Black Staff and Flight Crew in VP12
I was originally with Patrol Squadron 24. We changed our designation about a month before Pearl Harbor to Patrol Squadron 12, VP12. Our unit was there when Pearl Harbor was attacked. The planes we had just before and during the attack were PBY 5s. when we lost all our planes on the 7th Dec 41 we went back to the states and brought back PBY5As. Our planes sighted the Jap fleet off Midway, we were the squadron they talked about in the movie Midway. Later we did a lot of patrolling in the south Pacific. We were mainly in the Soloman Islands and worked our way up to NEW Ireland and that area. We were the original "BLACK CATS". Most of our flying in the South West Pacific was done at night. Much of our flying was Lighting up Jap Barges supplying their beachheads in the Northern Solomans and Especially Buka passage. We also did a share of rescuing downed airmen but Primarily that of dropping Flares to light up Jap Landing Craft so that The PT boats could destroy them, thats part of JFKs story. We were the Patrol squadron that they talked about in PT109.
We would take off before day break in the mornings. Fly all day come back in after sunset in the evening. After the war started and we got new planes we were short handed on crews so we were making those long over water Patrols every other day, flying about a hundred feet off the wather twelve thirteen hours every other day.
Every man in the squadron flew his time. We had a short Black fellow who flew a lot on flight crew when he had time off from other duties. Back then Blacks were normally resigned to cooks and Officers' steward. But the Navy really wasn't as strict about segregation as you might think. We had a Black man that worked in our personnel office before the war started.(His name was Smith). I have no idea how he got his job outside of his rating. But Smith was an excellent Yeoman, (personnel man) and sure did a good job in the office. The officers had full knowledge and there was never any controversy as to what color they were. We got along fine. We were seperated in all other respects - Housing, Eating, et cetera until the Truman era when he unified the Armed forces.
----- Earl Rhoden
Biography of Earl "Chicken" Rhoden, CPO, VP24/VP12, Pearl Harbor, USS Saipan, CVL 48
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