8th Fighter Group (USAAF)

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The 8th Fighter Group was a long range fighter group that supported Allied operations from New Guinea to the Philippines, ending the war with raids on the Japanese home islands.

The group was activated in 1931 and operated a wide range of pursuit types in the interwar years. It took part in the slow expansion of the USAAC, carrying out tests on aircraft and taking part in the inter-war manoeuvres.

In December 1941 the group became part of defence forces for New York, but it was only based there for a short period before it was moved to the Pacific and the Fifth Air Force. By this point it had standardized on the Bell P-39 Airacobra.

The Group HQ arrived in Australia in March 1942, the last of three pursuit groups to reach Australia in the first wave of American reinforcements. The group itself operated in detachments in New Guinea, helping fight off the most direct land threat to Australia. The detachments moved back to Australia in June 1942 to recover from malaria.

The group moved to New Guinea in September 1942, but it then suffered from a serious outbreak of malaria and had to withdraw to Australia in February 1943.

The group resumed operations in April 1943 and remained active for the rest of the war. At first it operated over New Guinea, supporting the series of Allied landings along the New Guinea coast, attacked Japanese airfields and provided bomber escorts. It also supported the US Marine landing at Cape Gloucester in February-March 1944.

In March 1944 the group moved to Nadzab to provide escorts for bombers attacking the Japanese at Hollandia. At the same time the group began to convert to the longer range P-38J. In June 1944 the group supported the fighting at Biak. In July it supported the invasion of Noemfoor. During this period the group was working with Charles Lindbergh, in particular taking advantage of his expertise in long distance flying to extend the range of their operations.

As the Allies advanced into the Japanese empire the group flew long range bomber escort missions, supporting attacks on Borneo, Ceram, Halmahera and the Philippines. It was also used to attack Japanese shipping and was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for an attack on a Japanese naval force off Mindoro on 26 December 1944.

The group helped support the Allied return to the Philippines, covering the landings at Lingayen and directly supporting the ground troop fighting on Luzon.

On 4 October 1944 the group was the first to move its aircraft onto the newly available airfield at Wama on Morotai, allowing the last of the escort carriers that had supported the invasion of Morotai to withdraw.

On 7 October thirty-nine aircraft from the group attacked San Roque on the Philippines, destroying six floatplanes and setting three cargo ships on fire.

On 1 November forty-two aircraft from the group attacked Bacolod, Carolina and Alicante airfields, part of the Japanese defences of Leyte, destroying around seventy-five aircraft on the ground.

In mid-December 1944 the group suffered the loss of much of its equipment when Japanese aircraft destroyed two LSTs carrying it to Mindoro. When the aircraft flew into Mindoro later in the month some of them had to be diverted to deal with an attack by nine Japanese fighters before they could land.

After moving west the group expanded its range of operations to include Formosa and the Asian mainland. On 22 January it helped provide an escort for the first daylight heavy bomber raid on Formosa. In the last few days of the war the group even reached as far as Japan, attacking rail links and airfields, with operations beginning on 10 August.

The group became part of the Far East Air Forces and was based in Japan until 1950 when it moved to Korea, where it was heavily engaged during the Korean War.




Pre war: wide mix of fighter types
1942: Bell P-39 Airacobra
1943: Bell P-39 Airacobra, Lockheed P-38 Lightning, Curtiss P-40 Warhawk
May 1944 onwards: Lockheed P-38 Lightning


24 March 1923 Authorized on inactive list as 8th Pursuit Group
1 April 1931 Activated
1939 Redesignated 8th Pursuit Group (Fighter)
1941 Redesignated 8th Pursuit Group (Interceptor)
December 1941 Becomes part of New York defense force
March 1942 Moves headquarters to Australia
May 1942 Redesignated 8th Fighter Group as part of Fifth Air Force
September 1942 Moved to New Guinea
February 1943 Forced by to Australia by malaria
April 1943 Resumed operations
January 1950 Redesignated 8th Fighter-Bomber Groups

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Lt Col William E Kepner: 7 Jul 1938
Lt Col Edward M Morris: 1 Feb 1940
Lt Col Frederic H Smith Jr: 17 Jan 1941
Lt Col William H Wise: 22 May 1942
Lt Col Leonard B Storm: 8 Mar 1943
Lt Col Philip H Greasley: 10 Apr 1943
Lt Col Emmett S Davis: 18 Jan 1944
Lt Col Philip H Greasley: 28 Jun 1944
Col Earl H Dunham: 8 Aug 1944
Lt Col Emmett S Davis: 16 Jun 1945
Lt Col Robert L Harriger: Dec 1945

Main Bases

Langley Field, Va: 1 Apr 1931
Mitchel Field, NY: c. 5 Nov 1940- 26 Jan 1942
Brisbane, Australia: 6 Mar 1942
Townsville, Australia: 29 Jul 1942
Milne Bay, New Guinea: 18 Sep 1942
Mareeba, Australia: Feb 1943
Port Moresby, New Guinea: 16 May 1943
Finschhafen, New Guinea: 23 Dec 1943
Cape Gloucester, New Britain: c. 20 Feb 1944
Nadzab, New Guinea: 14 Mar 1944
Owi, Schouten Islands: 17 Jun 1944
Morotai: 19 Sep 1944
San Jose, Mindoro: 20 Dec 1944
Ie Shima: 6 Aug 1945
Fukuoka, Japan: 22 Nov 1945

Component Units

33rd Fighter Squadron: 1932-1941
35th Fighter Squadron: 1932 onwards
36th Fighter Squadron: 1931, 1932 onwards
55th Fighter Squadron: 1931-32
68th Fighter Squadron: 1945-1947
80th Fighter Squadron: 1942-1945 and 1947

Assigned To

1940-41: 7th Pursuit Wing (later 47th Bombardment Wing)
1942: V Bomber Command; Fifth Air Force
1942-1946: V Fighter Command; Fifth Air Force
  1944-45: 86th Fighter Wing; Fifth Air Force

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (14 August 2014), 8th Fighter Group (USAAF) , http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/USAAF/8th_Fighter_Group.html

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