Mission of VP-93

1942 -1944

As recorded by William R. Tatum, US Navy, Retired

"Squadron VP-93 commissioned December 1941 at Norfolk VA. I joined the squadron in January 1942 at Breezy Point, NAS Norfolk with approximately 50 seamen (airmen). The squadron was training with PBY's. We received 12 planes, PBY-5A's in Jan - Mar. After a while, April - May, we were all transferred to Quonset Point, Rhode Island where we continued to train. The squadron and ground crew were all transferred to Argentia, Newfoundland, where the squadron did convoy duty with sister squadron VP-82. A detachment of 4 planes (2 Southwestern Area and 2 Northwestern Area above the Arctic Circle) was sent to Greenland from VP-93, I, along with approximately 10 others, was sent as ground crew divided between the two bases. I went to the northern base. One of our missions was air/sea rescue as we were having a lot of planes flying through to England. The group at the Southern base did fly convoy duty off the coast of Greenland. Both bases also flew iceberg-locating missions charting their location as some were drifting into shipping lanes as convoys did come close to Greenland's shores.

In July 1942, right after I arrived at the Northern base, a flight of 2 B-17's and 8 P-38's arrived on their way to England. When they arrived the weather closed in and they stayed for 3 or 4 days waiting for the weather to clear up so they could go on. The B-17's were being used as navigators for the P-38's. they ran into bad weather as they approached Iceland. They all turned back to the base in Greenland. Either a ground station or sub off the east coast of Greenland sent a false message that the weather had closed the base, which they were returning to, and they got turned around and became lost. They were starting to run low on fuel and they decided to land on the ice cap in Greenland B-17's and P-38's all landed close to each other. The radioman in one of the B-17's contacted our base ops. One of the PBY-5A's went up and located them on the ice cap and a rescue mission was started due to possible bad weather coming in. Col. Bernt Balchen asked if our plane could land up there. The PBY-5A could land on water or land. Our commander saw what looked like a lake nearby. He dropped a message for the pilots of the B-17's and P-38's to head for it and they would be picked up. After some discussion, Col. Balchen agreed to the plan due to the declining weather and decided this was the best way. They landed on the lake and taxied around because the hull of the PBY would freeze if they stopped. The pilots jumped on the rear ladder.

There was some discussion of going for them on dog sled. For dog sleds to reach them and get them all out, it would take too long. I think one pilot was dog sledded out due to having a broken leg.

Col. Balchen was an Arctic Explorer and was stationed there because he knew the country. He was originally from Norway or Denmark. He did transfer into the U.S. Army Aircorps. The last I heard from him, he as a General. He passed away in 1973.

After this, time passed as normal, I went back to the states in September. I rejoined the squadron in Argentia in late November after picking up a plane and I became plane captain of a PV-3 aircraft. I think in March or April of1943, VP-93 was redesignated VPB-126. I went back to Greenland as plane captain of PV-3 aircraft. My pilot's name was Lt. Kranz. We stayed in BW-1 which was on the Southern end of Greenland until October 1943 when we rejoined our squadron at Floyd Bennett Field, New York where we were until the summer of 1944 when I transferred to Fastron 7 at Quonset Point, Rhode Island.

I think right after I left the squadron, they (VPB-126) went to Brasil in South America and I lost contact.

Thanks to AWC Lungren Ret. for the copy of Mission of VP-93 as it was published in The Executioner News, March 2000 (Volume 6, Issue 1) published by AMSC Charlie Duran Ret.

Return to VP-93 Early Years