- 1979-1998 (Creation)
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Part of the United States Army Air Force 2nd Air Division, 8th Air Force.
? Part of the 65th Fighter Wing. Constituted and activated on 12 November 1942. Moved to England in July 1943. The 355th FG was operational until 25 April 1945. Subsequently retained by the United States Air Force for duties in Europe and became part of the army occupation of Germany from July 1945. Returned to the United States on 1 August 1946 and deactivated on 20 November 1946. Subsequently redesignated 355th Fighter Group (Air Defense) and activated on 18 August 1955.
Based at Steeple Mordern air field, Norfolk (formerly RAF), July 1943-c July 1945. Renamed Air Force Station F-122. In c July 1945 the air field was taken over by the 4th Fighter Group. In November 1945 the airfield was handed back to the RAF.
The 355th Fighter Group, known as 'The Steeple Morden Strafers,' was constituted and activated on 12 November 1942. However, it can trace its roots back to the First Pursuit Group of the First World War. The 355th Fighter Group trained in Orlando, Florida, and flew P-47s from Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) Richmond (Virginia) and Millville (New Jersey). It moved oversees from 1 July 1943, where it was assigned to the Eighth Air Force (hereafter the 8th Air Force) and stationed at Steeple Morden. The 355th Fighter Group moved into Steeple Morden with P-47D Thunderbolt aircraft, but it took some time for them to become operational because of a shortage in the supply of aeroplanes. Please note that there are some variations between sources about the early formation of the 355th Fighter Group.
The Group flew its first mission, a fighter sweep over Belgium, in 14 September 1943. They were re-equipped with P-51 Mustang aircraft and went on to become one of the most successful fighter units of the Second World War, strafing aircraft on the ground. Aircraft from this Group were also used to escort bombers on the mission to oilfields at Ploesti, Romania, 1 August 1943.
The Group's main role was to provide escort for bombers attacking industrial areas in Germany including Berlin, marshalling yards at Karlsruhe, an airfield at Neuberg, oil refineries at Misburg, synthetic oil plants at Gelsenkirchen and locks at Minden. The Group supported the allied landings on D-Day, during the Normandy invasion, June 1944, and the breakthrough at St Lo, July 1944. Their last combat mission was flown on 25 April 1945. The Group moved to Germany in July 1945, as part of the army of occupation, and was deactivated on 20 November 1946.
354th Fighter Squadron: 1942-1946; 1955-.
357th Fighter Squadron: 1942-1946.
358th Fighter Squadron (later the 56th): 1942-1946.
469th Fighter Squadron: 1955.
The Group's first commanding officer was Col William J. Cummings jun., 12 November 1942-4 November 1944. During the Second World War the Group was also commanded by:
Lt Col Everett W. Stewart, 4 November 1944-21 February 1945.
Lt Col Claiborne H. Kinnard jun., 21 February-7 June 1945.
Lt Col William D. Gilchrist, from 7 June-September 1945.
Aircraft types flown:
The 355th Fighter Group mainly flew P-47 Thunderbolts and later P-51 Mustangs.
Distinguished Unit Citation, 5 April 1944, for an attack on a German airfield.
Steeple Morden, Essex (Army Air Force Station no. 122), 8 July 1943 to 3 July 1945.
The 355th Fighter Group lost 175 aircraft in action, claimed 365 air and 502 ground kills, the highest score of enemy aircraft destroyed on the ground by an 8th Air Force Fighter Group.
Steeple Morden Airfield:
Construction of Steeple Morden Airfield was completed in 1940 as a satellite station to Bassingbourn. The RAF operated an Operational Training Unit (11OTU) flying Wellington bombers from the airfield until September 1942. In October 1942, the United States Army Air Force's (USAAF) 12th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron, and the 15th Photographic Mapping Squadron of the 3rd Photographic Group, arrived under the command of Col Elliott C. Roosevelt. They were then joined by the 5th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron. These squadrons were to stay at Steeple Morden very briefly, until 30th November 1942. Between January 1943 and April 1943, the airfield was again occupied by the RAF, this time by an Operational Training Unit (17OTU) flying Blenheim Bombers. In July 1943, the USAAF returned to the airfield (renaming it Station F-122) with the 355th Fighter Group which remained there until 1945.
Records donated to the 2nd Air division Memorial Library by anonymous and unknown donors unless noted otherwise.
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This section contains records relating to memorials erected to the memory of 355th Fighter Group personnel.
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Unit Histories: for a more detailed history of the 355th Fighter Group, see Bill Marshall, 'Angels, Bulldogs and Dragons: The 355th FG in World War II (Mesa, Arizona, Champlin Fighter Museum, 1984). In particular, see MC 376/269 for an archive copy of this publication. Ken Wells, 'Steeple Morden Strafers, 1943-1945, 2nd edition (Bishops Stortford , East Anglian Books, 1996). Reference copies of these publications are available in the Norfolk Record Office Searchroom. There are also copies in the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library's collection, available through the Norfolk Library Service.
Articles: For a short history of the 355th Fighter Group, see MC 376/268, 'Pieces of Eight. Steeple Morden Strafers Return', 355th Fighter Group Association, vol. 2, no. 1 (1981).
Websites giving further information about the 355th Fighter Group and on which this administrative history of the Group is based [accessed 4 August 2010]:
355th Fighter Group: http://355fg.com/.
Control Towers: www.controltowers.co.uk/S/Steeple_Morden.htm
<8th Air Force: http://www.usaaf.com/8thaf/fighter/355fg.HTM>.
Eighth Air Force Historical Society: http://www.8thafhs.org/fighter/355fg.htm.
Little Friends: http://www.littlefriends.co.uk.
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