In the ensuing months detachments operated from Midway, Johnston, Canton and New Caledonia while the squadron was still based at Kaneohe. Lieutenant Commander F. BRUNER, USN, was the Commanding Officer during the early part of l942. Lieutenant Commander G.G. MEAD, USN, Commanded the squadron from May through August of 1942 and was relieved by Lieutenant Commander H.E. SEARS, USN.
A gradual shift from PLY-5's to the amphibious PBY-5A's took place during the summer of 1942. In preparation for division into two separate units, the squadron experienced rapid growth during the remainder of 1942 and the early part of 1943, and at its peak had a complement of 95 officers.
On April 1, 1943, Lieutenant Commander C.K. HARPER, USN, took command of the new VP-7l with nine crews from the old squadron as a nucleus. Lieutenant Commander SEARS took the remaining crews to form Bombing Squadron 104, a Navy Liberator squadron. Lieutenant Commander HARPER returned with his squadron from Midway to Kaneohe on May 15, 1943 to re-form, change back to PBY-5's, and to train. On June, 20, 1943 the squadron departed for Espiritu Santo by way of Palmyra and Samoa.
Operations from Espiritu Santo were begun a week later, flying 800-milo day searches to the north. For increased range an advance base was maintained at Vanikoro Island, 230 miles north of Espiritu, with the USS MACKINAC tending the planes.
Led by Lieutenant Commander HARPER, six planes made a strike the night of July 17, 1943 on Nauru Island, 675 miles north of Vanikoro, dropping six tons of bombs and scoring numerous hits on the airstrip,
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