56th Fighter Group (USAAF)

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The 56th Fighter Group (USAAF) started the war as a home based defence and training unit before joining the Eighth Air Force in England in the spring of 1943. It spent the rest of the war flying a mix of bomber escort and ground attack missions.

The group was activated in the United States on 15 January 1941. It was equipped with a mix of P-39 Airacobras and P-40 Warhawks, and was used as an air defence group and as an operational training unit.

In June 1942 the group began to convert to the P-47. It moved to Britain in December 1942-January 1943, but didn't become operational until 8 April 1943, after a delay caused by problems with the radio equipment on the P-47.

The group's combat debut was a fighter sweep over St. Omer on 13 April 1943.

On 4 May 1943 the 4th and 56th Fighter Groups became the first American fighter units to escort bombers of the Eighth Air Force, during an attack on a Ford and General Motors factory at Antwerp. On this first mission the American groups flew too high, but the bombers were protected by six more experienced RAF squadrons and no bombers were lost. The group soon gained in experience, and scored more aerial victories than any other group between April 1943 and the end of the war.

The group's main role was to provide long range fighter escorts for the Eighth Air Force's bombers. It was also used on ground attack missions, a role that increased in importance as the war went on and the Luftwaffe faded).

The group was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for aggressively seeking Luftwaffe aircraft and attacking their airfields between 20 February and 9 March 1944.

During the D-Day invasions the group provided fighter defences for the invasion beaches and also carried out ground attacks. It performed the ground attack role again during the break out from St. Lo in July 1944.

The group received a second Distinguished Unit Citation for attacking anti-aircraft positions during Operation Market Garden in September 1944.

In March 1945 the group took part in the defence of the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen.

The group flew its last combat mission on 21 April 1945. It returned to the United States in October 1945 and was inactivated on 18 October.




1940-June 1942: Bell P-39 Airacobra and Curtiss P-40 Warhawk
June 1942-1945: Republic P-47 Thunderbolt


20 November 1940 Constituted as 56th Pursuit Group
15 January 1941 Activated
May 1942 Redesignated 56th Fighter Group
Dec 1942-Jan 1943 To England and Eighth Air Force
13 April 1943 Combat Debut
21 April 1945 Last combat sortie
October 1945 To United States
18 October 1945 Inactivated

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Unknown: Jan-Jun 1941
Lt Col Davis D Graves: Jun 1941
Col John C Crosthwaite: c. 1 Jul 1942
Col Hubert A Zemke: Sep 1942
Col Robert B Landry: 30 Oct 1943
Col Hubert A Zernke: 19 Jan 1944
Col David C Schilling: 12 Aug 1944
Lt Col Lucian A Dade Jr: 27 Jan 1945
Lt Col Donald D Renwick: Aug 1945-unkn.

Main Bases

Savannah, Ga: 15 Jan 1941
Charlotte, NC: May 1941
Charleston, SC: Dec 1941
Bendix, NJ: Jan 1942
Bridgeport, Conn: c. 7 Jul-Dec 1942
Kings Cliffe, England: Jan 1943
Horsham St Faith, England: c. 6 Apr 1943
Halesworth, England: c. 9 Jul 1943
Boxted, England: c. 19 Apr 1944-0ct 1945
Camp Kilmer, NJ: c. 16-18 Oct 1945.

Component Units

61st Fighter Squadron: 1941-45
62nd Fighter Squadron: 1941-45
63rd Fighter Squadron: 1941-45

Assigned To

January-July 1942: New York Fighter Wing; I Fighter Command; First Air Force
1943-September 1944: 65th Fighter Wing; VIII Fighter Command; Eighth Air Force
September 1944-1945: 65th Fighter Wing; 2nd Air Division; Eighth Air Force
1945: 66th Fighter Wing; 3rd Air Division; Eighth Air Force

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (10 July 2014), 56th Fighter Group (Second World War), http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/USAAF/56th_Fighter_Group.html

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