Lest We Forget: Midshipmen of the Mexican War; VP-22

By Lieutenant Commander Thomas J. Cutler, U.S. Navy (Retired), and Lieutenant Commander Rick Burgess, U.S. Navy (Retired)

With the creation of the Naval Academy in 1845, the day of the fighting midshipman seemed to have passed. Yet, a year later, when war with Mexico was declared, Superintendent Franklin Buchanan and 56 midshipmen volunteered for service in the conflict. Buchanan's request was denied, but some of those midshipmen were permitted to participate. Midshipmen John Adams, William Bainbridge Hayes, and Thomas Houston were immediately ordered to service in sloop of war Dale, and more followed.

By war's end, some 90 midshipmen had gone to sea in support of the war. Five did not return. William Thomas succumbed to disease and four others gave their lives in the line of duty. Thomas Shubrick was decapitated by an enemy round while directing counterbattery fire at enemy naval gun emplacements; John Hynson and Henry Clemson went down with the USS Somers off Vera Cruz; and when Wingate Pillsbury's launch capsized while pursuing a Mexican vessel, the young midshipman drowned while trying to save a seaman.

Lest those who follow forget, midshipmen who had remained in Annapolis collected enough money after the war to erect the Academy's first monument. Today, it can still be seen in the center of the walk in front of the Naval Academy Chapel.

—Lieutenant Commander Thomas J. Cutler, U.S. Navy (Retired)


Patrol Squadron 22 (VP-22) was established as Bombing Squadron 102 (VB-102) on 15 February 1943 and equipped with PB4Y-1 Liberators.

The squadron staged to Guadalcanal in April under the command of Lieutenant Commander Bruce Van Voorhis and entered action against Japanese forces. Van Voorhis became the only patrol plane pilot to recieve the Medal of Honor in World War II. He died when his Liberator was shot down after repeated attacks against a Japanese seaplane base in the Solomon Islands. In 1955, the USS Van Voorhis (DE-1028) was commissioned in his honor.

VB-102 continued operations against the Japanese for the duration of World War II. The squadron was redesignated Patrol Bombing Squadron 102 (VPB-102) in October 1944, Patrol Squadron 102 on 15 May 1946, Patrol Squadron Heavy Land-based 2 (VP-HL-2) on 15 November 1946, and finally VP-22 on 15 November 1948. The squadron upgraded to PB4Y-2 Privateers and moved from Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay to Naval Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii.

In 1950, VP-22 began the first of three deployments to the Korean War zone, flying P2V-3/4/5 Neptunes from Okinawa on patrols off Korea and China. Chinese antiaircraft artillery shot down one of the squadron's P2V-5s on 18 January 1953 off Swatow. The rescue Coast Guard PBM also crashed; 11 crewmen, including 7 from VP-22, died in the incident.

The VP-22 "Blue Geese" continued peacetime operations in the northern and western Pacific, and upgraded to the P-3A Orion in 1964 and the P-3B in 1971. VP-22 made seven deployments to the Vietnam War zone, flying surveillance missions in support of Operation Market Time. In 1979, the squadron participated in rescue operations for Vietnamese fleeing Vietnam in small boats.

VP-22 continued deployments to the Pacific and Indian Oceans, often tracking Soviet submarines, and was the last fleet squadron to fly the P-3B Super Bee version. The squadron upgraded to the P-3C Update II.5 in 1990 and the Update III version in 1992.

On its last deployment in 1993, VP-22 flew in support of Operation Restore Hope in Somalia and in support of United Nations sanctions against Iraq. The Blue Geese were disestablished at Naval Air Station Barbers Point on 31 March 1994.

—Lieutenant Commander Rick Burgess, U.S. Navy (Retired)

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