The Lands of 50 mph Fog
FLEET AIR WING 4 (PAT-4)
The Navy's presence in the Aleutians just after the Japanese
attacked Pearl Harbor consisted of Captain Parker's small surface
force of old destroyers and a gun boat, the "Charleston," docked
at Kodiak, AK, which also served as his flagship. Captain Parker
also had under his command six PBYs attached to VP-41. VP-41
was commanded by Lt. Commander Paul Foley, Jr. Foley's job
was to conduct patrols over the Gulf of Alaska and the North
Pacific from Kodiak.
Lt. Commander Russell had taken his squadron, VP-42, back to
its home base at Sand Point, Washington. VP-41, VP-42, VP-43
and VP-44 were subsequently assigned to Patrol Wing 4 at Sand
Point, with Captain Leslie E. Gehres assuming command of the
Wing on November 9, 1941. Captain Gehres left Tongue Point near
the mouth of the Columbia River on the 25th of May, 1942, with
four PBYs from VP-41 for Alaska, arriving two days later at Kodiak
to establish his headquarters. The remaining Catalinas from Lt.
Com. Foley's VP-41 joined forces resulting in a total of 20 PBYs
now present in Alaska. Up until this point, Patrol Wing Four had
been flying anti-submarine patrols of the Northwest Coast. The
wing was now responsible for more demanding missions
extending far into the North Pacific, and remained in Alaska for
the duration of the war.
Patrol Wing Four, under Commander Russell (who had taken over
from Foley in February of 1942) started patrolling the North
Pacific. The number of Catalinas assigned to VP-42 increased to
12 of the newer PBY5A models. VP-41 also received a similar
number. All were equipped with the British-designed SCR-521
The patrols were long and uncomfortable due to the inhospitable
weather experienced in the Aleutians. Regardless of the fact that
they were dressed appropriately in warm, fleece-lined leather
flight jackets, pants, gloves, and boots...everyone returned half
frozen. Paul Carrigan relates the events of one such patrol:
"...droned for six hours just above the vicious, storm-tossed, cold
gray waves on the outward leg, made a 90-degree turn at the end,
flew another hour or so on the short cross let, then made another
90-degree turn to start the long homeward leg."
The patrols would last 13 hours or more and were made by dead-
reckoning navigation, often in the snow, sleet, fog and the savage
winds that plagued flying operations.
For current information about weather in the Aleutians, please
click HERE. For weather as faced during WWII, click HERE.
[Ref: "The Aleutian Warriors," by John Haile Cloe, Part 1"]
Current Update: 06 Dec 2021
Last Updated: 04 January 2013 11:54
Originally published 4 July 2001