United States Navy Blimp Squadron ZP-14 (Air Ship Squadron 14 or Airship Patrol Squadron 14, or Blimpron-14, or Africa Squadron, or ZP-14) in World War Two (WWII).

Blimp Squadron 14
United States Navy Wings.

Craw Field, Port Lyautey, French Morocco

ZP-14, "The Africa Squadron" and VPB-63, "The MAD Cats"
of Fleet Air Wing 15, NAS Port Lyautey

USN PBYs and blimps conducted 24/7 MAD ASW at Gibraltar.

PBYs of USN patrol squadron VPB-63 had been conducting anti-submarine warfare (ASW) using magnetic anomaly detection (MAD) in the Atlantic and especially around the Strait of Gibraltar. However, the low altitude (<100 feet) required for MAD was dangerous for the PBYs and B-24s at night or in heavy fog. According to my uncle's notes, it was rumored in Blimp Squadron 14 that the use of blimps to conduct nighttime MAD operations at Gibraltar was Winston Churchill's idea. Anyway, the blimps made their record-setting transatlantic flights and along with the PBYs, conducted 24/7 MAD surveillance around the Strait of Gibraltar from June of 1944 onward. It's not surprising that very few MAD detections were made and no U-boats were sunk during this period because the Germans had decided to stop sending U-boats through the "magnetic fence" at Gibraltar about the same time the first two blimps arrived there on June 1, 1944. The last U-boat sinking in the region was on May 15, 1944 after two Port Lyautey-based VPB-63 Madcat PBYs piloted by Matthias Vopatek and Hubert Worrel tracked the U-731 through the Gibraltar fence and damaged it with bombs. The sub was eventually sunk by depth charges from HMS Blackfly and HMS Kilmarnock.

The following shortwave radio message from President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced Operation Torch to the people of southern Europe and North Africa on the morning of Sunday, November 8, 1942:

"Mes Amis, We come among you to repulse the cruel invaders -- have faith in our words -- help us where you are able. All men who hate tyranny, join with the liberators who at this moment are about to land on your shores. Vive La France eternelle."

*Craw Field was named for Colonel Demas T. Craw who volunteered to deliver a message from American General Lucian Truscott to the French Commander at Port Lyautey requesting that the French surrender. After the Torch landing on the beach near Mehdia under hostile fire, Craw and his French interpreter, Major Pierpont Hamilton, were driven behind enemy lines by Private Orris Correy in a light truck to the French headquarters at Port Lyautey. Colonel Craw was killed by machine gun fire and Correy and Hamilton were captured. Although imprisoned, Hamilton helped persuade the French to surrender. President Franklin D. Roosevelt presented the Medal of Honor to Major Hamilton on February 19, 1943 and Colonel Craw, posthumously, on March 4, 1943. These two members of the 12th Air Force were the only airmen of World War II to receive the Medal of Honor for heroism on the ground. Ironically, the only medal of honor recipient from the 12th Air Force to be honored for heroism in the air was 1st Lt. Raymond L. Knight of the 350th Fighter Group. See also, this site. Private Orris V. Correy was promoted to sergeant and reportedly submitted for the Distinguished Service Cross but he apparently never received any award.

Left: Graves of US Task Force Soldiers from Operation Torch. Right: Fleet Air Wing 15 honors FDR in 1945
Left photo: President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited Port Lyautey in 1943 and laid a wreath at the graves of the US Task Force soldiers who lost their lives during Operation Torch (November 1942).
Right photo: American, French, and Moroccan personnel associated with Fleet Air Wing 15 at Port Lyautey attended a memorial service for Franklin D. Roosevelt in April of 1945.
Photographs from the Library of Congress.

Photos from Commodore George Thomas Owen, Commanding Officer
of Fleet Air Wing 15 and Naval Air Station Port Lyautey during WWII:

01 02 03 04 05
06 07 08 09 10
11 12 13 14 15

(The photographs from Commodore George T. Owen were kindly provided by his sons Stan and Mike.)

Photos of Fleet Air Wing 15 at Naval Air Station Port Lyautey
from the National Archives and Records Administration:

01 02 03 04

Photos of ZP-14 at NAS Port Lyautey from Blimpron 14 Overseas:

01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 20b 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37

French Marshall Hubert Lyautey.
In 1933 the Moroccan city of Kenitra was renamed Port Lyautey in honor of French Marshall Hubert Lyautey.
The name of was changed back to Kenitra after Morocco regained its independence in 1956. Photo from the Library of Congress.

Unless otherwise stated, the photos on this page are from the five-volume pictorial history Blimpron 14 Overseas by
squadron photographic officer Lt. (jg) R. C. Kline, A (V) N, USNR and squadron photographers mate PhoM1/c Stephen J. Kubarych.

Go to the main ZP-14 page.

Read Don's article in Naval Aviation News K-ships Across the Atlantic.

Contact: don.kaiser@gmail.com