A beautiful shot of an RAF Catalina I in flight. The RAF began operating the Catalina in 1940. The aircraft wears the standard Temperate Sea scheme of Extra Dark Sea Gray and Dark Slate Gray over Sky.
Another Catalina in the RAF Temperate Sea scheme, but this time in U.S. markings at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi in August 1942. A number of aircraft on British order were pressed into U.S. service after Pearl Harbor.
A PBY passes by Segula Island in the Aleutians. While it makes for a visually interesting picture, the ruggedness of the terrain is also apparent. (LIFE Magazine photograph)
This PBY illustrates the propensity in the Aleutian Theater to deviate from standard insignia protocols. All the national insignia visible on this aircraft carry the red outline briefly authorized during the Summer of 1943, although by that time the insignia was not supposed to have been carried on the upper surface of the starboard wing.
Another LIFE Magazine photograph showing a PBY over the inhospitable Aleutian terrain. Prior to the Pacific War the U.S. Navy had declared seaplane operations in the Aleutian Winter to be impossible, but wartime requirements soon forced a reassessment.
The PBY with its successor in the Aleutians, the PV-1 Neptune. Both aircraft carry the mid-1943 style national insignia.
Crewmen performing engine maintenance on a PBY-5A of VP-31. The spray strake on the bow is clearly visible, as is the search radar aerial on the port wing.
The USAAF operated the Catalina in the Search And Rescue role, designating their aircraft the OA-10A. This white example displays a USAAF serial on the vertical tail and the streamlined radar housing which first appeared late in the PBY-5A production run.
The USCG also operated the PBY-5A, this example is seen in the Atlantic ASW camouflage scheme of Dark Gull Gray over White parked on the Marston Mat apron in Greenland. Note the Quonset hut buildings in the background are all marked with the U.S. insignia.
A PBY-5A amphibian with its wheels lowered for a shore landing in the late-war camouflage and insignia. (LIFE Magazine photograph)
These PBY-5As seen on the ramp at NAS Pensacola display a variety of camouflage and markings. These aircraft are serving in the training role. Of interest is the “V” tape visible on the aileron and wing of the aircraft at the bottom of the photograph, this feature can be seen in pictures of many PBYs.
A bombed-up PBY on the ramp in the Aleutians, in the foreground is a bomb cart carrying a 500 pound bomb and two depth charges. U.S. ordinance can be seen in various colors and states of preservation, these appear to be in a Light Gray and are unmarked.
Part II here: