15th Fighter Group (USAAF)

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The 15th Fighter Group (USAAF) spent most of the Second World War as part of the defence forces for Hawaii, before moving forward to Iwo Jima early in 1945 to take part in the battles of Iwo Jima, Okinawa and the attacks on the Japanese Home Islands.

The group was activated on Hawaii on 1 December 1940, and was equipped with a variety of aircraft, including several types of bombers, attack aircraft and observation types.

The group was hit hard during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, but did manage to get some pilots into the air and claimed a number of victories. Lt George Welch was credited with four victories and Lt Kenneth M Taylor with two.

The group spent most of the war as part of the Seventh Air Force, and part pf the Hawaiian defence force. A number of squadrons passed through the group on their way to the central or south Pacific.

By 1944 it was clear that Hawaii was no longer under threat and the group began to prepare to fly long range bomber escort missions. It standardized on the P-15 Mustang late in 1944.

In March 1945 the group moved to Iwo Jima, where it took part in later parts of the battle for the island. The first aircraft flew in on 6 March and entered combat on 8 March. They were fully operational by 10 March, allowing the escort carriers to leave for safer waters on the following day. Although they were operational, their base still came under enemy artillery fire early in the campaign,

The group flew a mix of combat air patrols, providing dawn and dusk patrols from 7 March, and ground attack missions, attacking enemy positions whenever requested by the ground commanders. This was a new task for the 15th's pilots, but they performed it well. They were also used to attack the Japanese airfields on Chichi Jima and Haha Jima.

The group also began to range wider afield. In March 1945 it began attacks on the Bonin islands and the first escort mission to Japan came on 7 April 1945. The group won a Distinguished Unit Citation for this mission, which saw it escort B-29s to attack the Nakajima factory near Tokyo.

In April and early May the group carried out a number of direct attacks on Japanese airfields on Kyushu in an attempt to reduce the number of kamikaze attacks hitting the fleet at Okinawa. It spent the rest of the war flying a mix of fighter sweeps over Japan and long range escort missions, forming part of the Twentieth Air Force from the summer.

The group was officially transferred back to Hawaii in November 1945, although without any personnel or equipment. It was effectively reformed on Hawaii, but was then inactivated on 15 October 1946.




1940-1944: Mix of Curtiss A-12 Shrike, Grumman OA-9 Goose , Martin B-12, Curtiss P-36 Hawk, Bell P-39 Airacobra, Curtiss P-40 Warhawk
Late 1944 onwards: North American P-51 Mustang


20 Nov 1940 Constituted as 15th Pursuit Group (Fighter)
1 December 1940 Activated in Hawaii
Feb 1942 Redesignated 15th Pursuit Group (Interceptor)
May 1942 Redesignated 15th Fighter Group

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Maj Clyde K Rich: 1 Dec 1940
Maj Lorry N Tindal: 6 Dec 1940
Lt Col Paul W Blanchard: 20 Sep 1941
Lt Col William S Steele: 12 Feb 1942
Lt Col Sherwood E Buckland: 5 Mar 1943
Col James O Beckwith Jr: 27 Sep 1943
Lt Col DeWitt S Spain: 16 Apr 1945
Lt Col Julian E Thomas: 17 May 1945
Col John W Mitchell: 21 Jul 1945
Col William Eades: c. Nov 1945
Col Oswald W Lunde: 25 Nov 1945-15 Oct 1946.

Main Bases

Wheeler Field, TH: 1 Dec 1940
Bellows Field, TH: 3 Jun 1944-5 Feb 1945
South Field, Iwo Jima: 6 Mar 1945
Bellows Field, TH: 25 Nov 1945
Wheeler Field, TH: 9 Feb-15 Oct 1946.

Component Units

6th Fighter Squadron: 1943-1944
12th Fighter Squadron: 1942
18th Fighter Squadron: 1943-1944
45th Fighter Squadron: 1940-1946
46th Fighter Squadron: 1940-1944
47th Fighter Squadron: 1940-1946
78th Fighter Squadron: 1943-1946

Assigned To

1942-1945: VII Fighter Command; Seventh Air Force
1945-1946: 7th Fighter Wing; Seventh Air Force

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (14 August 2014), 15th Fighter Group , http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/USAAF/15th_Fighter_Group.html

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