’s primary mission was changed from aerial minelaying to ASW.
8 July 1958: VP-21 deployed to RAF Hal Far, Malta. During the deployment, the squadron provided support during the 1958 Lebanon crisis from 15 July to 1 October 1958. VPs 21 and 10 provided ASW coverage to the Sixth Fleet during the crisis.
1 January 1967: Six VP-21 aircraft deployed to Naval Station Rota, Spain, relieving VP-24. From 6 to 23 June 1967, the Rota detachment deployed four aircraft to Souda Bay, Crete, for advanced base operations during the Six-Day War.
21 November 1969: VP-21 was disestablished at NAS Brunswick, Maine.
The US Navy chose the smaller, simpler, cheaper and better performing P2V Neptune for the maritime patrol requirement, but nineteen aircraft were ordered in 1947 for high-speed minelaying purposes. The P4M entered service with Patrol Squadron 21 (VP-21) in 1950, the squadron deploying to NAS Port Lyautey in French Morocco. It remained in use with VP-21 until February 1953.
From 1951, the 18 surviving production P4Ms were modified for the electronic reconnaissance (or SIGINT, for signals intelligence) mission as the P4M-1Q, to replace the PB4Y-2 Privateer. The crew was increased to 14 and later 16 to operate all the surveillance gear, and the aircraft was fitted with a large number of different antennas.
P4M-1Q Mercator of VQ-2 electronics reconnaissance squadron in September 1956 – note extra radar ‘bulges’ on this variant
Starting in October 1951, electronic surveillance missions were flown from U.S. Naval Station Sangley Point in the Philippines (and, later from the Naval Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, and later Naval Air Station Atsugi, Japan, by a secretive unit that eventually gained the designation Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron One (VQ-1). Long missions were flown along the coast (about 30 NM offshore) of Vietnam, China, North Korea and the eastern Soviet Union, and were of a highly secret nature; the aircraft sometimes masqueraded as regular P2V Neptunes in radio communications, and often flew with false serial numbers (Bureau Numbers) painted under the tail. Operational missions were always flown at night, during the dark with the moon when possible, and with no external running lights.
One Mercator was shot down near Shanghai by Chinese fighters on 22 August 1956, with its crew of 16 all killed. Another P4M-1Q was attacked by two North Korean MiG-17s on 16 June 1959 with heavy damage and serious injury to the tail gunner. The aircraft were also operated out of Morocco by VQ-2, where one aircraft was intercepted near Ukrainian airspace by Soviet MiGs. It was shot down by the MiGs and crashed into Mediterranean Sea with the loss of all crew. Another, on 6 February 1952, ditched north of Cyprus at night, out of fuel, with no power, losing only the Aircraft Commander/pilot after they were in the water (See United States Naval Institute, Naval History, March/April 1997). The crew was rescued by HMS Chevron. One P4M-1Q of JQ-3 crashed at Ocean View, Virginia, on 6 January 1958, when it lost an engine on approach to NAS Norfolk, Virginia, killing four crew and injuring three civilians.
The Mercators were replaced by the EA-3B Skywarrior, which, being carrier-based, had a greater degree of flexibility and the larger Lockheed WV-2Q Warning Star. Final withdrawal from service was in 1960 after which all of the remaining P4Ms were scrapped.