79th Fighter Group (USAAF)

History - Books - Aircraft - Time Line - Commanders - Main Bases - Component Units - Assigned To

History

The 79th Fighter Group supported the British Eighth Army from 1942 until early in 1944, then fought at Anzio, in the south of France and in northern Italy, where it once again operated with the Eighth Army.

The group was constituted on 13 January 1942 and activated on 9 February 1942. The 79th was allocated to Egypt after the 33rd Fighter Group, which had originally been given that role, was moved to Casablanca instead to take part in the Tunisian campaign. It moved to the Middle East in October-November 1942, and joined the Ninth Air Force.

By mid-February 1943 the group was close to becoming operational, after undergoing a period of careful training after arriving in the Middle East. As a final step the group commander, squadron commanders, flight leaders, intelligence and operations officers all spent some time serving with the more experienced 57th Fighter Group, before the 79th began independent operations from Causeway airfield, built on a sand spit point out towards the island of Djerba. The group provided bomber escorts, attacked enemy shipping and directly supported the ground troops.

The group entered combat in time to take part in the battle of the Mareth Line, where it provided the fighter escorts for the light, medium and fighter-bombers, operating against limited enemy resistance. The group also took part in the key attack on the German flank at El Hamma on 26 March, which allowed the Eighth Army to break out and get behind the main Mareth positions.

The group spent a time escorting mine layers from its base at La Fauconnerie, before moving up to Hani West on 18 April 1943 to support the final attack against the Tunisian beachhead.

By the end of the Tunisian campaign the group was under the operational control of the Northwest African Tactical Air Force, where it remained until after the invasion of mainland Italy.

The group took part in Operation Corkscrew, the air attack that forced the surrender of Pantelleria.

The group supported the invasion of Sicily (Operation Husky). Part of the group moved to Malta before the attack, and was given the task of protecting the convoy of over 3,000 vessels when it was within 50 miles of the island. The group was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for supporting the Eighth Army between March and August 1943.

The group was under the command of the Desert Air Force during Operation Baytown, the Eighth Army's main contribution to the initial invasion of mainland Italy.

In August 1943 the group moved from the Ninth to the Twelve Air Force, but continued to support the Eighth Army.

The group supported the Eighth Army's landing at Termoli, on the Adriatic coast of Italy, flying a large number of sorties on 5-6 October 1943, when the British beachhead was came under fierce attack.

On 2-3 January 1944 the group and No.244 Wing, RAF, destroyed 57 vehicles and 2 locomotives and damaged 200 vehicles and 5 locomotives on the snowbound roads and railways between Avezzano, Pescina and Chieti.

The group took part in Operation Shingle, the landings at Anzio, where it helped provide fighter cover over the landing area. After fighting over the beachhead from January-March 1944, the group took place in the final advance on Rome. In mid-July the group moved back to the 12th Air Force, and was moved to Corsica, in preparation for Operation Dragoon, the invasion of the south of France. It spent July 1944 cutting transport links in northern Italy. In August-September 1944 it was used to support Operation Dragoon.

The group spent the rest of the war supporting the Allied armies in Italy. It was awarded a second DUC for its role in supporting the Eighth Army attack on the Santerno River (16-20 April 1945).

The unit remained in Europe unti 1947 when it was returned to the US and inactivated.

Books

Pending

Aircraft

1942-Summer 1944: Curtiss P-40 Warhawk
Summer 1944-1947: Republic P-47 Thunderbolt

Timeline

13 January 1942 Constituted as 79th Pursuit Group (Interceptor)
9 February 1942 Activated
May 1942 Redesignated 79th Fighter Group
October-November 1942 To Middle East and Ninth Air Force
March 1943 Group combat debut
August 1943 To Twelfth Air Force
June 1947 To United States
15 July 1947 Inactivated

Commanders (with date of appointment)

2d. Lt Thomas G. Mitchell: 11 Feb 1942
Lt Col J Stanley Holtoner: 17 Feb 1942
Lt Col Peter McGoldrick: 1942
Col Earl E Bates: Nov 1942
Col Charles W Stark: Apr 1944
Lt Col Melvin J Neilson: May 1944
Col Gladwyn E Pinkston: 28 Nov 1944
Lt Col John F Martin: 17 May 1945
Col German P Culver: May 1946
Lt Col Bascom A Brooks: 4 Feb 1947
Lt Col John M Thacker: Apr 1947-unkn.

Main Bases

Dale Mabry Field, Fla: 9 Feb 1942
Morris Field, NC: c 1 May 1942
Hillsgrove, RI: c. 22 Jun 1942
Bedford, Mass: 2 Jul-28 Sep 1942
Egypt: 18 Nov 1942
Libya: c. 25 Jan 1943
Tunisia: c. 12 Mar 1943
Sicily: 16 Jul 1943
Southern Italy: c. 15 Sep 1943
Foggia, Italy: c. 9 Oct 1943
Madna Airfield, Italy: 19 Nov 1943
Capodichino, Italy: Jan 1944
Pomigliano, Italy: 1 May 1944
Corsica: Jun 1944
Southern France: c. 25 Aug 1944
Iesi, Italy: Oct 1944
Fano, Italy: c. 5 Dec 1944
Cesenatico, Italy: c. 20 Mar 1945
Horsching, Austria: Jul 1945-25 Jun 1947
Langley Field, Va: 25 Jun-15 Jul 1947

Component Units

85th: 1942-1947
86th: 1942-1947
87th: 1942-1947

Assigned To

June-September 1942: Boston Fighter Wing; I Fighter Command; First Air Force
1 November 1943-1 January 1944: detached from 57th Bombardment Wing; XII Tactical Command; Twelfth Air Force
1944: 87th Fighter Wing; XII Tactical Air Command; Twelfth Air Force
1944: 87th Fighter Wing; XII Fighter Command; Twelfth Air Force

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (26 June 2018), 79th Fighter Group (USAAF) , http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/USAAF/79th_Fighter_Group.html

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