Page Updated 11/26/11

A History of VPW-2
Commissioned 01 Dec. 1945
Decommissioned 30 Nov. 1946

From the files of Ray Parsons VPW-1, VPW-2 & VPM-1 1946 - 1947.
  3. c/o Fleet Post Office, San Francisco, Calif.,
  4. Serial: 255
  5. 30 November 1946.
  6. From:            The Commanding Officer.
  7. To:              The Chief of Naval Operations.
  8. Via:             Commander Fleet Air Wing FOURTEEN.
  9.                  Commander Fleet Air, West Coast.
  10. Subject:         Weather Reconnaissance Squadron TWO decommissioning of.  
  11. Reference:       (a) ComFairWest Coast Disp. of 062217 of November 1946.
  12.                  (b) ComFairWing FOURTEEN disp. 270413 of November 1946
  13. Enclosure:       (A) CO, VPW-2 Ltr. P21-l Serial 252 dated 30 November 1946
  14.                  (B) Copy of Inventory of Squadron Records
  15.                    turned over to Naval Records Management Center, Western Division
  16. All personnel, both officers and enlisted have been detached.
  17. There are no registered publications on hand.
  18. All classified matter has been properly disposed of..
  19. All aircraft and material have been previously transferred from squadron custody.
  20. The squadron Welfare Fund has been forwarded to the Chief of Naval Personnel as shown in Enclosure (A)
  21. All current reports have been made for the period up to and including 30 November 1946.
  22. Custody of all remaining squadron records has been transferred to Naval Records Management, Western Division together with a copy of the Inventory Enclosure (B)

CC:    CincAirPac
CNO    (Historical Sec.} Naval Records Management Center, Western Div.



Date of commission: 1 December 1945
Commanding Officer: Lieut. Comdr., ROSS C. BARNEY, USN.
Home: Payson Utah.
Date 0f Command: 12/01/45 - 12/01/46
12/01/45 05/23/46 CFAW 14, San Diego,
05/23/46 06/06/46 CFAW-2 Kaneohe Bay, T.H.
06/06/46 06/12/46 ComMarianas, Guam.
06/12/46 10/18/46 CFAW 18 (administratively)
06/13/46 10/18/46 ComMarianas (Operationally, Yonabaru detachment)
06/13/46 10/10/46 Fleet Weather Central (ComNavForPhil) (Operationally, Sangley Point and Samar Detachments)
10/19/46 10/30/46 PAW 2 Kaneoe Bay, T.H.
11/01/46 12/01/46 FAW 14, San Diego, Calif
23 May 1946 San Diego to Kaneohe Bay (Transpac)
03 June 1946 Kaneohe Bay to Johnston Island
04 June 1946 Johnston Island to Kwajalein
06 June 1946 Kwajalein to Guam
11 June 1946 Guam to Sangley Point
13 June 1946 Detachment departed for Yonabaru, Okinawa
22 June 1946 Detachment departed for Samar
10 October 1946 All detachments departed for Guam
18 October 1946 Guam to Kwajalein
19 October 1946 Kwajalein to Johnston Island
19 October 1946 Johnston Island to Kaneohe Bay
01 November 1946 Kaneohe Bay to San Diego (Transpac)
07 May 1946 14 PB4Y-2M aircraft replace PB4Y-2
15 May 1946 7 of 14 aircraft transferred to VPW 3
11 June 1946 3 aircraft received from VPW 1

c/o Fleet Post Office, San Francisco, Calif.,

In the latter days of the Pacific War it became evident to our naval strategists that the Jap was not their only problem.   Tropical storms sweeping unannounced across the wide ocean areas of the western, Pacific raised such havoc with task forces in December 1944 and in June 1945 that operations were seriously affected.   The major damages to Task Force 38 and the bases in Okinawa in vpw2logo_r3.jpgOctober 1945 proved that the network of land and carrier based weather stations throughout the vast Pacific were not nearly adequate for forecasting of typhoon formation and movement which was of paramount importance to successful military operations and to the security of bases and ships.   The needed information could only be furnished by reconnaissance aircraft in the immediate vicinity of the disturbance.    Early in 1944 both the Army and Navy had carried on a project of research and observation of hurricanes in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.   Flights were usually made in the outer boundaries of the storm and therefore supplied information of a very general nature.    It is true that this type of reconnaissance was of great value, but the price of security was high since the inexact nature of the reports made it imperative to evacuate huge areas..

In the Pacific more detailed information was desired so pilots from Pacific patrol squadrons were assigned to make special reconnaissance flights into areas where typhoons were suspected.   Catalinas, Liberators, and Privateers from squadrons engaged in combat operations were used.   Very early in this program it became obvious that special equipment was needed to make accurate meteorological observations and, above all, personnel trained in prolonged instrument flights and with knowledge of aerological phenomena were necessary.   To suit these needs, in December, 1945, two weather squadrons were commissioned at N.A.A.S. Camp Kearney, and plans were made for reconnaissance operations during the 1946 season from bases on Kwajalein, Guam, Peleliu, Samar, Sangley Point, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa.  

The Navy had never before trained an operational squadron for the specialized duty of weather patrol, so an entirely new type of flight syllabus was necessary with special emphasis placed on instrument flying and aerological observations.   At the same time it was desired to dispense with combat flight training and related ground school subjects. J. COLLEY, and in conjunction with Fleet Air Wing FOURTEEN 14, drew up a training program to meet these requirements.   Under this syllabus, approximately two hundred flight hours were desired, divided equally between day and night flights.   The syllabus, with exception of the familiarization and navigation flights, was devoted entirely to instrument flying consisting of basic instrument and range work, a complete checkout in Ground Controlled Approach, and Loran and radar homing, was given each pilot.

A ground school was set up making use of the facilities and instructors of Headquarters Squadron 14-2.   All officers were given qualification checkouts in Navigation, Communications, Electronics, and familiarized with all the various instruments, many of which were new, being added in the conversion of the Privateer.   Aerology was also studied at this time, but was covered more thoroughly later within the squadron after the arrival of the aerological officers.  

In February, the squadron received twelve aerological officers.   These were trained in ground school at Camp Kearney in aerial navigation, radio communications, aircraft structures and engines, radar, ditching, and survival.   This ground training was supplemented by practical training in the air.   Such training was intended to qualify them for designation as flight aerologists with full flight status similar to that of Electronics Observers and Navigators.   A special set of observer's were designed and submitted to the Bureau for approval.  

The enlisted personnel of the squadron were given thorough checkouts in all types of radio gear, and in the operation and maintenance of the PB4Y-2M aircraft.   A part of this study was conducted at N.A.S. Ream Field.  

During this training, each crew flew daily and became a proficient team, somewhat similar to combat air teams trained during the war.   Much of the work seemed repetitious in view of the training conducted for Privateer pilots at Hutchinson, Kansas, and Jacksonville, Florida.   However, this was sincerely appreciated, for everyone was aware that the type of work to be done at advanced bases would be both hazardous and difficult, and that all possible experience and training would be essential for a successful tour.  

The aircraft furnished Weather Reconnaissance Squadron TWO was a modified Privateer given the designation PB4Y-2M.   The work of modifying the aircraft was done by Assembly and Repair, N.A.S., Corpus Christi.   All guns and turrets were removed in order to lighten the plane.   The flight deck was rearranged putting the navigator's work table and instruments just aft of the plane commander to facilitate cooperation between the pilots, navigator, and the radar operator, and to reduce movement about the plane to a minimum.   An additional desk was added adjacent to the radioman's compartment since an aerological officer was included in the crew of each plane.   Included here also were the aerological instruments.   Where the forward top turret had been, a Plexiglas dome with a collapsible seat was installed to give the weather observer 360 degrees of unrestricted visibility.   The radio gear was safety wired to stand 20 G's in case of severe turbulence or crash landing.   The after station was modified to afford a maximum of comfort and conveniences for crew members on prolonged patrols.   The equipment included three bunks, an electric galley stove, storing bin for food, and in all but a few p1anes, an ice box.   Two side ports with hinged plastic covers made it possible to photograph sea conditions and cloud formations.   An auxiliary power unit was also carried in the tail of the aircraft.   For photographic purposes, a K-20 still camera and a 16 MM movie camera were made standard equipment in each plane.  

Training was completed with a twelve hour simulated trans-Pacific flight, and was immediately followed by a successful transpac, transporting men and material to the area of operation.  

Weather Reconnaissance Squadron TWO arrived at Sangley Point 11 June 1946, and was immediately divided into three detachments in accordance with Commander Air Force directives. The squadron headquarters were assigned to Sangley Point, with two planes and detachments at Samar and Yonabaru, Okinawa, with three and four aircraft respectively.   The one extra aircraft and two extra crews were assigned temporarily to the headquarters detachment.   At each base the squadron was faced with the same acute problems, a shortage of men, material and facilities.   The squadron had no nose hangers and no portable electric units for night work.   Maintenance was done on the line in the broiling sun of Samar and the tropical showers of Sangley Point and Okinawa.   Maintenance, under these adverse conditions, was surprising good, due primarily to the adeptness and ingenuity of the chiefs and men.   When jacks were not available, nose wheels were changed by men standing in the tail of the aircraft, rocking it back on the tail skid while others effected the change.   Fabric was preserved from tearing in typhoons by placing thin metal strips in vulnerable spots such as the elevator hinges.  

With the decommissioning of other squadrons in the Philippines, more facilities became available.   This was especially true with the Samar detachment.   Here upon the decommissioning of Patrol Squadron ONE HUNDRED SIX a nose hangar was acquired, along with an instrument shop, metal shop, and a storage warehouse.   The hangar, with its lighting system, proved its worth when an engine change was effected by its crews working fifty-three consecutive hours.   Forty eight hours later, the plane was on a typhoon reconnaissance mission.   It is worthy to note that although the planes were subjected to extreme adverse flying conditions such as severe turbulence and torrential rains, at low altitudes, often for hours, below one thousand feet- not one flight was missed because of plane discrepancies.  

Approach and landing facilities were good, especially around Sangley Point.   Pilots were aided by homers and ranges from other Luzon bases at Clark Field, and Nichols Field.   GCA was especially useful on several occasions for planes returning on instruments during both day and night landings.   Instrument landings, and landings in near instrument conditions, at Sangley were quite hazardous due to the short landing strip - less than 5,000 feet - constructed of Marston matting, and the fact that it was so near sea level and so nearly completely surrounded by sea, that high winds and heavy rains invariably covered it with water and debris.  

Samar and Yonabaru were both favored with asphalt strips of approximately 7,000 feet.   The Yonabaru detachment also had an outside radio aid, the Naha Range, and both stations were equipped with homers - an invaluable navigational aid since all navigation was dead reckoning.

Loran coverage in the area south of 18 degrees North latitude and west of 135 degrees East longitude was practically nil, though when available its use was very valuable and highly recommended.

In the Forward Area, our mission, and detachment organization prevented any definite training program being carried on efficiently.   Some local range work and familiarization flights were taken, and training was given in radio and communications, and in proficiency in squadron operation.   This was done mostly on individual initiative since no syllabus was feasible.  

Living conditions were good at all the bases, Sangley Point being the most favored.   At Okinawa and Samar, both officers and men lived in Quonset huts most of which they remodeled inside for greater comfort.   Refrigerators and electric fans were almost necessary luxuries that were acquired only after considerable effort. All personnel took interest and pride in improving their quarters.

Recreation was at a premium. Many of the officers and men started or continued the hobby of photography. They built their own photo labs and dark rooms, and with aid of the squadron photographers, produced some very good pictures. The results of some were shown in the Aerological report to the Chief of Naval Operations. Athletic equipment was carried over from the states and was frequently used. Swimming facilities were fair on Okinawa, though transportation to and from the beach was inadequate. Sangley Point had two outdoor pools and Samar had a very good beach. Sailing was also enjoyed when duties and weather permiitted..

On week-ends when all planes were available and there was no immiediate danger of approaching storms, the squadron often assumed the role of a utility squadron, flying personnel and material to different destinations. This had an extremely good effect of the morale of both officers and men. They not only visited many new places, but often remained over night in Palawan, Shanghai, or Tsingtao.

In view of the fact that none of the married men had their families present, and the adverse and hazardous conditions under which they worked and flew, the men kept on the job, did excellent work and returned without casualty and their mission well accomplished.

Over one half of the enlisted personnel in the squadron were reserves whose dates for discharge, for all planning purposes, had to be considered on or prior to the first of July.   Immediately, the task was begun of replacing all reserves with regular navy men.   Although replacements were readily available, two drawbacks were quite noticeable during this transition.   First, only a small percentage of the new men had had any previous time in Liberator or Privateer type aircraft - in fact many of them had had training only in carrier aircraft.   Secondly, most of the replacements were of much higher rate than the men they replaced, and the squadron was, due to transfers, becoming extremely over complemented by rates.  

The officer personnel turnover, during the period from the first of March until the middle of May, though not as great, caused even a more severe strain on the squadron.   Many of the officers were reserves simply waiting for the necessary points for discharge, while others had extensions which were to be terminated on or before the first of September.   Replacements were not nearly so accessible for officers as for enlisted men.   Eight of the fifteen navigators were lost in this way and the late arrival of the naval aviators who replaced them necessitated duplication of many of the long navigation training flights already completed.  

In the middle of May approximately one week before scheduled transpac, Weather Reconnaissance Squadron THREE was formed, its entire personnel taken from Weather Reconnaissance Squadron Two.   This was a severe setback to the personnel structure of the squadron, since practically every officer was given a new primary and collateral duty with very little time to become acquainted with them.  

Immediately upon arrival in the forward area, the squadron was brought to its full, revised operating strength of eleven crews and ten aircraft by the transfer of three crews and three aircraft from Weather Reconnaissance Squadron ONE.  

The enlisted personnel situation overseas was as stable as could be expected.   As for officers, however, the situation not only did not improve, but took a turn in the opposite direction.   Most of the officers were denied retention until July 1947 and a large percentage of these, either having not applied or having heard adversely on their request for transfer to the Regular Navy, were immediately eligible for discharge.   In July, a dispatch request was sent to the Bureau of Naval Personnel, through Commander Air Force, Pacific Fleet, to retain until February 1947, twenty-two officers who otherwise would have to leave immediately for discharge.   This was approved.  

However, through July, August, and September the squadron continued to lose officers for whom there were no replacements available.   In the latter part of September this situation was alleviated, with the exception of aerological officers.   When the squadron left the forward area in October, only four of a required eleven aerological officers remained.  

Between June 1946 and 1 October 1946, Weather Reconnaissance TWO flew about seventy five special reconnaissance flights into tropical storms.   On nine occasions the center or "eye" of the disturbance was entered.   Flights were ordered by dispatch from Fleet Weather Central, Manila, in the case of the Sangley Point and Samar detachment; and from Fleet Weather Central, Guam for the Yonabaru detachment.  

Whenever there was any reason to suspect a disturbance in the squadrons operating area, each of the three detachments were alerted, and two planes and an alternate were readied for flight.   The aerological officer digested all of the available weather information for details pertaining to latest position, probable movement, and intensity.  

When a flight was requested, a dispatch giving the area to be searched and approximate take-off time was relayed from the squadron headquarters.   On most special reconnaissance flights, the storm region was so great a distance from squadron bases that take-off was at dawn in order to assure a daylight flight and landing.   The mountainous terrain in the Philippines made night flying, particularly in the foul weather associated with typhoons, very hazardous, it was therefore avoided when at all possible.  

En-route towards the storm, flights were carried on at the most favorable altitude, until the immediate vicinity of the disturbance was reached.   Taking course directly toward the center, made evident by the wind direction, the plane flew at the highest altitude at which visual contact with the surface could be maintained.   This was usually 200 to 1000 feet, but frequently ceilings of 400 feet were encountered close to the center.   Increasing rain, surface wind velocity, and falling pressure, indicated proximity to the "eye".  

At the pilot's discretion the flight continued into the storm as far as safety and comfort of the crew permitted, at which tine a heading was taken to circumnavigate the center of the disturbance.   It was generally agreed that a circle in which the wind velocity was between 50 and 60 knots was the most desirable distance from the center.   However, in several instances storms were encountered whose size made it imperative to circle at 75 to 80 knots in order to return to base before night fall.   Circumnavigation was accomplished by taking short legs around the storm center until the flight reached the quadrant in which the highest wind velocities, and the most severe rain and turbulence were expected.   In this sector, usually the quadrant to the right of the direction of propagation, the pilot decided whether it was safe and advisable to turn again toward the center in an effort to reach the eye.   No instructions were given for any flights to enter the vortex of typhoons, but many planes did so in order to study structure and to obtain a more accurate fix on its position.  

APS-15 radar gear proved very useful in plotting the center at distances of 30 to 40 miles and radar pictures augmented by wind plots gave excellent indication of the 'eye' at distances up to 50 miles.

Reports of weather observations made on all typhoon reconnaissance flights were radioed on a special frequency guarded by Fleet Weather Centrals at Manila, Guam, and Shanghai.   These reports were sent operational priority at thirty minute intervals tram the time of take off and urgent precedence at fifteen minute intervals after the near vicinity of the storm was reached.   An unabbreviated CAW-C form was used for all reports to facilitate quick dissemination to all aerological activities.   This form suited the requirements but was encumbered with many undesirable and unnecessary elements for a flight of this specialized nature.  

The most important element in the regular reports was the velocity and direction of the surface winds, and accuracy in wind observations was very difficult to obtain.   Winds abeam the direction of flight was calculated vectorially with an E6B computer using direction from wind streaks and a single drift reading.   This procedure failed with winds over 25 knots and velocity reports depended on estimation by the navigator and aerological officer.   After some experience it was believed possible to estimate wind velocities within 2 to 5 knots.   Cloud formation in the outer rim of typhoons, which are of paramount importance in forecasting deepening and dissipation of disturbances, were reported as accurately as possible.   All planes were equipped with aerial psychrometer for recording temperature and humidity.   Pioneer aerographs were installed in two planes and were used for quick computation of humidity and flight level pressure.   It was found that a accurate measurement of surface pressure could be conveniently made by using the sensitive altimeter, corrected for temperature and abnormal pressure, in conjunction with the absolute altimeter (SCR 718).   Barometer and Barographs were installed in all planes in September, but adequate facilities for connecting them into the static system were not available in the forward area so they never operated properly.  

One of the greatest problems faced on typhoon reconnaissance flights was that of navigation.   In the design of the PB4Y-2M aircraft, extensive plans had been made to increase the accuracy of navigation.   The navigator was provided with a panel consisting of a pressure altimeter, fluxgate compass, airspeed indicator, radio compass repeater, air-position indicator, and loran indicator.   As was proven in an early stage of operation the only practical method of navigation in typhoons was dead-reckoning.   Loran coverage in the Philippines and immediate vicinity was at a minimum, due to the great distances between stations and the adverse atmospheric conditions in and around the intertropical front, celestial navigation was out of the lt-ross_barney_r1.jpgquestion in any type of foul weather or turbulence.   Radar was a definite aid, although it was difficult for even the most skilled operator to differentiate heavy rain showers and thunderheads from landfall.   The air-position indicator was of practically no use to the squadron due to high variable winds and lack of maintenance personnel.  

The Commanding Officer of Weather Reconnaissance Squadron TWO, during all of its year of existence was Lieutenant Commander Ross C. BARNEY f Payson, Utah.   Mr. BARNEY, a graduate of Utah State College, enlisted in the Naval Air Corps in July of 1938.   He received preliminary flight training at Oakland, California and advanced training at N.A.S. Pensacola, Florida and on the tenth of October 1939 was commissioned as Ensign.   After a years duty in patrol Squadron ELEVEN Mr. BARNEY reported to Patrol Squadron THIRTEEN, serving in combat operations in the Gilbert Marshall Islands and other campaigns in the central Pacific.

In July 1944 he returned to the United States and was assigned to N.A.S.  San Diego as Assistant operations Officer.  Six months later Lieutenant Commander BARNEY assumed the duties of Executive Officer of N.A.A.S Litchfield Park and in May 1945 entered operational training in PB4Y-2 type aircraft.   Upon completion of this training in Hutchinson, Kansas, he assumed command of Weather Reconnaissance Squadron TWO.

Lieutenant Commander BARNEY has been awarded the Air Medal for Wake Raid and Truk Island.