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VP/VPB-63 - THE MADCATS
Comission Place: NAS Alameda, California

THE HISTORY of VP/VPB-63 THE MADCATS

On September 19, 1942, United States Navy Patrol Squadron Sixty-Three (VP-63) was established at the U.S. Naval Air Station, Alameda, California, under Patrol Wing Seven with LCDR Edward O. Wagner, U.S.N., Commanding Officer and equipped with PBY-5A Catalina aircraft. Crews were formed  immediately and training flights and coastal patrols were conducted. By February, 1943, all VP-63 PBY-5A's were replaced with PBY-5's and converted for Magnetic Airborned Detection of underwater steel objects. This was abbreviated MAD, so with the name of the PBY Catalina abbreviated to CAT the Squadron became named the MADCATS. Rocket propelled bomb launching rails were fitted under the wings. Some planes had 24 and some had 30. The bombs were 65.4 pound, Torpex-filled, had contact fuses, mated to a 5" solid rocket motor and were fired rearward, hence they were called "Retro-Bombs". Detection range of the MAD was only about 400 feet, so search misssions were flown at altitudes of 50 to 100 feet. Bomb drops were made at 100 feet at ground speeds of 105, 110, or 115 knots, if dropping 3,2, or 1  sticks, respectively. During the Alameda stay, two aircraft were lost due to crash landings. After leaving Alameda, 15 March 1943, the squadron was temporarily based at NAF, Elizabeth City, N.C.for searchlight training. While there, detachments were sent off to Jacksonville, Key West, and Bermuda for antisubmarine operations. A Bermuda plane rescued 4 merchant ship survivors and another assisted in rescuing survivors of a downed PB2Y, "CORONADO". While at Elizabeth City, two aircraft were lost. Leaving Elizabeth City, 5 April 1943, VP-63 proceeded toNAS Quonset Point, R.I., for operations under Commander Aircraft Anti-Submarine Development Detachment, Atlantic Fleet. On 26 June, 1943, the entire squadron headed for Reykjavik, Iceland, via NAS Argentia, Newfoundland, for operations under Fleet Air Wing Seven. VP-63 departed to Reykjavik, 20 July 1943, for Pembroke Dock, South Wales, reporting to R.A.F. Coastal Command for operations but under administrative control of Fleet Air Wing Seven. It was the first U.S. Navy squadron to operate from the United Kingdom in the campaign against enemy U-Boats. Most patrols were in the Bay of Biscay. While there on 1 August 1943, a VP-63 PBY was shot down by 8 German JU-88's, but the PBY shot down 2 before crash landing. There were only 3 survivors with 7 crewmen lost.On 23 September 1943, Commander Edward O. Wagner was relieved as Commanding Office by Lieutenant Commander Curtis H. Hutchings. The squadton left the U.K. 16 December 1943, to report to Fleet Air Wing Fifteen in Port Lyautey, French Morocco, for the purpose of establishing a MAD barrier "fence" across the Strait of Gilbralter to prevent U-Boats from entering the Mediterranean Sea. Crews referred to flying this fence as the "Rat Race", since the flight pattern was shaped like a race track. Three U-Boats, while attempting to transit the Strait, were detected and attacked by VP-63 MADCATS. Sinkings were assured by assists from British Navy ships. These occurred on 24 February 1944, 16 March 1944, and 15 May 1944. Following the torpedoing of the CVE Block Island, VP-63 helped in the air-sea rescue search for survivors, 1-3 June 1944. PBY-5A aircraft began arriving sporadically to augment the squadron inventory of PBY-5A's by eight. On 25 July 1944, LCDR Csrl W. Brown relieved Commander C.H. Hutchings as Commanding Officer. The designation of VP-63 was changed on 1 October 1944, to VPB-63. On 10 January 1945, four BPY-5A's and six crews departed for Dunkswell, England, to assist in checking out U-Boat  contacts around England along with special patrols. On 30 April 1945, a U-Boat was sighted near Lands End by a Dunkswell detachment PBY-5A and made an attack using MAD for the bomb drop. The U-Boat was sunk. The detachment returned to Port Lyautey on 20 June 1945.  

The final Squadron score was: 
     [ 4 ] submarines sunk, 
     [ 1 ] submarine surrendered to VPB-63 PBY, 
     [ 2 ] JU-88's shot down. 
The VP-63 MADCATS can be justly proud that the invasion of Southern France was accomplished without any ships being sunk by German U-Boats. 

The cost of the war for VP/VPB-63 was 39 lives lost and 11 planes destroyed. 

The Squadron was disestablished at Norfolk, Virginia, on 2 July 1945, and all personnel reassigned to various aviation units. 

* * In Memorium * * 

During World War II, the following officers and men gave their lives for their country while serving as members of: United States Navy Patrol Squadron Sixty-Three, a PBY Squadron. 


31 December 1942 :
Lieutenant James Edward BREEDING, USNR
Ensign Alvin L. CHAMBERLIN, USNR
Lloyd HELMING, USN
Henry Leroy BURTZ, AMM1c USN
George Franklin O'CALLAGHAN, USN
Howard Stanley GORDON, ARM1c USN
Newel SMITH, SK2 USN
14 February 1943 :
Lieutenant Junior Grade Henry KOVACS, USNR
Jack Hubert JOHNSON, AP1c USN
Hiram Grover O'DELL, ARM3c USN
30 March 1943 :
Lieutenant Frederick A. BROWN, Jr., USN
Ensign Robert D. WARREN, Jr., USN
Louis Wilson GRATTON, AP1c USN
Guy Wilson NEWTON, Amm1c USN
LeVeren Dehert BENTLEY, AMM2c USN
Maurice Bernard TUROVER, ARM2c USN
Walter Kenneth ABRANZ, ARM3c USN
Eugene Franklin HARBOUR, S2c USNR


1 August 1943 :
Lieutenant Junior Grade Billy England ROBERTSON, USNR
William Henry GOLDER, ACMM USNR
Raymond Carl SCOTT, ACRM USNR
Arther Alfonzo RITTEL, AP1c USN
Werdin Onell RUDE, ARM2c USN
David Robert CARMACK, AMM2c USN
Robert Bonar LAW, AMM3c USNR
9 January 1944 :
Lieutenant Woodrow W. SHOLES, USNR
Lieutenant Junior Grade Marvin S. CLINTON, USNR
John J. KETTMAN, USN
Walter E. BROWN, AR,1c USNR
Wilhelm H. WATERMAN, ARM2c USNR
James O. MANNING, AMM2c USNR
Edwin P. CHRISTENSON, AMM3c USN

15 October 1944 :
Lieutenant Robert Irving BEDELL, USNR
Lieutenant Junior Grade Bradley Comer WYRICK, USNR
Lieutenant Junior Grade Earle F. HORNE, USNR
Robert William DERRER, Amm2c USNR
John Delbert LINHART, AMM3c USNR
Charles Harkness HAUPT, ARM1c USN
Roy Edward WARNER, Jr., AOM2c USNR


Based on code developed by Richards Consulting Group