303d Fighter Wing
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|303d Fighter Wing|
P-47D-28-RA Thunderbolt (s/n 42-28473) of the 373rd Fighter Group at RAF Woodchurch, England (UK), in 1944
|Branch||United States Army Air Forces|
|Role||Fighter Command and Control|
Established and organized at Norfolk Army Airfield, Virginia in 1943 as a command and control organization. Deployed to the European Theater of Operations (ETO) in late 1943 and assigned to IX Fighter Command, Ninth Air Force. Initial Mission of the Wing was to receive operational orders from Headquarters, IX Fighter Command and direct subordinate groups in attacking enemy targets in Occupied France and the Low Countries in preparation for the Normandy Invasion in June 1944.
Operational missions included strafing and dive-bombing armored vehicles, trains, bridges, buildings, factories, troop concentrations, gun emplacements, airfields, and other targets in preparation for the invasion of Normandy. Also flew some escort missions with Eighth Air Force Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and Consolidated B-24 Liberator strategic bombers.
Participated in the June 1944 D-Day invasion of France in by patrolling the air over the landing zones and by flying close-support and interdiction missions. Operations supported the breakthrough at Saint-Lô in July and the thrust of The United States Third Army toward Germany in August and September. Reassigned to XIX Tactical Air Command in November 1944 and continued supporting Third Army with Air-Ground support missions, moving through Nancy and Metz to the Siegfried Line near Saarbrücken and Haguenau.
Reassigned to support the United States Ninth Army in Belgium as a result of the German offensive during the Battle of the Bulge, December 1944. Attacked enemy targets in the Northern Rheinland during the Rhineland Campaign and Operation Grenade, which was the southern prong of a pincer attack coordinated with Canadian First Army's Operation Veritable, with the purpose of closing the front up to the Rhine River. By 10 March, the Rhine had been reached in all sectors of Ninth Army's front. It was not until after 20 March that Ninth Army units first crossed the Rhine itself.
Attacked ground targets in the Ruhr, providing air support as Allied ground forces encircled enemy forces in the Ruhr Pocket, essentially ending organized enemy resistance in Western Germany. Ninth Army halted its advance at the Elbe River in late April 1945, the wing engaging targets of opportunity in enemy-controlled areas until combat was ended on 5 May 1945.
Remained in Europe after the war as part of United States Air Forces in Europe, performing occupation duty and the destruction or shipment to the United States of captured enemy combat equipment. Demobilized in Germany and organization was inactivated on 20 November 1945.
Operations and Decorations
- Combat Operations: Combat in European Theater of Operations (ETO), 8 March 1944-May 1945.
- Campaigns: Air Offensive, Europe ;Normandy; Northern France; Rhineland; Ardennes-Alsace; Central Europe
- Decorations: Cited in the Order of the Day, Belgian Army: 1 Oct 1944-; Dec 1944-Jan 1945. Belgian Fourragere
- Constituted as 303d Fighter Wing on 15 Nov 1943
- Activated on 24 Nov 1943
- Inactivated on 20 November 1945
- First Air Force, 24 November 1943 – 8 March 1944
- IX Fighter Command, 8 March-1 November 1944
- XIX Tactical Air Command, 1 November 1944 – 15 December 1944
- XXIX Tactical Air Command, 15 December 1944 – 20 November 1945
- Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4
- Johnson, David C. (1988), U.S. Army Air Forces Continental Airfields (ETO), D-Day to V-E Day; Research Division, USAF Historical Research Center, Maxwell AFB, Alabama.