The PB4Y-2 Privateer was developed from the B-24 Liberator bomber, with a tall single stabilizer and stretched fuselage ahead of the wing. It served the U.S. Navy as a patrol bomber from late1944 until being retired in 1954. The PB4Y-2M was specially developed as a weather reconnaissance aircraft.
VP-23 acquired nine of them and in 1949-1952 was based at NAS Miami-Master Field as “Hurricane Hunters”.
During the active 1949 hurricane season, VP-23 flew 33 missions into the hurricane eyes, a record. The Privateers remained armed as they also flew maritime patrol flights when not hunting hurricanes. I remember seeing a VP-23 Privateer in a dark hangar as a small boy and even though I loved airplanes, it was somewhat scary, reminding me of a huge dark winged dragon with all its warts, bumps, tall tail and intimidating bow turret!
The movie, “Slattery’s Hurricane” was filmed at NAS Miami-Master Field in 1949 starring Richard Widmark, Veronica Lake and Linda Darnell. There are several good shots of the base and Privateers, a good flick! My Dad spotted the three of them at a pizza restaurant near the base and they autographed his pizza box that my Mom saved for years! Ironically, Hurricane King struck Miami in October 1950 and VP-23’s Privateers were not evacuated. Although tied down, during the storm’s 130 mph winds, they all lost their rudders, but were quickly repaired.
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NAS Miami-Masters Field now serves as the N. Campus of Miami-Dade College, but the VP-23 hanger still serves as a gymnasium. In the years before weather satellites and the Weather Channel, VP-23 and their Privateers kept Florida and the Caribbean safe with early warning of hurricanes.
VP-23’s nine PB4Y-2Ms were armed with 10- .50 cal. guns in 5 turrets (reduced from 6). It could carry 12,800 lb. of bombs, mines or torpedoes. Powered with 4- P&W 1830-30 radial engines with 1,350 HP each, it had a top speed of 300 mph, but usually cruised at 175 mph with a range of 2,800 miles, with its nine-man crew.