49th Fighter Group (USAAF)

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The 49th Fighter Group took part in the defence of Australia, the long campaign on New Guinea, the return to the Philippines and raids against Formosa and the China coast.

The group was formed as the 49th Pursuit Group (Interceptor) on 20 November 1940 and activated on 14 January 1941. It spent the next year training with the Seversky P-35.

In January-February 1942 the group moved to Australia, where it joined the Fifth Air Force and converted to the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk. The group then took part in the defence of northern Australia, and was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for its role in the defence of the northern territory in March-August 1942, where it took part in frequent combats against the Japanese. When the group arrived in Australia it had 102 pilots, of whom only seven had more than 600 hour flying time in fighters, nine had 15 hours experience and the remainder none whatsoever! Its first significant combat experience came on 14 March when a flight from the group shot down five Japanese aircraft. The advanced echelon from the group moved to Darwin on 16 March, followed on 19 March by the 9th Pursuit Squadron, which claimed four victories between then and the end of March. By the start of May the group had lost nine aircraft and three pilots, but claimed 38 Japanese aircraft. By 18 July the group had eighty P-40s based at Darwin.

In October 1942 the group moved to New Guinea, where it helped block the Japanese advance from Buna to Port Moresby.It was used for the air defence of Port Moresby, and to a lesser extent to escort bombers and transport aircraft, and attack Japanese bases and supplies lines. On 6-7 January 1943 the group claimed 28 victories during an attack on a Japanese convoy taking reinforcements to Lae. When the Allies went onto the offensive, the group was used to support the advance up the Buna trail.

In February 1943 some of the ground echelon moved forward to Dobodura, allowing the group's aircraft to move there in the morning and spend the day on alert at the new base, before returning to Port Moresby in the evening.

In March 1943 it took part in the battle of the Bismarck Sea. It then took part in the long campaign around the Huon Gulf, the landings at Noemfoor and the invasion of Biak. During this period the group used a mix of P-38s, P-40s and P-47s.

In early May 1944 the first elements from the group moved onto the recently captured airfield at Hollandia, allowing the Navy's escort carriers to withdraw. The last squadron from the group, the 9th, moved to Hollandia on 13-14 May. They then supported the ground troops, helping to break up a Japanese attack on the Tor River on 20 May.

The group didn't stay at Hollandia for long, and was chosen to be one of the first units to move forward to Biak after its capture. The group moved forward to the new base at Owi at the end of June. From there they were able to support the fighting at Noemfoor.

In September 1944 the group converted completely to the P-38 Lightning. It was used for long range missions over Mindanao, Halmahera, Ceram and Borneo.

In October 1944 the group moved to the Philippines, soon after the landings on Leyte (the first part of the ground echelon landed four days after the invasion). It was used to defend against Japanese fighters, support ground forces and attack Japanese shipping in Ormoc Bay. It also supported the Allied invasion of Luzon, and was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for its actions on Leyte. On 28 October the group blew up a ammo dump in Ormoc, destroying a block on the waterfront. On 29 October the group claimed its 500th victory, won over Tacloban.

One of the group's pilots during this period was Major Richard I. Bong, the top scoring USAAF ace of the Second World War, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for volunteering to fight from 10 October to 15 November 1944, claiming eight victories.

The group also took part in longer range strikes, hitting Japanese targets on Formosa and shipping off the China coast. The group supported the first heavy bomber attack on Formosa, a raid on Heito airfield on 22 January 1945. On 27 May the group destroyed four railway locomotives and eight carriages. On 25 August, during the period of peace negotiations, two aircraft from the group landed at Nittagahara airfield on Kyushu, claiming they were short of fuel. Luckily they were greeted with candy rather than hostility!

In August 1945 the group moved to Okinawa, and in September to Japan. It became part of the Far East Air Forces, and remained in the area into the post-war period, fighting in the Korean War.




1941: Seversky P-35
1942: Curtiss P-40 Warhawk
1942-1944: Lockheed P-38 Lightning, Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, Republic P-47 Thunderbolt
September 1944-1946: Lockheed P-38 Lightning


20 November 1940 Constituted as 49th Pursuit Group (Interceptor)
15 January 1941 Activated
January-February 1942 To Australia and Fifth Air Force
May 1942 Redesignated 49th Fighter Group
October 1942 To New Guinea
October 1944 To Philippines
August 1945 To Okinawa
September 1945 To Japan

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Ma j Glenn L Davasher: 16 Jan 1941
Maj John F Egan: 10 Feb 1941
Maj George McCoy Jr: 2 May 1941
Col Paul B Wurtsmith: 11 Dec 1941
Col Donald R Hutchinson: 11 Nov 1942
Lt Col Robert L Morrissey: 30 Jan 1943
Col James C Selman: Jul 1943
Lt Col David A Campbell: 25 Jan 1944
Lt Col Furlo S Wagner: 3 Jun 1944
Col George A Walker: 19 Jul 1944
Lt Col Gerald R Johnson: 10 Mar 1945
Lt Col Clay Tice Jr: 16 Jul 1945

Main Bases

Selfridge Field, Mich: 15 Jan 1941
Morrison Field, Fla: 25 May 1941-4 Jan 1942
Melbourne, Australia: 2 Feb 1942
Bankstown, Australia: 16 Feb 1942
Darwin, Australia: c. 16 Apr 1942
Port Moresby, New Guinea: 9 Oct 1942
Dobodura, New Guinea: Mar 1943
Gusap, New Guinea: 20 Nov 1943
Finschhafen, New Guinea: 19 Apr 1944
Hollandia, New Guinea: c. 17 May 1944
Biak: 3 June? 1944
Tacloban, Leyte: 24 Oct 1944
San Jose, Mindoro: c. 30 Dec 1944
Lingayen, Luzon: c. 25 Feb 1945
Okinawa: 16 Aug 1945
Atsugi, Japan: 15 Sep 1945

Component Units

7th: 1941 onwards
8th: 1941 onwards
9th: 1941 onwards

Assigned To

1942-1945: V Fighter Command; Fifth Air Force
  1944: 85th Fighter Wing; Fifth Air Force
1945-1946: V Bomber Command; Fifth Air Force
  1944-45: 86th Fighter Wing; Fifth Air Force

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (8 May 2018), 49th Fighter Group (USAAF) , http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/USAAF/49th_Fighter_Group.html

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