58th Fighter Group (USAAF)

58th Fighter Group (USAAF)

History - Books - Aircraft - Time Line - Commanders - Main Bases - Component Units - Assigned To


The 58th Fighter Group took part in the long New Guinea campaign, the invasion of the Philippines and attacked targets in Korea and on Kyushu.

The group was constituted as the 58th Pursuit Group (Interceptor) on 20 November 1940 and activated on 15 January 1941, and equipped with a mix of aircraft. It was used as a replacement training unit until 1943, when it was chosen for service in the Pacific and converted to the P-47 Thunderbolt (it would keep this aircraft to the end of the war, despite some efforts to replace it as its requirement for long runways sometimes prevented it from moving up to the front as quickly as other fighters). There was a plan to convert the group to the P-51 in 1945, but that had to be abandoned because of a shortage of aircraft.

In October-December 1943 the group moved to New Guinea to join the Fifth Air Force. It entered combat in February 1944, flying a mix of patrols over US bases and transport escort missions. It then moved on to escorting bombers as they attacked Japanese bases on New Guinea, as well as escorting convoys heading to the Admiralty Islands.

In August 1944 the group moved to Noemfoor, off the north-western coast of New Guinea, with the first part of the group arriving on 30 August and the aircrew on 6 September. From there it attacked Japanese targets on Ceram, Halmahera and the Kai Islands, in the Dutch East Indies.

In November 1944 the group moved to the Philippines. It was used to attack Japanese airfields, support the advancing American armies, and escort convoys and protect transport routes. The group received a Distinguished Unit Citation for attacked a Japanese naval force that was heading towards the American base on Mindoro on 26 December 1944, just as the group was moving up to that island.

The group moved to Okinawa in July 1945, and spent the rest of the war attacking targets in Korea and on Kyushu, including railways and airfields.

After the end of the war the group briefly joined the Far East Air Forces, but returned to the US in December 1945 and was inactivated on 27 January 1946.




1942-1943: Seversky P-35, Curtiss P-36 Hawk, Bell P-39 Airacobra, Curtiss P-40 Warhawk
1943-1945: Republic P-47 Thunderbolt


20 November 1940Constituted as 58th Pursuit Group (Interceptor)
15 January 1941Activated
May 1942Redesignated as 58th Fighter Group
October-December 1943To Australia and Fifth Air Force
August 1944To Noemfoor
July 1945To Okinawa
October 1945To Japan
December 1945To Philippines
27 January 1946Inactivated

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Capt John M Sterling:15 Jan 1941-unkn
Maj Louis W Chick.Jr: unkn
Col Gwen G Atkinson: 8 Dec1942
Lt Col Edward F Roddy: 12 Mar1945-unkn.

Main Bases

Selfridge Field, Mich: 15 Jan1941
Baton Rouge, La: 5 Oct 1941
DaleMabry Field, Fla: 4 Mar 1942
RichmondAAB, Va: 16 Oct 1942
Philadelphia MunAprt, Pa: 24 Oct 1942
Bradley Field,Conn: c. 3 Mar 1943
Green Field, RI: 28Apr 1943
Grenier Field, NH: 16 Sep-22Oct 1943
Sydney, Australia: 19 Nov 1943
Brisbane, Australia: 21 Nov 1943
Dobodura,New Guinea: 28 Dec 1943
Saidor,New Guinea: c. 3 Apr 1944
Noemfoor:30 Aug 1944
San Roque, Leyte: 18 Nov1944
San Jose, Mindoro: c. 30 Dec 1944
Mangaldan, Luzon: 5 Apr 1945
Porac,Luzon: 18 Apr 1945
Okinawa: 10 Jul1945
Japan: 26 Oct 1945
Ft William McKinley, Luzon: 28 Dec 1945-27 Jan 1946

Component Units

67th: 1941-1942
68th: 1941-1942
69th: 1941-1946
310th: 1942-1946
311th: 1942-1946

Assigned To

October 1942-March 1943: Philadelphia Fighter Wing; I Fighter Command; First Air Force
March-April 1943: New York Fighter Wing, I Fighter Command; First Air Force
April-October 1943: Boston Fighter Wing, I Fighter Command; First Air Force
1943-1945: V Fighter Command; Fifth Air Force
1944-45: 86th Fighter Wing; Fifth Air Force


By Stephen Sherman, July, 1999. Updated December 14, 2016.

I n the Mediterranean theatre, the fighter pilots of the Fifteenth and Twelfth Air Force fought German and Italian planes, in aerial battles ranging from North Africa, through Italy, and over the oil fields of Ploesti, Romania.

They flew more varied aircraft than any other group of pilots, many units started out in P-40 Warhawks, transitioned to P-47s, and finished the war with P-51 Mustangs (some flew British Spitfires). William Leverette accomplished one of the war's outstanding fighter pilot accomplishments while flying a P-38

The 332nd Fighter Group, the famous Tuskegee Airmen, fought and flew in the MTO.

Top Aces of the MTO Kills Medals Unit Plane
Lance Wade 23.0 DSO RAF 145 Sqn Spitfire
John Voll 21.0 DSC 31FG P-51
Herschel "Herky" Green 18.0 DSC 325FG P-47
James S. "Sully" Varnell 17.0 SS 52FG P-51
Samuel J. Brown 15.0 - 31FG P-51
Robert C. Curtis 14.0 - 52FG P-51
James L. Brooks 13.0 - 31FG P-51
Harry A. Parker 13.0 - 325FG P-51
Michael Brezas 12.0 - 14FG P-38
Levi Chase 12.0 SS 33FG P-40
William J. Sloan 12.0 - 82FG P-38
Norman C. Skogstad 12.0 - 31FG P-51
William Leverette 11.0 DSC 14FG P-38
Robert J. Goebel 11.0 SS 31FG P-51
Charles M. McCorkle 11.0 - 31FG P-51
Other Noted MTO Pilots Kills Medals Unit Plane
Jack Ilfrey 7.5 SS 1FG P-38
Roy Whittaker 7.0 SS 57FG P-40
Lee Archer 4.5 DFC 332FG P-51


The 58 OG trains mission-ready special operations, combat search and rescue (CSAR) and airlift aircrews in the UH-1H/N, HH-60G, HC-130N/P, MC-130P, MC-130H, CV-22 and corresponding simulators provides Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training-Helicopter conducts special operations and CSAR intelligence training responds to contingencies and humanitarian missions.

Its component squadrons are:

    (23 FTS) (UH-1H & TH-1H) (Fort Rucker, AL) (36th RQS) (UH-1N) (Fairchild AFB, WA) (CV-22 Osprey) (UH-1N & HH-60G) (HC-130J Combat King II & MC-130J)
  • 58th Operations Support Squadron
  • 58th Training Squadron

History [ edit | edit source ]

Activated as the 58th Pursuit Squadron (part of the 33d Pursuit Group) stationed at Mitchel Field, New York, the squadron was charged with the ongoing mission of aerial defense of the United States. When the United States entered World War II, the 58th took an active role in the war effort by participating in several operations during a three year overseas tour. These operations include the invasion of Morocco in November 1942, combat operations in the Mediterranean Theater from November 1942 to February 1944, and operations in the China-Burma-India campaign, April 1944 to August 1945. During the operations in the Mediterranean Theater, the 58th earned the nickname "Gorillas" for the guerrilla warfare-like techniques it utilized. While operating in the various theaters, the 58th flew the P-40 Warhawk, P-47 Thunderbolt, and P-38 Lightning. As a result of its superior performance, the 58th received the Distinguished Unit Citation for combat operations conducted in central Tunisia. Ώ]

After its service in World War II, the 58th saw a period of activation and inactivation at various Air Force installations flying both the F-84 Thunderstreak and F-94 Starfire. This fluctuation of activity leveled out when the 58th, part of the re-designated 33d Tactical Fighter Wing was assigned to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida and began flying the F-4 Phantom II. In 1972, the 58th was deployed to Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand under what was known as the "Summer Help Program." During this period, the 58th was credited as the first temporary duty unit to down an enemy aircraft. On 2 June 1972, Major Philip W. Handley and Lieutenant John J. Smallwood shot down a MiG-19 with a 300 round burst from their M-61A Vulcan Cannon, disproving the perception that American aircrews had lost their dogfighting skills. Smallwood was later shot down and to this day remains listed as missing in action. Just over two months later on 12 August 1972, another 58th fighter was credited with a kill after shooting down a MiG-21 with an AIM-7 Sparrow, a radar guided missile. This second kill was the last credited to the 58th during its six-month rotation in Southeast Asia. Ώ]

Eric Smith of the 58th Fighter Squadron, the first Air Force pilot qualified on an F-35, pilots the military's first F-35.

In 1979, the 58th Fighter Squadron became the first squadron in the 33d Tactical Fighter Wing to receive the F-15 Eagle. The 58th proved the war fighting capability of the F-15 during its deployment to Germany for exercise Coronet Eagle. During the exercise, the 58th utilized 18 F-15s to fly 1001 sorties in less than three weeks. The unit repeated this deployment in 1982 utilizing 24 F-15s making it the first full F-15 deployment in history. Ten years later, the 58th participated in Operation Just Cause where forces successfully removed Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega from power in Panama. Ώ]

A German RF-4E with two USAF F-15As of the 58th TFS, in 1982.

The 58th was once again called upon in August 1990 when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Twenty-four F-15s under the command of Colonel Rick Parsons departed Eglin Air Force Base for King Faisal Air Base, Saudi Arabia as part of the build up of coalition forces in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. In the early morning hours of 17 January 1991, Operation Desert Storm commenced. Captain John J.B. Kelk claimed the first aerial victory by downing the first MiG-29. As the war progressed, the 58th flew 1,689 combat sorties and destroyed 15 other enemy aircraft. During the course of the war, the 58th accomplished feats that no other coalition member matched including: the most air-to-air kills, the most double kills, and the most sorties and hours flown by any F-15 unit in theater. The 58th also destroyed the most MiG-29s (a total of five) and had the only wing commander who had an air-to-air victory. Ώ]

Some recent accomplishments of the 58th include: the first fighter squadron to bring the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) into full operation, numerous rotations to the Saudi Arabian theater supporting Operation Southern Watch by patrolling the no-fly zone, and participation in Operation Uphold Democracy where the United States helped bring control back to Haiti. Ώ]

On 25 June 1996, one day before their departure for a scheduled rotation as part of Operation Southern Watch, a terrorist bomb ripped through the Khobar Towers complex that housed squadron personnel. Nineteen U.S. personnel were killed, twelve of which were members of the 33d Fighter Wing. Ώ] The 58th Fighter Squadron operated the F-15 Eagle to support the various combatant commanders by providing air superiority on call until September 2009 Ώ] and then became DoD's first F-35 Lightning II training squadron on 1 Oct. 2009. ΐ] with seven officers and one enlisted airman. Its first F-35A is expected to arrive in the fall of 2010. Α]

Operations [ edit | edit source ]

58th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron Northrop F-89D-60-NO Scorpion 53-2528. Stationed at Otis Air Force Base, Massachusetts, 1955

58th Fighter Squadron [58th FS]

The 58th Fighter Squadron is one of two combat flying squadrons in the 33d Fighter Wing Operations Group, 33d Fighter Wing.

The 58th Fighter Squadron's long and distinguished history dates back to the aerial battles of World War II. Activated as the 58th Pursuit Squadron (part of the 33d Pursuit Group) stationed at Mitchel Field, NY, the squadron provided aerial defense of the United States.

The squadron later deployed, during the course of the war, to various locations starting in november 1942, ranging from French Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Sicily, Italy, India, China and Burma. Following its reactivation on 20 August 1946, the squadron was stationed in Germany until mid-1947, as part of US occupation forces in Germany.

From 1947 to 1960, the squadron provided air defense of the United States, flying a variety of aircraft (P(later F)-51, 1946-1949 F-84, 1948-1950 F-86, 1950-1952 F-94, 1952-1955 F-89, 1955-1960). The squadron was discontinued, and inactivated, on 25 December 1960.

Redesignated as the 58th Tactical Fighter Squadron on 16 March 1970, the squadron was reactivated on 1 September 1970 at Eglin AFB, FL, flying the F-4. The squadron deployed at Udorn RTAFB, Thailand, 29 April-18 October 1972 and 1 June-14 September 1973, taking part in Southeast Asia combat operations.

The squadron took part in operations in Panama, from December 1989 to January 1990. During Operation Desert Storm, the 58th Fighter Squadron accomplished the most sorties and hours flown of any F-15 unit in theater, and the most air-to-air kills and double kills of any coalition unit involved.

The squadron was redesignated as the 58th Fighter Squadron on 1 November 1991.

In December of 1991, as a result of the service-wide reorganization, the 58th FS, nicknamed the "Gorillas" became aligned under Air Combat Command, as part of the 33rd Fighter Wing. As of mid-2000, the 58th FS was assigned to Aerospace Expeditionary Force 2 and continues to support various theater Commander-in-Chiefs by providing air superiority by all who call upon its service.

The mission of the 58th Fighter Squadron is to prepare and maintain a 24 Primary Assigned Aircraft (PAA) combat-coded F-15C squadron for worldwide deployment and air combat operations. The squadron originally transitionned to the F-15 aircraft in 1979. The squadron plans and executes an annual flying hour program of 5,200 sorties to train and maintain the combat readiness of 32 pilots and 300 maintenance personnel for operational taskings in the world's most sophisticated air superiority aircraft.

The squadron has more than 320 active-duty and civilian personnel and 27 F-15C/D aircraft assigned. The "Gorillas" maintain and manage $950 million in assets and has an annual budget of $11.5 million.

Cumberland, R.I. – June 13, 1951


Cumberland, Rhode Island – June 13, 1951

On the morning of June 13, 1951, an accident occurred between to F-86-A Sabre jets over Cumberland, Rhode Island. The flight was part of 58 th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron attached to the 33 rd Fighter-Interceptor Group, then based at Otis Air Force Base in Falmouth, Massachusetts.

The incident began at 8:05 a.m. that morning when a flight of four Sabres took off from Otis AFB for a routine training flight. The day was clear with 12 miles visibility with some haze at 27,000 feet.

The planes were to fly a simulated combat mission which would take them over the Providence metropolitan area. Once at altitude, they would split up into two teams called “elements” and would practice making mock attack runs at each other. Each aircraft was equipped with gun cameras to record a “kill”.

At 24,000 feet they leveled off and separated into two elements. Each element was designated a color. There was the Red Element, consisting of the Flight Leader, 1 st Lieutenant Arnold W. Braswell, and his wingman 2 nd Lieutenant Michael A. Corba. The second was Blue Element consisting of 1 st Lieutenant Leo R. Kirby Jr., who would be Blue leader, and his wingman 2 nd Lieutenant Everett T. Brown.

Each element was to consider the other to be enemy aircraft. The Red Element broke away and headed towards Boston while the Blue Element began to make wide circles around the Providence area climbing to 26,000 feet. Once Red Element reached Boston, it turned around and headed back towards Providence.

As Red Element was returning they were spotted by Blue Element and Lieutenant Kirby made a run at them centering both jets in his camera sights. At the end of this engagement, Blue Element broke off and headed towards Boston while this time Red remained over Providence.

As Blue Element returned from Boston they saw Red Element flying 1,000 feet below and engaged them. Lieutenant Kirby later recalled to investigators “About ten miles northeast of Providence my wingman (Lt. Brown), called in that he had the first element in sight at 10 o’clock low to us. Looking in that direction I could see only one aircraft about 3 miles out and therefore did not make an attack on it, as I did not have the second aircraft of the first element in sight at that time. The one aircraft passed the second element on a reciprocal heading approximately 2,500 yards off to the left and low about 1,000 feet.”

Tail fin of Lt. Kirby’s F-86 – US Air Force Photo from Investigation Report

The men of Red Element saw Blue Element coming and began evasive action. The four aircraft quickly became mixed in a high speed “dog fight” during which Lt. Kirby’s aircraft of Blue Element, and Lt. Corba’s aircraft of Red Element, were involved in a mid-air collision.

The impact knocked Corba unconscious for a few seconds, and when he came to, he found himself being thrown around the cockpit as the plane tumbled through the air. In his statement to investigators he recalled what happened next “After the explosion knocked me out and I came to the strap (from a safety belt) was snapping around the cockpit. The spin threw me against the cockpit. My helmet stayed on, luckily. I remember trying to get out. I tried to grab the ejection handle but the aircraft snapped every time I tried. Finally got to where I could get it and hung on to the handle. I was humped up underneath the canopy when I pulled it and then I blacked out again. When I opened the parachute I felt a sharp pain in my back and noticed that my hands were cut up.”

He later told investigators that he distinctly remembered checking his watch and noting that the time was 8:42 a.m.

At first Lieutenant Corba didn’t realize that he had been involved in a crash, but instead thought there had been some type of malfunction with his plane. He later told investigators from his hospital bed “I just thought I blew up. Never knew what hit me until I got on the ground.”

Lieutenant Kirby later related to a Woonsocket Call reporter his recollection of the moment if impact “I suddenly saw the wing of a plane in front of my nose. The other plane had apparently come up from under my belly. I felt a light bump at first and then a real crash. I saw a red flash in back of me as if there had been an explosion. It stunned me for a second. Then my actions were apparently automatic. I pulled the seat handle that works the automatic ejector seat.”

Lieutenant Braswell saw the collision from his vantage point in the sky “I followed Blue leader (Lt. Kirby) at a distance, since he had a speed advantage. I then observed Blue 2 (Lt. Brown) pulling up above the horizon in a climbing turn, followed by Red 2 (Lt. Corba) about 500 yards behind. Just as Red 2 emerged above the horizon, turning at 90 degrees to my line of sight and about 2 miles away, I saw Blue leader pull up on him and for a brief instant appear to be almost in formation with red 2. Just as I realized that something was wrong and was about to call, the two airplanes collided, Red 2’s aircraft exploding with an orange burst of flame and breaking up into several pieces. It appeared that Blue leader’s nose struck the tip of Red 2’s right wing.”

He noted that Lieutenant Kirby’s aircraft “…remained generally intact and spun to the ground in a flat spin”

Lieutenant Braswell called to Brown asking if he had seen any parachutes deploy. Ten to fifteen seconds later Brown advised he could see two chutes at 14,000 feet. Brown later recalled, “…Upon looking back, I saw an aircraft behind me and then it dropped below my line of vision. The next instant I saw a tremendous explosion in the rear view mirror and it seemed that two aircraft had collided and completely disintegrated with the wing of one being thrown away from the area of flame. It did not seem possible for the pilots to get out. However, after watching the flaming wreckage fall, two parachutes appeared.”

Satisfied that both airmen had at least survived the initial impact, Lieutenant Braswell instructed Brown to notify Otis Air Base on “B” channel while he switched to “D” channel and called Quonset Naval Air Station for a helicopter to be sent to the scene. In addition, Salem Coast Guard Station in Massachusetts also sent a helicopter and a PBY search aircraft to assist.

Both aircraft had been going over 500 mph at the time of the collision and the fact that either pilot escaped was a miracle. As they hung in the air from their chutes, the debris from their aircraft began crashing to the ground in the area of Abbott Run Valley Road in north Cumberland.

Lt. Kirby’s plane, serial number 49-1107, dropped relatively intact in a field near Rawson Pond. William H. Rawson, a local farmer, was spraying trees on his property with James Postle and Ronald Forte when they heard the explosion overhead and looked up to see the flaming debris falling towards them and began running for cover. The plane crashed in the field 300 feet from Rawson’s home and exploded into a huge fireball. The impact sent an engine portion tumbling through the air for several hundred feet before coming to rest near the Cumberland Grange hall. The explosion set several smaller fires to nearby grass and trees. Before long, .50 caliber bullets from the aircrafts gun magazines began going off sending live rounds wizzing through the air forcing bystanders to dive for cover.

Mr. Rawson was quoted in The Woonsocket Call as saying, “Bullets started going off and we though all hell had broken loose. Then, we saw the parachutes coming down and we began to realize what happened.”

The pieces of Lieutenant Corba’s plane, serial number 49-1106, came down in various yards of the houses along Abbott Run Valley Road. One piece landed in the yard of Mr. and Mrs. Russell White who lived diagonally across from the Community School on Whipple Road just off Abbott Valley Run Road. Another portion slammed into the back yard of Walter and Carrie Buchanan while Mrs. Buchanan was outside washing windows. She ran to see if anyone was inside, but the flames set that plane’s gun magazines off too, sending her running into her house.

Photo from Air Force Crash Investigation report.

Fire Chief Nathan Whipple and Assistant Chief Shelton Parker were on duty at the North Cumberland Fire Station on Route 120 about a mile away when the accident occurred. Chief Whipple ordered a general alarm sounded which would bring help from other fire stations in the area, then raced off towards the scene. Once there, he took charge of the crash site at the Rawson Farm and sent his assistant chief to oversee the fire at the Buchanan house. Parker later commented to a Woonsocket Call reporter that the jet at the Buchanan house was, “spitting out bullets a mile a minute” Cumberland firefighters from Ashton, Berkeley and Valley Falls responded, as did firemen from the Manville station in Lincoln, as well as companies from North Attleboro, Massachusetts, and the Cumberland town ambulance.

About four miles away in North Attleboro, Massachusetts, Patrolman Joseph A. Joubert was on a traffic detail in front of St, Mary’s Church when he heard the explosion and watched the planes fall from the sky. When he saw the parachutes, he commandeered a passing ambulance and directed the driver to head towards the scene.

Lieutenant Kirby landed in heavy brush on the east side of Abbott Run Valley Road not too far from his plane and was helped by several nearby residents who ran to his aid. He was suffering from injuries related to the bailout, and as Officer Joubert arrived with the ambulance, Kirby was placed inside and taken to Notre Dame Hospital in Central Falls.

Lieutenant Corba came down through some utility wires which softened his landing, as he dropped by the side of Abbott Run Valley Road, in front of the home of Mrs. William G. Carpenter. His injuries were more severe than Kirby’s, but not life threatening. He was assisted by James Welch and George Miller who helped him out of his parachute harness and drove him to Notre dame Hospital in Mr. Welch’s personal vehicle. They later told a reporter from The Providence Journal that all the way to the hospital Lieutenant Corba repeatedly thanked God and the engineers who designed the automatic ejection mechanism.

A Fuel Gauge from an F-86-A Sabre Jet.

State and local police also raced to the scene and upon learning that both pilots had been taken to the hospital before their arrival focused their attention on trying to keep the throngs of curious onlookers away. Shortly afterwards, a detail of National Guardsmen led by Major Robert W. Tucker arrived from Hillsgrove, (Now T.F. Green State Airport.), and took over the scene.

Lieutenant Kirby had joined the 58 th FIS on May 25th, only seventeen days before the accident. He earned his pilots wings on February 25, 1949, and flew 102 missions as a combat fighter pilot in Korea with the 36th Fighter Squadron of the 8 th Fighter Wing. In all that time he had logged 925 flying hours and had never had any previous accidents.

Lieutenant Corba received his wings September 15, 1950, and joined the 58 th FIS October 16, 1950. Up to the date of the accident he had logged 505 hours of flight time. He had just celebrated his 23 rd birthday less than two weeks before the crash.

Lieutenant Braswell later went on to have a distinguished career with the U.S. Air Force, rising to the rank of Lieutenant General in command of the entire Pacific Air Forces, in charge of over 34,000 personnel, eight major air bases, and numerous other facilities.

In 1952 he was sent to Korea where he flew 155 combat missions, and later flew 40 additional combat missions in the Vietnam War in 1967. Overall, he logged more than 4,500 hours in the air, most in jet fighters. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, Defense Superior Medal, and the Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster. He retired October 1, 1983, with 33 years of service.

U.S. Air Force Accident Crash Investigation Report (51-6-13-1)

The Evening Bulletin, “Pilot In Crash Unhurt”, June 15, 1943, Page 3.

The Evening Bulletin, “520 MPH Jets Crash 30,000 Feet Over R.I.”(Two Pilots Parachute To Safety), June 13, 1951, Page 1.

The Woonsocket Call, Over Cumberland, Pilots Escape, Bullets Endanger Householders”, June 13, 1951

The Woonsocket Call, “Airmen Jump 10,000 Feet. Badly Injured”, June 13, 1951

The Woonsocket Call, “Jet Debris Moved, Abbott Run Serene”, June 14, 1951, Page 1.

The Woonsocket Call, “Probe Started In Cumberland Jet Air Crash”, June 15, 1951, Page 10.

USAAF A-2 Flying Jacket 352nd Fighter Group


About this Style: This A-2 style is one of the easier-wearing designs. Most body types can be accommodated in this style without major issues, though it may take some work to establish the correct size for a select number of customers.

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Tip 2: Please note that your chest circumference measure is not necessarily the labeled size you wear in another jacket you may own from a different maker or even the same maker, so please take the time to obtain your true chest circumference measure so as to compare to our chart of jacket measures this will enable us to perform a better job getting you the right size and minimize your chances in having to deal with the hassle and cost of exchanges.

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Captain David McCampbell, U.S. Navy

Hometown: Bessemer, Alabama

AKA: Commander of the “Fabled Fifteen”

Years of Service: 1933 to 1964

War: World War II

Confirmed Kills: 34

David McCampbell attended the U.S. Naval Academy and began his 31 years of service in 1934. He received his "Wings of Gold" in 1938. After that he joined Fighting Squadron 4 (VF-4), followed by a three-year tour as a Landing Service Officer (LSO) aboard the USS Wasp. In the spring of 1944, McCampbell commanded Carrier Air Group 15, also known as the “Fabled Fifteen.” While in command of the “Fabled Fifteen,” McCampbell personally accrued 34 victories. The group as a whole earned 318 victories in total.

McCampbell’s 34 aerial victories during his WWII missions made him the Navy's Ace of Aces. He was the only American airman to achieve "ace in a day" twice, one time shooting down seven Japanese bombers in a single afternoon. To add to his accomplishments, he shot down nine enemy aircraft in another mission, which was a new world record. He was an unstoppable force to be reckoned with, and was the highest scoring American ace to survive the war. In recognition of his contributions and service, he was personally presented the Medal of Honor by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

58th Fighter Group (USAAF) - History

The 459th Fighter Squadron (TE) was activated on paper in C.B.I, and Sept. 1, 1943, as a fourth squadron in the 80th Fighter Group (SE) which was at that time fighting the war from Assam. It was not until November 1st, however, that wheels turned and personnel from the 80th Group, 311th Fighter Bomber Group, and operational training units in the states commenced to assemble at its new base in Eastern Bengal . . . the 459th had broken out of its shell.

Then, as now, the squadron was truly representative of the United States, officers and men came from 43 states in the Union and some of the territories, including men from all walks of life. It was first commanded by Major John E. Fouts Jr. of Texas, holder of the Air Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, and a veteran of 34 months overseas service. Second in command was Captain Verl D. Luehring of Leavenworth, Kansas, with seven months of operational flying over Burma to his credit.

Efforts to secure supplies and equipment were undertaken at approximately the same time. Mid-November was set as the operational starting date, and in approximately three weeks, an outfit that has given the Jap many headaches was whipped into shape.

Willingness to work and interest in the squadron's welfare by officers and key enlisted men of the cadre did much to accomplish the many little things that can make or break a unit. This same effort also provided a strong foundation for the hectic days ahead, offsetting, to a great extent the lack of experience in crewing P-38s. It was this same spirit which made our pilots, inexperienced in twin engine fighters, successful in combat.

The entire squadron was bending its full efforts to the task of changing from a single engine to a twin engine outfit. The performance characteristics were tried and discussed ideas were sifted. On November 1943 the "Twin Dragons" came of age.

In later weeks, the Lightenings shot up various enemy strong points on the Irrawaddy. Points which were centers of communication and supply. The "Twin Dragons" followed up these raids by escorting mediums to important targets along the Rangoon-Prome rail line. The excellent example of the air discipline prevailing in the unit was given when four flights of 38's overcame the urge to leave the bombers in an effort to attack two enemy fighters observed.

The pattern of 38's operations was complete when the squadron dive-bombed two bridges on the Prome-Taungup road. One bridge was knocked out, the other damaged. All this was incidental to the damage affected by the strafing job. The wraps were taken off as they attacked buildings and installations along this important road. Some idea of the havoc created can be gained when you find that the Prome-Taungup road was the main line of supply for enemy troops in the Akyab area and from Taungup north to other equally vital positions. The glowing satisfaction at the good job well done was clouded by the loss of the more popular pilots. In addition, an engine of one P-38 was shot out and the pilot forced to fly 300 miles over enemy territory on a single engine.

Yes, those first few missions might be considered mild enough for simple escort work, dive-bombing, and strafing targets just beyond the Chin Hills. But the succeeding missions into Burma marked the Squadron's entrance into big time. In the series of raids against Rangoon in late November and early December, the Squadron was called upon to meet the enemy's best while still attempting to master its growing pain.

These raids were the longest known fighter escort operation at the time . . 1200 miles to the target and return. In addition, the "DRAGONS" were outnumbered and forced to protect bomber formations twice as large as their own. With only a few minutes gas for actual combat they still flew on to meet the enemy's crack squadrons from Thailand and Indo-China. That they acquitted themselves well is shown by the official figures of two enemy fighters destroyed and one probably destroyed . . . that many less to attempt breaking thru to the bombers. For several days after these missions, our efforts were the usual escort jobs that are so tedious to perform and yet require constant vigilance. Then a rush call from headquarters sent all available aircraft on a fighter sweep to an enemy airdrome in an effort to catch them on the ground after completing a raid over India. No aircraft were found but the boys took it out on the Japs by shooting up the airfield plus a large number of personnel. That, in addition, to sinking several supply boats on the Irrawaddy. Following this the squadron returned to routine operations enlivened only by contact with Jap planes near Mandalay, resulting in damaging of one enemy plane without loss to ourselves. Plus a strafing mission to Kanbalu railroad yards . . . important repair and servicing point for the Man-dalay-Myitkyina rail line.

On December 26, the squadron made a belated Christmas present to the Japs when they attacked the Anisakan Airdrome near Maymyo, headquarters for the enemy forces in Central Burma. If the Jap could have gotten out of his deep slit trenches to read the nickname on one of the 38's . . . Haleakala (Hawaiian for Fire God) he would have fervently agreed to the description. For the "Dragons" catching the Jap by surprise, strafed 11 of the 12 planes observed dispersed in the airdrome area and generally "messed up" their abode. The final count showed four enemy planes destroyed, three damaged, and four others attacked with unobserved results. All of our planes returned safely. We sustained damage to one plane as a result of flying too low. This caused one admiring enlisted man to remark "No wonder our pilots surprised the enemy . . . they flew through the forest."

The Twin Dragons had made their debut, now for the fire-works.

The December 26th visit of the Twin Dragons provided but a hint of its future performance, but from that date until February 15, 1944, the Lightnings once again lapsed into a routine of escort, dive-bombing lines of communication and supply, and air-ground support, highlighted by occasional big missions. On the latter date, the Squadron moved to Amarda Road for gunnery training.

It is worthy of note that Wing Commander F. R. Carey DSO, Commanding Officer of the school, predicted the bright future of the Twin Dragon Squadron. In a letter of commendation to the squadron, General Howard Davidson, Commanding General Tenth Air Force, cited the Wing Commander's remarks: "The keen, speedy, and altogether satisfactory manner in which pilots absorbed all instructions the general high standard of marksmanship displayed and the excellent maintenance throughout the course which resulted in no flying time being lost thru unserviceability." The comments of Mayor Luehring and many of the pilots of the 459th Fighter Squadron are excellent testimony to the valuable part this schooling played in their success on missions during March, April and May of 1944.

On March 4th, the Twin Dragons moved to Chittagong and became an integral part of 224 Group (RAF), and started the unit on its "beatup" of Jap airfields. In the period from March 11 to May 26, the squadron destroyed 123 planes, probably destroyed 20 and damaged 46, in 58 combat days. The record is all the more remarkable when it is considered that until recently the squadron operated at less than half strength in planes. For every day in which the squadron operated a combat mission, it averaged destruction of two enemy planes.

January 1945 saw the transfer of the Twin Dragons from Chittagong to a more forward and advantageous base on the India-Burma border . . . Rumkhapalong. This move marked the beginning of a new phase in the campaign to drive the Japs out of Burma. The rough edges have been worn off the little "Sons of Heaven" now it was time to polish them off.

The Japanese Air Force was no longer a threat. Thus, it is here that the change in operational needs and methods since the previous year comes evident. The fact of the matter is that, like many fighter squadrons the 459th did, of necessity becomes bombers, bridge-busters, and ground support specialists. But even in this they excelled.

During the month of February, the Twin Dragons completed one nine-day phase of bridge-busting during which 11 vital rail and road bridges were permanently put out of commission. Only one week later the squadron established another record by destroying three similar bridges in a single day.

Further reports described the extent of damage inflicted on Jap installations during the week of 1 April to 7 April when the Squadron was commissioned to attack troop concentrations and ammunition dumps on two separate instances. On both occasions bombing and strafing spread tremendous fires throughout the entire target areas, the smoke rising to 10,000 feet. Information from reliable sources indicated that well over 500 Jap casualties were effected, and essential facilities and material (including considerable amounts of petrol) were demolished. Pilots unceasingly reported, upon returning from these missions, the destruction, havoc, and panic caused by their fierce attacks.

Thus has been the story of the Twin Dragons Captain Walter F. Duke, the Dragon with the sharpest claws, is missing in action. Before he failed to return to his base, 22-year-old Duke, destroyed 10 Japs in the air and nine on the ground to become the India-Burma Theater's leading ace. In addition, he probably destroyed or damaged nine other Nips.

Of the other "Dragons" aces, Major Maxwell H. Glenn's record of eight decisions in the air and ten on the ground is the most spectacular, for he bagged five Jap aircraft on one mission. Major Hampton E. Boggs also had nine kills in the air, three on one mission, and four aground. Captain Harry H. Sealy's total is ten in the air and on the ground. Major Willard J. Webb joined the Ace ranks with five Nips in the air and added three on the ground for good measure.

During all of the past operations, teamwork is exemplified by the willingness to sacrifice individual records while advancing that of the Squadron. On a number of occasions, deep in enemy territory, individual pilots turned back in an effort to save a crippled teammate. That it was extremely dangerous is shown by the fact that several were shot down in the attempt. The knowledge that each could expect the maximum of aid from his fellow pilots produced the closest cooperation.

Effective leadership in the final analysis consists of proper use of material and personnel and to gain the maximum striking force against the enemy. This, the "Twin Dragons" have done.

There is no knowing what the ultimate mission and destination of the Twin Dragons would be in Southeast Asia. But based on their past performances, it seemed a safe guess that before the Allied Airforces were finished with the Japanese, the 459th Fighter Squadron would have had ample opportunity to increase the tally of 152/25/75.

Such was the "trouncing" given to the J.A.F. during these weeks that he did not attempt to continue using the SHWEBO group of strips which would be the natural and best area from which to mount operations in support of troops in the Imphal Valley. Anisakan, another very important enemy airbase, became less popular to his Air Units and even the forces at Meiktila and Heho were radically pared. By the end of May, the Japanese Air Command had been forced into the humiliating position of giving, from Air Units based on comparatively secure Rangoon strips, ineffective and fleeting support to their army 600 miles away in the Northern mountains. The Japanese air strength had been completely neutralized in Burma.

Yet another high point in the history of the Twin Dragons was their high standard of performance in providing close support for the USAAF and RAF Liberators. To quote from their own (bombers) operational report "The fighter escort was acclaimed by all crew members to have been superb throughout the operations, and no suggestions were made for improvement. This versatile squadron, which has been distingushed for many other uses, smothered threats to the bombers, which, if allowed to get through, unquestionably would have caused many casualties."

Another similar report reads thus: "Fighter opposition was kept well in hand by the P-38 escort. Just after the bomb-run, a force of about 12 enemy fighters was seen approaching in loose formation from about 9 o'clock, 2,000 feet below. So successful were the P-38's in breaking up this threat that at no time was the enemy able to press home more than spasmodic and uncoordinated attacks. In fact, the bomber crews of the 355th and 356th credit the fighter escort with at least three destroyed, although any three probables are claimed by the P-38's.

It would be difficult to select any one factor as being responsible for the "Twin Dragon's" success. Good leadership, airplane-pilot superiority, teamwork, Jap psychology, and eagerness of the pilots to strike a blow against the Japs all enter into the picture. Neither can the superior record of maintenance consistently maintained in the face of adverse conditions be praised too highly.

Certainly the twin engine P-38 with its 20mm. cannon and 4 Cal. 50's has played havoc among Jap planes and airfields. Its ruggedness and durability have brought back more than 20 pilots on one engine. Capt. Cox, flight leader on a beat-up of enemy airfields in the Bangkok area, established what is believed to be a world's record by flying on single engine over 600 miles of enemy territory. This was accomplished after having received a direct hit from small arms fire during a low-level strafing attack on the Jap "Dum-Dum" of Thailand.

These qualities inspired in the pilots a confidence that allowed them to utilize its qualities to the best advantage. This, combined with superior marksmanship, gave them the edge. Time and again, Jap planes had been in a position to deliver a "kill" shot at close range, but were unable to effect it before being driven off or destroyed. Rarely, when in the same relative position, would our pilots fail.

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