Three weeks earlier, on 1 June, the Pacific’s dedicated
airborne electronic reconnaissance capability in VW-1 Detachment Able was
reorganized into an independent command. The unit was redesignated
Electronic Countermeasures Squadron One, with the alphanumeric designator
VQ-l. This marked the first Navy squadron to bear the “overt” electronic
countermeasures designation, and the electronic reconnaissance function was
now out of the closet. LCDR E.R. Hall, who had been OinC of the detachment,
then assumed command as the first commanding officer of VQ-1. At about this
same time VQ-l took receipt of two additional P4M-1Qs, bringing the total
complement to six.
In September VQ-1 was directed to relocate to NAS
Iwakuni, on the southern end of the Japanese island of Honshu. The move was
completed by October and the squadron was soon back to business as usual.
In June 1956 CDR William H. Huff relieved Hall as
VQ-1’s CO. By that time the complement had grown to 28 officers and 220
enlisted men. Some early milestones set in 1956 were: 289 flight hours for
the month of June, and the 1,000th P4M-1Q landing since the squadron’s
commissioning, flown 20 July by LCDR F.E. Struthers.
Also in July a catastrophic P4M-1Q accident was
prevented by the flying skills of LT J. Edixion. While in flight one of the
Mercator’s reciprocating engines fell completely from the aircraft, sending
the plane into a flat spin. Through a display of aeronautical skill and
determination Edixion was able to recover from the spin at 3,000 ft with the
aid of the auxiliary jet engines. He then limped the crippled P4M for 100
miles into Naha AFB at Okinawa. The only crewman injured during the freak
incident was LT Edixion-who sprained his ankle as he stepped from the
aircraft after making the successful landing.
On the darker side, the squadron suffered its first
loss from hostile fire in the Taiwan Strait 22 August 1956. A P4M-1Q on a
night mission and its entire crew of 16 men were lost 32 miles off the China
coast after reporting an attack by hostile aircraft. Carrier and land based
air, along with surface ships, subsequently conducted a search. They found
aircraft wreckage, empty life rafts and the bodies of two crewmen. Those
losing their lives in this shoot down were: LCDRs Milton Hutchinson and J.W.
Ponsford; LTJGs F.A. Flood and J.B. Dean; PO1/c W. Haskins, H. Lonnsbury and
A. Mattin; PO2/c C.E. Messinger, D. Barber, W. Caron and W. Powell; PO3/c J.
Curtis, w. Humbert, D. Sprinkle, L. Strykowski and L. Young.