78th Fighter Group (USAAF)

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The 78th Fighter Group served with the Eighth Air Force from 1943 until the end of the war, supporting the campaign in north-western Europe and the advance into Germany.

The group was constituted as the 78th Pursuit Group (Interceptor) on 13 January 1942 and activated on 9 February 1942. It trained with the P-38, before moving to Britain in November-December 1942 to join the Eighth Air Force.

Early in the planning for Operation Torch the 78th and its aircraft were allocated as a general fighter reserve, to be held in Britain until needed. The group's pilots and aircraft were then moved to Africa after the existing units taking part in the invasion began to run short of P-38s, which had the range to operate over the long distances involved in the fighting.

After losing its P-38s, the group converted to the P-47 Thunderbolt.

On 8 April the group became officially operational. At first it was used to fly fighter sweeps over the Dutch and French coasts, mainly to give the pilots combat experience.

The group was used on a wide range of missions, including bomber escort, attacks on German airfields and transport links and troop concentrations.

Between 20-25 February 1944 the group took part in 'Big Week', a series of attacks on the Luftwaffe and the German aircraft industry. It was took part in the preparations for the D-Day landings, and supported the landings themselves. In July it took part in the breakout at St. Lo. In September the group took part in Operation Market Garden, and was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for escorting the bomber and troop carrier aircraft and attack German targets.

In December 1944 the group converted to the P-51 Mustang. In December 1944-January 1945 the group took part in the Battle of the Bulge. The group received a second DUC for destroying a large number of German aircraft during a series of attacks on five Luftwaffe bases near Prague and Pilsen on 16 April 1945.

The group returned to the US in October 1945 and was inactivated on 18 October.


‘Big Week’ 1944 – Operation Argument and the breaking of the Jadgwaffe, Douglas C. Dildy. Looks at the USAAF’s concentrated attack on the German aircraft industry, a week of massive bombing raids that forced the Luftwaffe into an equally massive defensive effort that cost them around 150 aircrew at a time when they could hardly afford those losses, as well as cutting German fighter production by around 2,000 aircraft, and proving that the long range escort fighter was the key to a successful daylight bombing campaign (Read Full Review)
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1942-February 1943: Lockheed P-38 Lightning
April 1943-December 1944: Republic P-47 Thunderbolt
December 1944-1945: North American P-51 Mustang


13 January 1942 Constituted as 78th Pursuit Group (Interceptor)
9 February 1942 Activated
May 1942 Redesignated 78th Fighter Group
November-December 1942 To Britain and Eighth Air Force
October 1945 To United States
18 October 1945 Inactivated

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Col Arman Peterson: May 1942
Lt Col Melvin F McNickle: Jul 1943
Col James J Stone Jr: 31 Jul 1943
Col Frederic C Gray Jr: 22 May 1944
Lt Col Olin E Gilbert: 29 Jan 1945
Col John D Landers: c. 22 Feb 1945
Lt Col Roy B Caviness: 1 Jul 1945-unkn

Main Bases

Baer Field, Ind: 9 Feb 1942
Muroc, Calif: c.30 April 1942
Hamilton Field, Calif: May-November 1942
Goxhill, England: December 1942
Duxford, England: April 1943-October 1945
Camp Kilmer, NJ: c.16-18 October 1945

Component Units

82nd: 1942-1945
83rd: 1942-1945
84th: 1942-1945

Assigned To

November-December 1942 to October 1945: Eight Air Force
1943: 65th Fighter Wing; VIII Fighter Command; Eighth Air Force
1943-September 1944: 66th Fighter Wing; VIII Fighter Command; Eighth Air Force
September 1944-Late 1945: 66th Fighter Wing; 3rd Air Division; Eighth Air Force

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (26 June 2018), 78th Fighter Group (USAAF) , http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/USAAF/78th_Fighter_Group.html

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