363rd Fighter Group/ Tactical Reconnaissance Group

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The 363rd Fighter Group/ 363rd Tactical Reconnaissance Group (USAAF) served with the Ninth Air Force, changing role half way thorough the campaign in north-western Europe.

The group was formed with three fighter squadrons, the 380th, 381st and 382nd, in March 1943. It trained with the Bell P-39 Airacobra, and also formed part of the US air defence force.

The group moved to Britain in December 1943. The 363rd Fighter Group (USAAF) was the third fighter group to become operational in the Ninth Air Force during 1944, entering combat on 22 February (the same day as the 365th). In the period before D-Day the group flew a mix of bomber escort and ground attack missions.

In 1943 the plan had been for most P-51 groups to go to the Ninth Air Force, but the first group to enter combat with that aircraft in Europe had proved that it was an excellent long range bomber escort. As a result the priorities were reversed, and the Eighth Air Force got most P-51 groups. The 363rd was the only P-51 group to join the Ninth Air Force in the first half of 1944, a period in which seventeen fighter groups joined the Ninth.

On D-Day the group escorted the transport aircraft carrying paratroops to France. It then attacked German troops near the front, moving to the continent later in June.

On 13 August an eight-plane flight from the group scattered a formation of twenty-five German dive bombers, claiming eight victories.

On 25 September 1944 all three squadrons were renumbered and redesignated as Tactical Reconnaissance Squadrons (160th, 161st and 162nd). In the same month the group itself was redesignated as the 363rd Tactical Reconnaissance Group. Soon afterwards the 162nd had left the group, but it was replaced in late October by the 33rd Photographic Squadron.

The group's new role was to carry out photographic reconnaissance to support the ground and air campaigns and assess the results of Allied bombardments, and to fly tactical reconnaissance missions to control fighter-bombers and spot for artillery fire.

In the period just before the Battle of the Bulge the group covered the US Ninth Army's 12-15 mile wide front line. It reported a large number of German troop movements, but the narrow width of the area covered robbed those reports of most context.

On 23-24 December the 160st and 161st Squadrons were detached for duty with the 10th Photographic Group, leaving the 363rd with only the 33rd. The 161st was back at the start of January 1945, the 160th at the start of February. The group then remained unchanged to the end of the fighting.

The group was awarded two Belgian citations for its role in the attack on the Siegfried Line (Cited in the Order of the Day 1 October 1944) and the part it played in the Battle of the Bulge (Cited in the Order of the Day 18 December 1944-15 January 1945). Its men were thus allowed to wear the Belgian Fourragere.

In the immediate aftermath of the German surrender three extra squadrons were assigned to the group. The group returned to the US in December and was inactivated on 11 December 1945.




March 1943-December 1943: Bell P-39 Airacobra
January-September 1944: North American P-51 Mustang
September 1944 onwards: Lockheed F-5 Lightning and North American F-6 Mustang


11 February 1943 Constituted as 363rd Fighter Group
1 March 1943 Activated
December 1943 To Britain and Ninth Air Force
February 1944 Combat Debut
June 1944 To Continent
September 1944 Redesignated as 363rd Tactical Reconnaissance Group
June 1945 Redesignated as 363rd Reconnaissance Group
December 1945 To United States
11 December 1945 Inactivated

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Lt Col John R Ulricson: c. 1 Mar 1943
Capt Dave H Culberson: c. 8 Apr 1943
Maj Theodore C Bunker: c. 27 Apr 1943
Col John R Ulricson: 5 Jun 1943
Col James B Tipton: 7 May 1944
Col James M Smelley: c. 1 Sep 1944
Lt Col Seth A Mize: May 1945-unkn.

Main Bases

Hamilton Field, Calif: 1 Mar 1943
Santa Rosa AAFM, Calif: Aug 1943
Sacramento, Calif: Oct-c. 3 Dec 1943
Keevil, England: c. 23 Dec 1943
Rivenhall, England: Jan 1944
Staplehurst, England: Apr 1944
Maupertuis, France: c. 1 Jul 1944
Azeville, France: Aug 1944
Le Mans, France: Sep 1944
Luxembourg, Luxembourg: c. 1 Oct 1944
Le Culot, Belgium: c. 29 Oct 1944
Venlo, Holland: Mar 1945
Gutersloh, Germany: c. 15 Apr 1945
Brunswick, Germany: c. 22 Apr 1945
Wiesbaden, Germany: May 1945
Eschwege, Germany, Aug 1945
Damstadt, Germany: Sep-c. 2 Dec 1945
Camp Kilmer, NJ: c. 9-11 Dec 1945.

Component Units

Wartime Units

33rd Photographic Reconnaissance: 30 October 1944-17 May 1945

380th Fighter (to 25 August 1944)/ 160th Tactical Reconnaissance (from 25 August): 1 March 1943-15 November 1945 (air echelon with 10th Photographic Group 24 Dec 1944-6 Feb 1945)

381st Fighter (to 25 August 1944)/ 161st Tactical Reconnaissance (from 25 August): 1 March 1943-3 July 1945) (attached to 10th Photographic Group 23 Dec 1944-3 Jan 1945)

382nd Fighter (to 25 August 1944)/ 162nd Tactical Reonnaissance (from 25 August): 1 March 1943-29 September 1944)

Postwar Units

31st Tactical Reconnaissance: 23 May-25 June 1945
39th Photographic Reconnaissance: 23 May-25 June 1945
155th Photographic Reconnaissance: 23 May-12 July 1945


Assigned To

1943-1944: San Francisco Fighter Wing; IV Fighter Command; Fourth Air Force
3 Apr-15 April: 100th Fighter Wing; IX Fighter Command; Ninth Air Force
15 April-1 July & 10-31 July 1944: 100th Fighter Wing; XIX Air Support Command; Ninth Air Force, under operational control of IX Fighter Command
10 July-18 August 1944 : 100th Fighter Wing; XIX Air Support Command; Ninth Air Force
-8 May 1945-: XXIX Tactical Air Force; Ninth Air Force
1945: 64th Fighter Wing

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (4 April 2016), 363rd Fighter Group/ Tactical Reconnaissance Group , http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/USAAF/363th_Fighter_Group.html

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