VPB-118 was ordered to relocate immediately to Midway Island on 12/9/1944 for the purpose of intercepting a Japanese submarine that was said to be headed into the waters between Hawaii and the US West Coast. After flying to Midway, the squadron spent the next 10 days flying submarine barrier patrols every 4 hours. Planes flew "butterfly" sectors north from the island 800 miles, which was halfway to the Aleutians. Much of the time the weather was very bad, although temperatures were warm at the southern end of the sector. Visibility tended to be so bad that some patrols were flown almost entirely on instruments. One plane was damaged on landing and was left on the island when the squadron returned to Kaneohe on December 22.
VPB-118 spent the rest of December in training, observing Christmas, and preparing to move to the forward area. Three planes were replaced owing to wear, and an additional one replaced the plane damaged at Midway.
VPB-118 planes arrived on Tinian from 1/10 through 1/14, at which time they became part of Fleet Air Wing One (FAW-1) under Admiral "Bull" Halsey, Commander Third Fleet. At Tinian the squadron joined Task Group 30.5, commanded by Commodore D. Ketchum. VPB-118 joined VPB-102 and VPB-116, both of which were still flying the PB4Y-1's, in the Land-Based Patrol Plane Unit, commanded by Cmdr. Masterson, who was also skipper of VPB-151, which along with VPB-150 was a Lockheed PV Ventura squadron also in the land-based patrol plane unit.
The squadron began flying thousand-mile sector patrols NW from Tinian in the direction of Japan, Okinawa, and the Philippines, but ended several hundred miles short of those islands. The edges of their patrol zone linked up with patrol zones originating from other islands so that the entire South Pacific from Formosa to Marcus Island had coverage, except for a margin several hundred miles wide south of Japan. Iwo Jima was almost in the middle of the VPB-118 patrol zone, in sector 2. VPB-118 planes, under orders from CO Lt. Montgomery, used fuel conservatively, so they could stay out as long as possible and cover as much ocean as possible. Commonly these flights would last 14 hours - take-off at dawn, return landing after dark. These operations were in preparation for Task Force raids on Japan and for the invasion of Iwo Jima coming up in February.
The first VPB-118 combat patrol took place on 1/13/1945 with PPCs Farwell and Serrill encountered empty ocean. On the next consecutive days PPCs Binning & Lodato, Finley & McCutcheon, and Farwell, Lloyd, & Serrill also did not encounter enemy craft. Farwell & Serrill did a 950 mile patrol in a NW sector and encountered bad weather which made them return to base.
Mid-October, 1944 - Deployment
VPB-118 turned its trainer PB4Y-2's over to VPB-108 and drew 15 new planes in anticipation of moving into the Pacific Theatre. Three "junior" officers did not get "their own" planes owing to their rank. In fact, the planes were shared as available during combat operations. The planes were taken on five-hour run-in flights. Sometimes they encountered test pilots flying Northrup P-61 Night Fighters and would have mock dogfights. It was determined during these dogfights that the Privateers could turn inside of the fighter plane and train most of its guns on the fighter.
November, 1944 - TransPac Simulations
In November 1944, simulated California to Hawaii transits were practiced. PPC Binning lost power in all engines owing to icing in one simulation and glided from 9,500 to 200 feet before restarting two engines.
November, 15-23, 1944 - TransPac
Eight officers and 96 enlisted men took the USS General Howze to Hawaii on 11/15. On 11/20, Lt. Cmdr. Farwell led six planes to Kaneoahe Bay NAS. In the following two days the two remaining groups of planes flew the transit, all without incident.
November, 1944 - Kaneohe NAS
The squadron did final training before deployment at Kaneohe Naval Air Station. Crewmen Hopkins, Abate, and McCall had been at Kaneohe on 12/7/41. Jack Eaton transferred from Kaneohe to Midway before the attack and experienced shelling on that island. Additionally, Robert Berens (Dodson Crew) was on the USS Iowa, which tried to reach open sea but was grounded by the captain to save it from sinking. Probably there are a number of other crewmen from VPB-118 that have December 7th stories.
While at Kaneohe, a number of the planes were given nose art by "Rape" and Hal Olsen. See the crew list for a list of nose art along with the plane bureau numbers.
The crews that did the transit via ship arrived on 11/23. For over a week after their arrival there were intensive gunnery and bombing practices. There were also practice patrols to strengthen navigation, gunnery, and bombing skills. On one 10-hour night practice flight, the Duba crew found themselves with the possibility of running out of fuel at sea and having to ditch. When they thought they would be in just minutes going into a ditching situation, they saw a glimmer of light. After they flew over a dark island, runway lights came on and they were able to safely land with nearly empty tanks. They were saved by a Marine Air Station, Barking Sands on Kauai.
During this time Leading Chief Hopkins decided to join the Montgomery crew as radar/ECM. ACMM John Graham became the new leading chief.