352d Fighter Group
|352d Fighter Group|
|Branch||United States Army Air Forces|
|Part of||VIII Fighter Command|
|Garrison/HQ||European Theatre of World War II|
|Motto||Second to none|
The 352d Fighter Group was one of the most highly decorated USAAF Fighter Groups in World War II, producing many leading aces of the war. The 352d was composed of three squadrons: (the 328th, 486th and 487th Fighter Squadrons). Once deployed to the European Theater of Operations (ETO), the group was eventually headquartered in Bodney, England before being forward deployed to Belgium. It performed a variety of missions for the Eighth Air Force, but predominantly served as bomber escort. After the war the unit was transferred to the District of Columbia Air National Guard and redesignated the 113th Fighter Group.
Activation and initial training
The 352d Fighter Group was activated at Bradley Field, CT, on 1 October 1942 and equipped with the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighter. The initial squadrons assigned were the 21st and 34th squadrons (under the command of 1st Lieutenant John C. Meyer) that dated back to 1917 and had participated in the defense of the Philippines, as well as the newly activated 328th. On 18 May 1943 the 21st and 34th were redesignated the 486th and 487th fighter squadrons.
The group absorbed new personnel moving several times from Bradley Field to Westover Field, MA in November and then to Trumbull, CT in January 1943 where it received the majority of personnel in late while continuing to acquire its personnel, supplies and aircraft to begin training for eventual deployment. Once aircraft were received and pilots proficient, the squadrons were assigned to alert duty over New York City operating out of LaGuardia Airport where pilots often performed acrobatic maneuvers on takeover much to chagrin of the tower, routinely buzzed Yankee Stadium and engaged in dogfights over the city thereby garnering attention of authorities. Shortly thereafter, likely due to their antics at La Guardia, the 328th was moved to Mitchel Field in February being joined by the 34th in March. The 21st was moved to Farmingdale, NY on 8 March. Training was in its advanced phase when the group was reassembled at Westover Field, MA in late May in anticipation of deployment orders. The order to deploy arrived in June and the group moved to Camp Kilmer, NJ to prepare to embark aboard the ocean liner "Queen Elizabeth" leaving on 1 July 1943 for Scotland and service with the Eighth Air Force.
The first missions of the 352d FG were flown on 9 September 1943 when the Thunderbolts flew an escort mission over the North Sea protecting B-17 Flying Fortress bombers returning from a raid over continental Europe. Skirmishes with the Luftwaffe were frequent, but it wasn't until 26 November when Major John C. Meyer of the 487th FS scored the Group's first victory over Europe – an Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter. Meyer later became deputy commander of the 352d during its most successful period of operations.
On 8 April 1944, the 352d exchanged their radial-engined P-47s for sleek North American P-51 Mustang fighter planes. It was then that the Group adopted their unique blue nose marking. It is legend among aviation historians that the German Luftwaffe referred to the 352d as the "Blue Nosed Bastards of Bodney." Whether this is true or not is irrelevant because indeed, the 352d FG was undoubtedly successful. In the end, the Group flew nearly 60,000 combat hours in 19 months, claimed 519 enemy aircraft destroyed in the air (4th highest among the 15 groups of VIII Fighter Command), 287 on the ground and produced 26 aerial aces for losses in combat of 118 aircraft. Notable pilots of the 352d include top scoring P-51 aces Major George Preddy and Col. John C. Meyer, Captain Donald S. Bryan, Lt. Robert "Punchy" Powell, Capt. John "Smokey" Stover, Capt. John Thornell, Capt. William C. Miller, Capt. Raymond Littge and Capt. William T. Whisner.
New Year's Day 1945 at Y-29
One of the 352d's greatest accomplishments was its huge victory over the Luftwaffe on 1 January 1945. In December 1944, the 352d received orders to deploy to a remote field in Belgium designated "Y-29", approximately 3 miles south-southeast of As. After arriving on the 22nd, began operating on the 24th. Poor weather hampered flight operations and the Battle of Bulge was raging nearby. Unknown to the Allies, the Luftwaffe was preparing a New Year's Day attack designated "Operation Bodenplatte" against sixteen forward deployed Allied airfields in the area. Similar to the preparations for the Battle of Bulge, the Luftwaffe had been quietly preparing and assembling virtually every available Luftwaffe fighter on the Western Front and had an estimated 800 fighters and fighter bombers ready to execute an attack when `the Allies might be off guard following celebration of New Year's Eve. The concept was simple – a mass attack on newly established continental bases to destroy as many Allied aircraft on the ground and ease the pressure on the embattled ground forces engaged in the battle of the Bulge. However, many of the Luftwaffe pilots were poorly trained and did not have the experience necessary to battle seasoned Allied pilots.
John C. Meyer had risen to be Deputy Commander of the 352d by December and was now a lieutenant colonel. He suspected that the Germans might use New Year's Day as an opportunity to attack and decided to have Y-29 in readiness when the sun rose. While haggling with higher authorities at Ninth Air Force throughout the night, he ordered a squadron assigned to do a morning sweep and ordered the pilots not to engage in any alcoholic celebration the night prior. Although he did not get permission until 0800, he joined the 487th Fighter Squadron of the 352d in the frigid cold of the snowy weather at 0530 preflighting their Mustangs and was sitting in the cockpit of the lead aircraft. As the Mustangs were awaiting take-off for the morning patrol, their airfield was overrun with Luftwaffe fighters from Jagdgeschwader 11.
Nevertheless, when the group of 50+ Bodenplatte aircraft of JG11 showed up over Y-29, the 12 blue-nosed Mustangs of the 487 FS were cueing for take-off with Lt. Col. Meyer in the lead Mustang. While accelerating down the snow-packed runway, Lt. Col. Meyer opened the account by shooting down a German fighter in a head-on pass as it tried to strafe a parked C-47 next to the runway. The German had not noticed the P-51 taking off. Meyer began firing before his wheels fully retracted and downed the marauding Fw-190. Though surrounded by strafing fighters, every one of the 487th FS got off the ground to meet their attackers.
In the battle that followed, 24 Luftwaffe fighters were destroyed by the 352d FG. However, one pilot – Lt. Dean Huston – was forced to belly his P-51 after its cooling system was holed from the fire of zealous British anti-aircraft gunners. Two pilots of the 487th claimed 4 German fighters shot down. The 487th received the Distinguished Unit Citation. Meyer, Capt. Stanford Moats, and Capt. William T. Whisner, who scored his fourth while his Mustang was starting to overheat from battle damage, were each awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and four other pilots were award the Silver Star. Despite 352d Fighter Group losing a couple of aircraft to battle damage, not a single pilot was lost during the New Year's Day battle. But the tragedy of war was never far away. During the afternoon of the same day, 1 January 1945, fighters of the 328FS were patrolling the skies above Asche when they spotted what they thought were four inbound enemy aircraft. Due to static on the radio communications with the 328FS, identification of the aircraft came too late, and one of the approaching aircraft was shot down, crashing near the village of Zutendall. The aircraft turned out to be RAF Hawker Typhoons of 183rd Squadron from Gilze-Rijen on their way to their new base at Chievres. The pilot who was killed in the Typhoon that was shot down was F/Lt. Don Webber.
- Constituted as 352d Fighter Group on 29 September 1942
- Activated on 1 October 1942
- Inactivated on 10 November 1945
- Redesignated 113th Fighter Group. Allotted to ANG (DC) on 24 May 1946
- I Fighter Command, 1 October 1942 – June 1943
- Attached to: New York Fighter Wing, 1 October 1942 – November 1942; 9 March–June 1943
- Attached to: Boston Fighter Wing, November-1942-9 March 1943
- Attached to: 1st Bombardment (later Air) Division, 15 September 1944 – 13 April 1945
- Further attached to: IX Tactical Air Command, 23 December 1944 – 13 April 1945
- Army Service Forces, 9–10 November 1945
- 328th Fighter Squadron (PE) 1 October 1942 – 10 November 1945
- 486th Fighter Squadron (PZ) 1 October 1942 – 10 November 1945
- 487th Fighter Squadron (HO) 1 October 1942 – 10 November 1945
- Mitchel Field, New York, 1 October 1942
- Bradley Field, Connecticut, October 1942
- Westover Field, Massachusetts, November 1942
- Trumbull Field, Connecticut, c. 15 January 1943
- Republic Field, New York, C. 9 March–June 1943
- RAF Bodney (AAF-141), England, 7 July 1943
- Chièvres Airfield (A-84, AAF-181), Belgium, c. 27 January 1945
- RAF Bodney (AAF-141), England, c. 14 April – 3 November 1945
- Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, c. 9–10 November 1945
- P-47B (blocks 5 to 16) Thunderbolt, c. 13 July 1943 – 20 April 1944.
- P-51B (from blocks 5) Mustang in combat from 8 April 1944
- P-51C/D/K Mustang, 1944–1945
||This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. (December 2012)|
- Maurer, Maurer, Air Force Combat Units of World War II, Office of Air Force history (1961). ISBN 0-405-12194-6
- Maurer, Maurer, Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II, Office of Air Force history (1982). ISBN 0-8317-1501-4
- Ivie, Thomas G. (2002). 352d Fighter Group. "Osprey aviation elite", 8. Oxford: Osprey. ISBN 978-1-84176-382-8.
- Powell, Robert H. Jr.; Ivie, Thomas. The Bluenosed Bastards of Bodney: A Commemorative History. Dallas, Texas: Taylor Publishing and The 352d Fighter Group Association, 1990. OCLC 22943472
- Powell, Robert H. Jr.; Hamel, Marc; and Sam Sox, Jr. Bluenoser Tales. Tucker, Georgia: United Writers Press and The 352d Fighter Group Association, 2007. ISBN 978-1-934216-35-4
- 352d Fighter Group Association website
- usaaf.com 352d Fighter Group
- littlefriends.co.uk 352d Fighter Group
- USAF Aircraft Serial Number Search