Commissioned 10 March 1943
Lt. R. Donley, first Commander, Patrol Squadron 45: " The formation of VP-45 began in late February of 1943 when I and Wiljo Lindgren were called into the Commander, Fleet Air at Sand Point (Seattle) and directed to form a squadron of six PBY's to be known as VP-45. We were to train the crews for the mission, the purpose and destination of which we were not told. The Admiral said he would call us back to Seattle when the mission was finished and give us a duty assignment of our choosing. We received our planes direct from Consolidated and were given priority for anything we needed."
"The early history of VP-45 is unique in that it started with six flight crews hastily assembled and commanded by the senior officer, Lt. Robert L. Donley". (VP-45: The First Squadron Based At Attu, by Lt. William H. Maxwell, PPC-Pilot and Lt. Erwin H. Johnson, PPC-Pilot.)
25 April 1943:
VP-45 departed Seattle for Attu with six PBY-5s to support the planned invasion of Attu.
Call signs 63V-74V, all PBY-5s
BuNo's: (by the Squadron War Diaries and by R.L. Donley's logbook, as of Feb 1943.):
00419 X2 (the only PBY-5A, Oct 43)
08209 73V. Lt (jg) Evans rescued crew of Lt. Wehmyer's from Sarana Lake, Bering Island, USSR, 24 July 1943
08362 65V 30 May 1943 Army Rescue
08409 71V. Sank on take-off in Casco Cove 23 August 1943 due to heavy swells and cross wind. Pilot Jordal. No injuries to the crew.
13 May 1943:
Patrol Squadron VP-45 arrived at Attu and began flying search patrols out of Casco Cove.
Cmdr. R.L. Donley:
"We stayed at the Andrews Lagoon, Adak, until the 13th of May when we were ordered to fly to Attu and report to the Commander of Task Force Six. Until that time, we didn't know what our mission was. The weather was bad at Attu and the Task Force was under radio silence, so we sat up a patrol, the best we could. When our fuel ran low we were able to raise the Task Force Commander and were told to go to a small cove south of the invasion landing area. There we found the USS Casco after which the cove was later named. Our job at the time was to cover the Task Force for anti-submarine patrols during the period of the battle. In addition to providing anti-submarine coverage and being the only airborne support group at Attu, we were used to transport Army commanders to different places on the Island for scouting and even to drop surrender leaflets on the enemy. On one occasion I took several Army officers to Chichagof Harbor after the area was secure. After landing, we took life raft ashore. I will never forget the scene we encountered. The soldiers were cleaning up the area and making a pile of the dead Japanese. The pile was about six feet high and the stench was terrible. I talked to a soldier who had a bullet hole in his helmet. It missed his head and he seemed to be happy.
When we dropped surrender leaflets on the Japanese we had to have reasonably clear weather as we needed to climb high over the mountains and then drop down across the enemy areas toward the water. As the battle continued, we established patrols to the west of Attu. During these patrols we would occasionally pick up flights of Bettys on the way to make bombing runs on Attu. We would send messages of their position to the Command via the cruiser's O2SU float planes that were patrolling the island. The P-38's stationed at Amchitka would then be alerted to meet the Betty's and from what I heard, they had a number of kills. Our squadron suffered no casualties. Occasionally we would take a bullet through the hull which we would patch with rubber sea plugs.
Early in June, when the battle for Attu was finally over, Comfair Seattle ordered Lindgren and I back to Seattle. However, when I arrived, I found that VP-45 was being made a 12 plane squadron under the command of LCDR Carl Amme. Amme had requested I stay on as an executive officer. Admiral Wagner was no long Comfair Seattle, so I didn"t get a duty assignment of my choosing. On July 8, 1943 I was back at Casco Cove and we had a 12 plane squadron of PBY-5's. Shortly after arriving at Casco Cove, Amme led a three plane night flight (Carpenter and Earhart were the pilots of the other two PBY's) to bomb Paramushiro. The entire area was shrouded by overcast so bombs were dropped when they estimated they were over the island. No enemy fire was encountered.
We lived in the airplanes and on the tender until the Seabees completed living facilities and a radio shack on Attu. We moved ashore the end of July. Near the Quonset huts there was a small stream that contained salmon and Dolly Vardin trout which one could catch in their hands. We built a barbecue pit in the cliff next to the huts and found fish a wonderful change of diet from the usual military mess and K-rations. We continued patrolling to the west and to the north as far as Kamchatka. We also provided ASW coverage for the invasion of Kiska. By October a runway was completed and it was time for the squadron to return our water logged planes to Seattle."
10 July 1943:
Four planes led by Lt. Carl “Bon” Amme were launched on a nocturnal mission to the Northern Kuriles. This was the first Navy air attack against the Japanese Home Islands.
24 July 1943:
Catalina 08071/44V of VP-61 piloted by Lt. W.J. Wehmeyer, developed engine trouble which required a forced landing in the vicinity of Komandorski Islands. While attempting to land at Nikolsky Bay, a Russian ground position opened fire and seriously damaged the plane, stopping the starboard engine and puncturing the starboard wing tanks. Lt. Wehmeyer succeeded in landing in Sarana Lake on Bering Island. At 1454 PBY-5 08209/73V of VP-45 piloted by Lt (jg) Evans, departed Attu to rescue Lt Wehmeyer and crew. This mission was successful. All confidential material in 44V was jettisoned at sea before landing, with the exception of a portion of the aircraft code retained and returned by the pilot. The 44V was sunk by gun fire from 73V, which returned to base at 2125W.
Catalina 08361/64V searching Fox Annex Twenty-four was also fired on by Russians at the Komandorski Islands. In view of these incidents, the Wing Commander warned the pilots that the Russians fire on belligerent planes and directed that they keep clear of Soviet territory.
9 Aug 1943:
Fleet Air Wing Four implemented Task Force 16 Operations Order 6-43. The wing had at its disposal two PBY, two PV-1 and one OS2U Kingfisher squadrons. Patrol Squadron VP-43 had returned to Seattle on 1 June and VP-62 on 11 July. Squadrons remaining were VB-135 with 13 PV-1s, VB-136 with 8 PV-1s, VP-45 with 14 PBY-5As, VP-61 with 15 PBY-5As and VS-56 with 6 OS2Us. By 10 August, runways and air facilities had been completed so that land based bombers could operate from them. The plan for the invasion of Kiska called 8 PV-1s from VB-135 and 14 PBY-5As from VP-45 to be based at Attu and 5 VP-1s from VB-136 and the PBY-5As from VP-61 to be based at Amchitka, and remainder of the PV-1s and the Kingfishers to be based on Adak. The navy aircraft were responsible for conducting continuous patrolling, support air strikes against Kiska and commence and anti-submarine patrol on D-Day.
28 September 1943:
"Two crews of the original six crews were ordered to return to NAS Sand Point. By this time the planes were beginning to show signs of salt water damage and stress. We departed Attu with stops at Adak, Dutch harbor, Kodiak and Sitka. We knew that the planes would withstand just a few more sea landings. As we approached Vancouver Island, we encountered bad weather with the ceiling down to several hundred feet with visibility of no more than a mile. Johnstone joined up on Chaddick’s wing and we flew in formation as we picked our way toward Neah Bay. We picked up the radio range at Everett and worked the range and made an instrument approach, still in formation, landing on Lake Washington at NAS Sand Point. The many hours we had spent on instruments and working that radio range the previous spring really paid of that day. Shortly thereafter the rest of the squadron left Attu for NAS Sand Point and was given 30 day leave with orders to report back to NAS Oak Harbor, where most of the original PPC’s were reassigned and the 1st pilots promoted to PPC."
(VP-45: The First Squadron Based At Attu, by Lt. William H. Maxwell, PPC-Pilot and Lt. Erwin H. Johnson, PPC-Pilot.)
1 October 1943:
Patrol Squadron VP-45 based ashore at Casco Cove, Attu Island, T.A.
CO, Lt. Cmdr Carl H. Amme, Jr.
Nine PBY-5 and one PBY-5A as follows:
X2 04419 (PBY-5A)
1 October 43:
in the vicinity of Komandorskie Islands, a small craft opened fire on the 76V 04483 piloted by Lt Carpenter who attacked the vessel by bombing and strafing. Two bombs missed, results of strafing were not observed. The vessel turned out to be a Soviet one.
6 October 1943:
Lt Crockett in 65V 08362 had a Fleet Air Wing 4 Photographer on board to obtain photos of the Komandorskie Islands. The negatives were delivered to Adak.
VB-136 pilot reported a contact with “Betty” type Japanese bomber and the planes were dispersed to the East returning before the dark.
13 October 1943:
VP-45 departed Attu for Naval Air Station Sand Point, Lake Washington, Seattle, WA. Remains in reserve status until 25 December 1943.
Lt. Robert Donley:
Oct. 25, 1943: Ordered COD NAO Training Command, NAS Jacksonville, FLA. Cautioned not to reveal secrets. Signed E.A. Cruise, Chief of Staff
Nov. 22, 1943: Lieutenant, USNR. Ordered COD to Commandant NAS, Jacksonville for duty involving flying. Signed J.P. Farnham
26 December 1943:
Lt. Cmdr Calder Atkinson reported for duty as CO of VP-45
13 January 1944:
VP-45 was reformed in NAS Whidbey Island
The following PBY-5A planes were assigned to the Squadron:
34002 (to Hedron 24 January 1944)
48332 (to Hedron 24 January 1944)
48342 22 January damaged its tail structure on landing due to the failure of nose wheel locking device. To A&R Department, NAS Seattle for repairs.
15 March 1944: VP-45 is ordered to NAS Norfolk, VA
Landing boats loaded with U.S. troops move toward beach at Attu. Official U.S. Navy photo
"We lived in the airplanes and on the tender until the Seabees completed living facilities and a radio shack on Attu." Photo courtesy Dianne Hofbeck, daughter of Cmdr R.L. Donley.
Attu, Alaska, 1943, VP45. From left to right - The Aeorologist Lt. Cmd.Russ Maynard, Robert Lee Donley, Commanding Officer, The Intelligence Officer "Judge" R. Delafield. Photo courtesy Dianne Hofbeck, daughter of Cmdr R.L. Donley.