Consolidated PBY-5A / 6A “Catalina”
The first PBY obtained by the Coast Guard, V189, was purchased from the Navy in the spring of 1941. It was specially outfitted at Air Station San Francisco with a nine-lens-camera for mapping coastal regions around the country. While the arrangement worked well in the lower 48, after two mapping trips to Alaska the camera was transferred to a newer PBY-5A (PBY BuNo 08055), an amphibian, making it more versatile in the extreme environment of Alaska. The detachment operated out of NAS Kodiak.
Because of the Navy’s great need for PBY patrol aircraft in the North Atlantic and the Pacific it would be early 1943 before the Coast Guard acquired them in significant numbers.
In 1943 Construction of the Pacific LORAN chains began. Coast Guard PBY aircraft, V189, reported for duty, having been assigned by Headquarters to transport personnel, mail, supplies, and materials, to the various sites to expedite the construction. Flight surveys of the sites for the Loran stations were made. These inspections provided a good grasp of the problems involved in the landing of materials and the construction of the stations. Construction of the Loran chains began in Alaska and the construction of additional chains followed the battles across the Pacific to Japan. V-189 was permanently assigned to this Top Secret project.
On 5 October 1943 an all Coast Guard Patrol Squadron, VP-6 CG, home based at Narsarssuak, Greenland, code name Bluie West 1, became operational. Thirty officers and 145 enlisted men were assigned to the squadron. In the hostile environment of the North Atlantic VP-6 provided anti-submarine patrol, air support for convoys, search and rescue, intelligence survey flights, as well as mail and medical supply delivery.
In December of 1943 the Navy established its’ first Air Sea Rescue Squadron at Air Station San Diego. An all Coast Guard unit, it led to the Coast Guards heavy involvement in Air-Sea Rescue. Starting in 1944 the Coast Guard had the Search and Rescue responsibility for the Continental Sea Frontiers. By the end of 1944 there were 114 PBY-5A/6As in Coast Guard service.