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ZP first blimp squadron to be assigned to Brazil was ZP-41. It had been established as ZP-52 on June 15, 1943, at NAS Lakehurst, With Lieutenant Commander Daniel M.Entler, Jr., as its first commanding officer. The squadron was scheduled to be transferred to Brazil when facilities became available. In Brazil , this base was the nearest to completion.

Immediately after the K-84 landed at Fortaleza on September 27, plans were made for a rigorous training program along with the assigned missions. ZP-41 began its first ASW patrol mission on the morning of September 28, returning to base in the late afternoon. Flight crews then changed and the airship took off again, late in the evening, for her first night patrol. The squadron did not have any active encounters with enemy submarines during the war. ZP-41’s history records its numerous successes in rescue missions, although the squadron had more than four times as many hours on ASW patrol and escort missions.

Its ASW patrol and escort mission was obviously successful even though there were no sightings or attacks on enemy submarines. Despite cancellation of the Brazilian program, ZP-41 continued its rescue mission. Operations were limited in August and September, with routine training as the major activity. In October, the squadron received a dispatch ordering personnel to prepare for disestablishment upon being relieved of its rescue mission by the U.S. Army.

On July 15, in line with the general reorganization of L T A , Z P - 52 w a s redesignated ZP-41. While at Lakehurst, ZP-41’s complement was assembled from other units. The squadron’s first airship, K-84, conducted its first flight on August 12. K-84 began her ferry flight from Lakehurst to Brazil on September 10, 1943.

En route she stopped at NAS Glynco, Richmond, Guantanamo Bay, San Juan, Edinburgh Field, Trinidad, Paramaribo, Dutch Guiana, Amapa and finally Igarape Assu, Brazil. On September 26, during the last stage of K-84’s flight from Amapa to lgarape Assu, she became the first non-rigid to cross the equator. K-84 continued on to Fortaleza, Brazil, where temporary headquarters were established.

It was a vigorous beginning. During the month of October, ZP-41 conducted daily operations. Two more airships, K-88 and 90, arrived to assist the squadron in its patrol duties. By November, missions were routinely carried out by ZP-41’s airships.

When no operational missions were assigned, training flights were conducted including bombing drills, using practice bombs on wooden land targets of the size and shape of a submarine’s pressure hull; radio navigation practice; and handling maneuvers; as well as landings under the unique conditions of wind and superheat prevalent in South America.

On January 3, 1944, ZP-41 moved its headquarters from Fortaleza to Sao Luiz and, on May 1, Lieutenant Commander John J. McLendon relieved Lt.Cdr. Entler as commanding officer. During the squadron’s operations in Brazil, it was engaged primarily in ASW patrol and escort duties, and air/sea and jungle search and rescue missions.

This is corroborated by the fact that none of the ships escorted by ZP-41 were attacked or sunk. In March 1945, a CNO dispatch ordered the withdrawal of ZP-42, the other blimp squadron in Brazil. This left ZP-41 as the only blimp squadron operating in the South Atlantic. As the war in Europe drew to a close, ZP-41’s operations in April consisted primarily of ASW sweeps of shipping lanes.

When the war ended in May, the squadron’s mission was altered to one of air/sea and jungle rescue. All ASW operational sweeps were cancelled on May 15. ZP-41 experienced various changes as other operational units were disbanded.

The squadron remained in Brazil after the war to transfer the squadron’s airships and material to the Brazilian government. However, on July 12, 1945, Brazil announced the termination of its LTA program, thereby precluding ZP-41’s lend-lease transfer of its equipment.

By November 1945, the squadron was operating with only one airship, the K-52. Squadron personnel were reduced to two flight crews and a skeleton ferry crew, with training flights their only activity.

On December 28, Lieutenant Commander Jack L. Nolen relieved Lt.Cdr. McLendon as commanding officer of ZP-41. The squadron’s last airship departed Sao Luiz, for NAS Glynco on January 18, 1946, the last U.S. airship to leave the South American area. On January 31, the squadron was disestablished. Both Squadrons, ZP-41 and ZP-42 operated 17 airships in Brazil during the war. They were:

K-36 K-52 K-73 K-84 K-88 K-90 K-98 K-106 K-108 K-110 K-114 K-117 K-118 K-125 K-128 K-131 K-132.

Source: Dictionary of American Naval Aviation Squadrons.

All pictures below by Capt. Jerry Mason USN Ret.

Crew works on K-84 after flight from Lakehurst NJ to Fortaleza Brazil.

Adding Helium from cylinders in truck.

Refueling a Blimp at PICI FIELD Fortaleza Brazil. 

K-84 takes off on first AS patrol in the South Atlantic by blimp.

Blimp passes over convoy. 

Blimp passes over escort ship.

Bombardier scans horizon.

Gondola of K-84.

Interior of gondola.

Mechanic records readings at engine panel.

Navigator at work.

Observer at work.

Officer instructs ground crew.

Temporary mooring at Pici Field - The first mast south of the Equator was made from local trees.

Crew works on K-84 at Pici Field Fortaleza Brazil.



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