World War II in the Pacific was often an improvisational war for the US in the early years, before US war industries came fully on line and the US buried Japan under a wave of ships and planes to seize control of the air and the sea. Before that took place, the US had to fight cagily and make do. No better example of this spirit of improvisation can be found than the PBY Catalina night bomber squadrons that wreaked havoc on Japanese shipping in daring nighttime raids.
The PBY Catalina flying boat, was an amphibious plane and the workhorse plane for the US in the Pacific. Used for everything from anti-submarine patrols, to air-sea rescue and cargo transport, its most unusual incarnation was as a night bomber against Japanese shipping.
Equipped with magnetic anomaly detectors, normally used to detect submarines in anti-submarine patrols, and painted flat black, PBY Catalina 5As and 6As squadrons began to attack Japanese supply convoys at night. Their attacks proved quite effective, the Black Cats sinking 112, 700 tons of Japanese merchant shipping between August 1943-January 1944, damaging another 40,000 tons and damaged 10 Japanese warships.
The original Black Cat squadron was VP 12 which pioneered the techniques used by the other Black Cat squadrons that followed. The ten Black Cat squadrons showed what improvisation, imagination and daring can accomplish in wartime.