14 inch solid wood carved plaque of the VP-56 Dragons. Each plaque is carefully carved and painted to provide a unique piece you’ll proudly be able to display.
VP-56, nicknamed the Dragons, was a long-lived Patrol Squadron of the U.S. Navy, having held that designation for 38 years from 1953-1991. It was the second squadron to hold the VP-56 designation. This article is about the second VP-56, but includes the lineage of the first one.
1 Jul 1946: VP-900 was established at NAS Anacostia, D.C. It came under the operational control of FAW-5 and administrative control of the Naval Air Reserve Training Command. The squadron was one of 21 naval reserve squadrons established after the war to accommodate the large number of aircrews recently released from active duty and utilize the enormous stocks of aircraft on the inventory. The squadron flew the PBY-5A/6A Catalina seaplane and the PV-2 Harpoon landplane.
15 Nov 1946: All patrol squadrons were redesignated. Regular Navy squadron designations began with 1 and reserve patrol squadron designations began with 5. VP-900 was redesignated VP-ML-71. The ML for reserve patrol squadrons included twin-engine medium amphibian seaplanes, as well as twin-engine land-based bombers. Regular Navy patrol squadron ML designations were for twin-engine medium landbased bombers only. The amphibian medium seaplanes like the PBY-5A were in the AM category.
Feb 1950: VP-ML-71 was redesignated VP-661 during the reorganization of the Naval Air Reserve units in 1949, but the redesignation did not take effect until February 1950. During this period the number of Naval Aviation reserve squadrons was reduced from the 1949 total of 24 to 9.
15 Sep 1950: VP-661 was called to active duty as a result of North Korean forces invading the Republic of South Korea on 25 June 1950. The squadron reported for duty to Commander Naval Air Force Atlantic Fleet at NAS Norfolk, Va. At the start of hostilities Navy patrol forces on active duty numbered just 20 squadrons, and it quickly became apparent that this meager figure was inadequate to meet the increased demands. By the end of 1950 seven reserve patrol squadrons were called to active duty to augment the regular Navy patrol squadrons. After reporting for duty at NAS Norfolk, Va., the squadron was sent to NAS Corpus Christi, Tex., for six weeks of transitional training in the PBM-5 and PBM-5S2 Mariner seaplane.
May 1953: The first of the squadron’s new P5M-1 Marlin seaplanes began to arrive as replacements for the aging PBM Mariners. Pilots and ground crew personnel were sent to the Glenn L. Martin P5M school in Baltimore, Md., for training in operation and maintenance of the new aircraft.
Feb 1958: The Dragons came to the assistance of sister squadron VP-45 when one of its aircraft became frozen in the ice at NAS Norfolk. A group of volunteers from VP-56 found and old WWII amphibious tractor and made their way to the aircraft over the ice. They were able to chop the aircraft out of the ice and tow it to the beach.
25 Jan–Jun 1961: VP-56 received its first Lockheed P2V-7 Neptune and began transitioning from the Marlin seaplane. Transition training was completed by 8 June 1961.
1 Oct–Nov 1962: VP-56 deployed a detachment of five aircraft to NAS Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. On 22 October 1962, President John F. Kennedy announced the imposition of quarantine on Cuba after photographic intelligence analysis had ascertained the presence of numerous medium-and long-range intercontinental missile sites. On 24 October 1962, the squadron moved the rest of its aircraft to Cuba. The Dragons and 14 other patrol squadrons played a key role in the surveillance of Soviet bloc vessels approaching Cuba, and later the verification count of missiles being removed. The squadron returned to NAS Norfolk in late November 1962, after earning a letter of commendation for their efforts.
15 May 1966: The Dragons deployed to NAF Sigonella, Sicily, relieving VP-23. Detachments operated at various times from RHAF Souda Bay, Crete; Capodichine, Italy; Athens, Greece; Tripoli, Libya; and Izmir, Turkey. While at Crete, the squadron was supported by Tallahatchie County (AVB 2).
27 May–5 Jun 1968: The Dragons were among the patrol squadrons and other naval units called upon to assist in the search for the ill-fated Scorpion (SSN 589), last heard from on 21 May 1968 50 miles south of the Azores. The search proved futile, and the four VP-56 patrol aircraft were released for return to NAS Norfolk on 5 June 1968. Scorpion was struck from the Navy list on 30 June 1968. In late October 1968 the remains of Scorpion were discovered in 10,000 feet of water 400 miles SW of the Azores. No cause was ever determined for the sinking.
7 Jun 1968: VP-56 received a permanent change of station from NAS Norfolk, Va., to NAS Patuxent River, Md. Upon arrival, the Dragons began preparing for transition from the SP-2H Neptune to the P-3B Orion.
8 Aug 1968: VP-56 received its first P-3B Orion. Eight P-3Bs would be received by the end of the transition, replacing 12 SP-2H Neptunes.
Sep 1969: VP-56 received its first P-3C Orion and completed the transition training in October 1969. The Dragons were the first fleet patrol squadron to receive the P-3C. The baseline model incorporated the AN/ASQ-114 computer system for navigation and sensor functions, the first of its kind in a maritime patrol aircraft. It had an AN/AQA-7 Jezebel acoustic processing system and quadruple the number of directional sonobuoys, with a high capacity computer and related displays.
Feb 1970: The squadron’s first P-3C baseline Orion was retrofitted with DIFAR gear.
1 Nov 1970: VP-56 conducted its first deployment to NAS Keflavik, Iceland, as a P-3C squadron. The squadron was subsequently awarded a Navy Unit Commendation for its activities in surveillance of the Soviet submarine fleet during November and December 1970.
1 Dec 1971–Feb 1972: The Dragons deployed to NAS Keflavik, Iceland. On 25 February 1972, a disabled H-class Soviet submarine was located on the surface. Squadron aircraft flew around-the-clock surveillance for five days until other Soviet ships could enter the area to assist the vessel.
6 May–Jul 1974: VP-56 deployed to NAF Sigonella, Sicily. On 22 July, the American ambassador requested the assistance of the Sixth Fleet in evacuating American citizens from Cyprus due to the outbreak of hostilities between Turkish and Greek factions. VP-56 flew 68 sorties in support of Forrestal (CVA 59) while it covered the evacuation carried out by the Marines.
Apr 1983: The squadron’s P-3C baseline aircraft were retrofitted with the AQA-7V Acoustic DIFAR System.
1 Jan 1986: VP-56 deployed to NAF Sigonella, Sicily. The squadron established a record for the number of hours spent on ship-to-aircraft tactical computerized communications, called data link, while tracking Soviet submarines in the Mediterranean.
24 Mar–15 Apr 1986: The squadron provided a detachment for support of the task force involved in operations against Libya. Operation Freedom of Navigation in the Gulf of Sidra was conducted in support of American carrier aircraft operating in international waters. In retaliation for missiles fired at U.S. Navy aircraft, strikes were conducted by the battle group against Libyan missile sites at Surt and three Libyan missile boats. On 14 to 15 April 1986, strikes were conducted against Benghazi and Tripoli by Coral Sea (CV 43) and America (CV 66) battle group aircraft and USAF F-111s staging out of bases in England
7 Aug–Oct 1987: The Dragons deployed to NAS Bermuda and received a Meritorious Unit Commendation in connection with Hurricane Emily and the recovery efforts in its aftermath during the period 25 September to 23 October 1987.
21 Jul 1989: The Dragons completed 25 years and 170,253 hours of mishap-free flying.
28 Jun 1991: VP-56 was disestablished at NAS Jacksonville, Fla., with over 26 years and 178,000 hours of accident-free flying.