55th Fighter Group (USAAF)

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The 55th Fighter Group (USAAF) entered combat as a long range bomber escort group, and carried out that role until the end of the war in Europe. Later in the war the group carried out an increasing number of ground attack missions as well.

The group was formed in the US in January 1941 and trained with the P-43 Lancer. It converted to the P-38 while still in the US and moved to England in August-September 1943 to join the Eighth Air Force.

The group became operational in October 1943 and was the first P-38 fighter to join the Eighth Air Force since its original groups had moved to North Africa for Operation Torch. The group's main ask was to provide bomber escorts for the Eighth Air Force's ever-expanding daylight bombing campaign. As the war progressed the group increasingly attacked ground targets during escort missions, but the escort mission was still its main task.

On 13 December 1943 the group took part in the longest fighter escort mission of the European War to date, a 490 mile trip to Kiel and back operating alongside the P-51 Mustangs of the 354th Fighter Group of the Ninth Air Force).

The group provided fighter escorts during 'Big Week', the attack on the Luftwaffe of February 1944.

On D-Day the group provided part of the fighter cover for the Channel, and also attacked bridges near Tours.

In July 1944 it escorted bombers supporting the American breakout at St. Lo.

In September 1944 the group provided fighter cover over Arnhem during Operation Market Garden.

The group was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for eight missions flown between 3 and 13 September 1944. During these missions the group provided fighter escorts for the bomber force and also attacked German airfields and aircraft on the ground.

During the Battle of the Bulge the group escorted bombers attacking German transport links.

The group was awarded a second Distinguished Unit Citation for a sweep over Germany on 19 February 1945, attacking transport links.

During the crossing of the Rhine in March 1945 the group attacked transport targets and fuel depots near Wesel.

The groups' last combat mission came on 21 April 1945. It moved to Germany in July, and began to convert to the P-80 jet. The group was inactivated on 20 August 1946.




1941-42: Republic P-43 Lancer (training only)
1942-July 1944: Lockheed P-38 Lightning
July 1944 onwards: North American P-51 Mustang
Postwar: North American P-51 Mustang and P-80


20 November 1940 Constituted as 55th Pursuit Group (Interceptor)
15 January 1941 Activated
May 1942 Redesignated 55th Fighter Group
August-September 1943 To England and Eighth Air Force
15 October 1943 Combat Debut
21 April 1945 Last combat sortie
July 1945 To Germany
20 August 1946 Inactivated

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Capt Kenneth S Wade: 15 Jan 1941
Maj James W McCauley: 1 May 1941
Lt Col Karl K Bowen: 1 May 1942
Maj Jack S Jenkins: 1 Aug 1942
Maj Ernest W Keating: 13 Nov 1942
Lt Col Frank B James: 15 May 1943
Col Jack S Jenkins: 6 Feb 1944
Col George T Crowell: 10 Apr 1944
Lt Col Elwyn C Righetti: 22 Feb 1945
Col Ben Rimerman: 22 Apr 1945
Lt Col Jack W Hayes Jr: 21 May 1945
Lt Col Horace A Hanes: Jul I946-unkn

Main Bases

Hamilton Field, Calif: 15 Jan 1941
Portland, Ore: 21 May 1941
Paine Field, Wash: 10 Feb 1942
McChord Field, Wash: 22 Jul 1942-23 Aug 1943
Nuthampstead, England: 14 Sep 1943
Wormingford, England: 16 Apr 1944
Kaufbeuren, Germany: 22 Jul 1945
Giebelstadt, Germany: 29 Apr-20 Aug 1946

Component Units

37th Fighter Squadron: 1941-43
38th Fighter Squadron: 1941-46
54th Fighter Squadron: 1941-42
338th Fighter Squadron: 1942-46
343rd Fighter Squadron: 1943-46

Assigned To

1941: 11th Pursuit Wing (US West Coast)
1941: II Interceptor Command (later V Fighter Command); Second Air Force (US North West)

1943: Seattle Fighter Wing; IV Fighter Command; Fourth Air Force

1943-September 1944: 66th Fighter Wing; VIII Fighter Command; Eighth Air Force
September 1944-Late 1945: 66th Fighter Wing; 3rd Air Division; Eighth Air Force

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (10 July 2014), 55th Fighter Group (Second World War), http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/USAAF/55th_Fighter_Group.html

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