Sub-sub-fonds - 4th Fighter Group (Debden)

Radford, Hubert

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4th Fighter Group (Debden)


  • nd [1942-1945] (Creation)

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2 volumes

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Administrative history

Part of the United States Army Air Force 2nd Air Division, 8th Air Force.
Part of the 65th Fighter Wing. Constituted the 4th Fighter Group 1942 and activated in England 12 September 1942. Included members of RAF Eagle Squadrons. Served in combat October 1942 to April 1945. Returned to the United States in November 1945 and deactivated on 10 November 1945. Activated on 9 September 1946 for duties in the Korean war. Redesignated the 4th Fighter-Bomber Group in March 1955.
Based at Bushy Hall, 12 Sep 1942. Debden, September 1942. Steeple Morden, Norfolk, July ? 1943-November 1945.
Outline history:
Constituted as 4th Fighter Group on 22 August 1942. The 4th Fighter Group, known as 'The Eagles,' was the only American figher unit activated in an active theatre of combat, on 12 September 1942, at Bushey Hall, Hertfordshire, which was headquarters of the Eighth Air Force (hereafter the 8th Air Force) Fighter Command in England. It was officially formed on 29 September 1942 from the 71st, 121st and 133rd RAF Eagle Squadrons (RAF fighter squadrons made up of volunteer pilots from the United States) and was therefore the oldest Group in the 8th Air Force. Its ground echelon was formed from that of the 50th Fighter Squadron, 14th Fighter Group, RAF Atcham.
From the end of July 1945, the Group was gradually run down and aircraft were flown to depots before the Group returned to the United States, November 1945. Many personnel sailed on the 'Queen Mary' from Southhampton on 4 November 1945, arriving in New York, 9 November 1945. The Group was deactivated at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey on 10 November 1945.
After the Secord World War, the Group was re-activated in September 1946 as a P-80 jet fighter group. It converted to flying F-86s in 1949 and operated in the Korean War, from 1950 to 1954, where it destroyed 506 Migs in air combat. The Group then returned to United States and later became the first Fighter Wing to operate F-105s. Some squadrons were detached from the Group to fly in the Vietnam War.
Key missions:
The Group flew its first combat mission on 2 October 1942. It was the first 8th Air Force fighter group to engage enemy aricraft over Berlin and Paris, and the first to penetrate German air space, 28 July 1943. On numerous occasions the Group escorted bombers that attacked factories, submarine pens, V-weapon sites, and other targets in France, the Low Countries, and Germany. It sometimes went out with a small force of bombers to draw up the enemy's fighters so that they could be destroyed in aerial combat. At other times the Group attacked the enemy's air power by strafing and dive-bombing airfields. It also hit troops, supply depots, roads, bridges, rail lines, and trains.
The Group participated in the intensive campaign against the German Air Force and aircraft industry during the 'Big Week', 20 February 1944-25 February 1944. It flew diversion and counter-air missions during the invasion of Normandy in June 1944 and supported the airborne invasion of Holland (Netherlands) in September 1944. The Group also flew during the Battle of the Bulge, December 1944-January 1945, and airborne assault across the Rhine in March 1945.
Fighter Squadrons:
334th Fighter Squadron: 1942-1945; 1946-.
335th Fighter Squadron: 1942-1945; 1946-.
336th Fighter Squadron: 1942-1945; 1946-.
Bushy Hall, 12 Sep 1942.
Debden (Army Air Force Station no. 356), 29 September 1942-20 July 1945.
Steeple Morden (Army Air Force Station no. 122), 20 July-4 November 1945.
Great Sampford (Army Air Force Station no. 359), 23 September 1942-30 October 1942.
Aircraft flown:
At first the group flew Spitfires but changed to flying P-47s in March 1943 and to P-51s in April 1944:
Spitfire V, September 1942-1 April 1943.
P-47C, 10 March 1943-February 1944.
P-47D, June 1943-February 1944.
P-51B, 25 February 1944.
P-51D, June 1944.
P-51K, December 1944.
Group Commanders:
Col Edward W. Anderson, 27 September 1942-20 August 1943.
Col Chesley C. Peterson, 20 August-23 December 1943.
Col Donald J.M. Blakeslee, 1 January-1 November 1944.
Lt Col Claiborne H. Kinnard Jun., 1 November-6 December 1944.
Lt Col Harry J. Dayhuff, 7 December 1944-21 February 1945.
Col Everett W. Stewart, 21 February-September 1945.
Lt Col William E. Becker, September-November 1945.
Major Awards:
Distinguished Unit Citation for aggressiveness in seeking out and destroying enemy aircraft and in attacking enemy air bases (the Group destroyed 189 enemy aircraft, and 134 ground aircraft), 5 March 1944-24 April 1944.
Other information:
The Group's combined totals of air and ground claims of enemy aircraft were over 1,000: the highest for the United States Army Air Force at that time.

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This section contains printed histories of the 4th Fighter Group and 4th Tactical Fighter Wing.

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Select Bibliography:
Published Unit Histories for the 4th Fighter Group: Garry L. Fry and Jeffrey Ethell, 'Escort to Berlin' (Arco, New York, 1980). A reference copy is available in the Norfolk Record Office searchroom.
Garry L. Fry, 'The Debden Eagles: 4th Fighter Group in World War II' (Walker-Smith, Wittier, California, 1970); and Grover C. Hall, '1000 Destroyed: the Life and Times of the 4th Fighter Group' (Morgan, Fallbrook, California, 1946). The Norfolk Record Office does not have copies of these publications but there are copies in the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library's collection, available through the Norfolk Library Service.
Websites giving further information about the 4th Fighter Group and on which this administrative history of the Group is based [accessed 4 August 2010]:
8th Air Force:
Eighth Air Force Historical Society:
Fourth Fighter Group:
Little Friends:
Eighth Air Force Historical Society:

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