VP-44 Golden Pelicans Squadron Patch
The squadron’s first insignia was submitted to CNO for review in August 1952, and was approved on 24 September. The design incorporated the Marlin fish to represent the new P5M-1 with which the squadron was equipped. The Marlin was poised holding bombs in both fins above the conning tower of a partially submerged submarine. The gold background represented daylight, with silver stars to represent the night, establishing the image of an around-the-clock squadron. The silver dashes emanating from the eyes of the Marlin represented the electronics equipment employed by the squadron in ASW operations. Colors: outline of design and back of Marlin, deep blue; background, gold; stars and belly of Marlin, silver; submarine, black; waves, green and blue; markings on bombs and eye of Marlin, red.
The second VP-44 insignia was submitted to CNO in June 1961 and received approval on 25 July. The design featured King Neptune, representing the squadron’s Lockheed P2V-2 Neptune aircraft, emerging from the clouds above a broken submarine, trident poised for a
strike. In a further, somewhat incongruous effort to establish identity, Neptune holds a dice cup in his left hand spilling out two dice with the fours on each one representing the squadron number. A large scroll at the bottom of the design contained the squadron’s
designation Patrol Squadron Forty Four. Original colors of the insignia are unknown. Around the same time the second design was developed in 1961, the squadron became interested in a nickname, and even went so far as to propose finding a suitable mascot to go with the name. The pelicans seemed a natural, but consultation with the Curator of Birds, New York Zoological Society, ruled out the feasibility of
maintaining a live bird mascot. Instead, the squadron personnel came up with a new design that incorporated the nickname of the squadron, an ungainly pelican caricature wearing goggles and helmet, with a fused bomb held in its right appendage as viewed through the cross-hairs of a periscope. This insignia was approved by CNO on 11 April 1963.
By 1984, the squadron decided that the cartoonish appearance of the VP-44 insignia was no longer in keeping with the state of modern Naval Aviation and a new, updated design was selected. The pelican motif was retained with a more realistic appearing bird grasping a submarine in its beak. This design was approved by CNO on 20 November 1984.
In 1988, the squadron members elected to return to the previous pelican design with a rather unique twist. In addition to restoring the original design of the bird zooming in on the submarine as seen through the periscope, the visage of the former squadron commanding officer was substituted for the pelican’s head. The subject of the design was reputed to be a “colorful and salty old aviator” who was VP-44’s commanding officer when the first P-3s were received in 1962. This insignia was approved by CNO 2 November 1988. Colors were the same as the second design. The insignia remained in service until the squadron’s disestablishment in 1991.
Nickname: Golden Pelicans, 1961–1991.
aka: The Budmen, 1989–1991.
15 October 1942: VP-204 was established at NAS Norfolk, Viginia, as a seaplane squadron flying the PBM-3C Mariner. During the squadron’s training period at Norfolk it came under the operational control of PatWing-5.
27 December 1942: The squadron was relocated to NS San Juan, Puerto Rico, for further training under the operational control of FAW-11, Caribbean Sea Frontier. Upon completion of the training syllabus in March, the squadron conducted operations from San Juan and Trinidad, flying antisubmarine patrols and convoy escort patrols. Advance base detachments were maintained during various times at Antigua; NAS Coco Solo, Panama; Essequibo, British Guiana; Cayenne, French Guiana; Paramaribo, Surinam; and Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba. Tender support for most of the operations was provided by USS Pelican.
28 March–7 August 1943: VP-204 aircraft attacked German U-boats on eight separate occasions. During three of the attacks, intense anti-aircraft (AA) fire from the submarines damaged the attacking aircraft. One submarine was sunk on 7 August 1943 after a running gun battle in the Caribbean southeast of Curaçao. Lieutenant (jg) John M. Erskine, pilot of a squadron PBM-3S, attacked U-615 on the surface on 6 August, causing moderate damage. The squadron conducted a hold-down of the submarine over night. On the morning of 7 August, Lieutenant Anthony R. Matuski spotted the U-boat when it surfaced and made an attack run. His aircraft was damaged by return fire and crashed, losing all hands. Lieutenant Lewis D. Crockett, flying a squadron aircraft, located the U-boat and conducted a bomb run that further damaged the vessel, but resulted in severe damage to his aircraft from AA fire. He remained on the scene until Lieutenant Holmes, pilot of a VB-130 PV-1 Ventura arrived . The two aircraft conducted a coordinated bombing and strafing attack, however, the final blow to U-615 was administered by Lieutenant (jg) John W. Dresbach, in a VP-204 Mariner, when he arrived on the scene and made a bombing and strafing attack on the U-boat. This attack resultedin mortal wounds to Dresbach, but was the final blow for the submarine. A U.S. Navy destroyer from Trinidad reached the area the next morning and rescued 45 of U-615’s crew of 49.
5 June 1944: After numerous submarine contacts of mid-1943, few enemy U-boats were spotted in the Caribbean by the squadron. The last attack on an enemy submarine was conducted at night on 5 June 1944 off the coast of Puerto Rico using the wingmounted searchlight. A damaged claim was submitted by the crew, but postwar examination of records indicate that the U-boat returned safely to port.
27 Nov 1944: The squadron was relocated to NAS Key West, Florida, with a detachment maintained at Royal Island, Bahamas, supported by USS Christiania. During this period VPB-204 came under the operational control of FAW-12, Gulf Sea Frontier. Duties consisted of convoy coverage and antisubmarine patrols.
3 Mar 1945: Seven officers and 23 enlisted personnel were detached for training in PBM-5 aircraft at NAAS Harvey Point, North Carolina. These aircraft were flown back in April to Key West to replace the older PBM-3S aircraft that the squadron had been flying.
24 May 1945: VPB-204 was transferred to NAS Coco Solo, under FAW-3, Commander Pacific Sea Frontier. The squadron became fully operational in early June, receiving several new PBM-5E aircraft to supplement its complement. Duties consisted primarily of scouting patrols off Central America.
4 July 1945: NAS Coco Solo, was officially designated the new home port for the squadron. As the war wound down over the ensuing months, long-range patrols gave way to an increasing number of passenger and cargo transport runs across the Caribbean.
1946–1949: The squadron maintained search and rescue detachments during various period at NAS Guantanamo Bay and with various seaplanetenders in different parts of the Caribbean.
1–20 January 1950: VP-44 moved to NAS Norfolk to prepare for disestablishment and on 20 January 1950, VP-44 was disestablished.