Patrol Squadron Eight (VP-8) was established on 1 September 1942 at NAS Norfolk, Virginia, originally designated as VP-201. The PBM Mariner patrol seaplane squadron deployed to Bermuda in May 1943 to provide antisubmarine coverage for convoys traversing the U-boat-infested Atlantic Ocean, with the squadron making its first attack on a U-boat on 8 July. VP-201 trained intensively in night patrol operations before returning to Norfolk in June 1944. For the remainder of World War II, VP-201 patrolled the Caribbean from Key West and Coco Solo, Panama. On 1 October 1944, the squadron was redesignated Patrol Bombing Squadron 201 (VPB-201).
In May 1946, VPB-201 was redesignated Medium Seaplane Squadron One (VP-MS-1) but was redesignated Medium Landplane Squadron Eight (VP-ML-8) on 5 June 1947 (when it received its first land-based aircraft, the P2V-3 Neptune), and received its current designation, VP-8, on 1 September 1948. VP-8 was equipped with the P2V-2/4, upgrading to the P2V-5F by 1955. In March 1958, VP-8 joined the newly formed Task Group Alpha in the development of antisubmarine tactics.