Sub-sub-fonds - 56th Fighter Group (Boxted)

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56th Fighter Group (Boxted)


  • 20th century (Creation)

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170 papers; 38 photographs; 2 audio recordings; 1 fabric patch

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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 as the 56th Pursuit Group (Interceptor) 20th November 1940. Activated 15th January 1941at Savannah air base, Georgia. Redesignated the 56th Fighter Group May 1942. Moved to England December 1942 to January 1943. Flew its final combat mission on 21 April 1945. Returned to the United States in October 1945. Deactivated at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey 18 October 1945.
Activated on 1 May 1946 and redesignated 56th Interceptor Group in January 1950 and inactivated 6 February 1952. Redesignated the 56th Fighter Group 18 August 1955.
Based at Horsham St Faiths, Norfolk, c 6 April 1943. Halesworth, c 9 July 1943 and Boxted, Essex, c 19 April 1944- October 1945.
Outline history:
The Group was activated on 15 January 1941, at Savannah Army Air Base, and moved to Charlotte Army Air Force Base, North Carolina, in May 1941, following which the Group was expanded and equipped with P-39 and P-40 aircraft. They also trained at Charleston, South Carolina, in December 1941, and flew defence patrols from Michel Field, New York, c. January-June 1942. The Group transferred to Bridgeport, Connecticut, at the beginning of July 1942 to test and train early P-47 aircraft. Group personnel sailed to England on the 'Queen Elizabeth', 6 January 1943, arriving in Gourock, Scotland, on 11 January 1943. From September 1945, aircraft were sent to depots and the Group returned to the United States in October 1945, sailing on the 'Queen Mary', and arriving in New York on 16 October 1945. The Group was deactivated on 18 October 1945.
After the Second World War, the Group was established at Selfridge Field, Michigan, and flew P-47s and P-51s until 1947, after which they flew P-80s. They moved to O'Hare, Illinois, in August 1955 and were equipped with F-86Ds. They were then re-established as the 62nd Fighter Intercepter Squadron, flying F-101 Vodoos until 1969.
Key missions:
The Group flew its first mission, a fighter sweep in the area of St Omer, France, on 13 April 1943, and its last mission, 21 April 1945. It flew a total of 447 combat missions with the loss of 128 aircraft. The Group's main role was to escort bombers attacking industrial targets, weapons sites and transport networks in France, Germany and the Low Countries. They also strafed and dive-bombed targets including airfields, troops and supplies and flew area patrols. The Group supported allied forces during the invasion of Normandy, June 1944, the breakthrough at St Lo, July 1944, and the Battle of the Bulge, December 1944-January 1945. In March 1945, they assisted in the defence of the Remagen (also known as the Ludendorff) bridgehead against air attacks.
Fighter Squadrons:
61st Fighter Squadron: 1942-1945; 1946-1952.
62nd Fighter Squadron: 1942-1945; 1946-1952; 1955-.
63rd Fighter Squadron: 1942-1945; 1946-1952; 1955-.
Aircraft types flown:
P-47C 5, February-April 1943.
P-47D, January 1943 to March 1945.
P-47M, January-September 1945.
Kings Cliffe, Northamptonshire (Army Air Force Station no. 367), 13 January-5 April 1943.
Horsham St Faith, Norfolk (Army Air Force Station no. 123), 5 April-8 July 1943.
Halesworth, Suffolk (Army Air Force Station no. 365), 8 July 1943-18 April 1944.
Boxted, Essex (Army Air Force Station no. 150), 18 April 1944-9 September 1945.
Little Walden, Essex (Army Air Force Station no. 165), 9 September-10 October 1945.
Group Commanders:
Col Hubert Zemke, 1 September 1942-30 October 1943.
Col Robert B. Landry, 30 October 1943-11 January 1944.
Col Hubert Zemke, 19 January-12 August 1944.
Col. David C. Schilling, 12 August 1944-27 January 1945.
Lt Col Lucian A. Dade Jun., 27 January-August 1945.
Lt Col Donald D. Renwick, August-October 1945.
Major Awards:
Distinguished Unit Citation for destroying 98 enemy aircraft, 20 February 1944-9 March 1944.
Distinguished Unit Citation for invasion of Holland (Netherlands) in support of airborne forces, 18 September 1944.
Other information:
The Group had more fighter aces than any other Fighter Group assigned to the 2nd Air Division and top Scoring fighter aces Francis Gabreski and Robert Johnson flew with this Group.
The 56th Fighter Group's 647 aerial victories ranked them at the top of the 8th Air Force in that category and they finished second only to the 4th Fighter Group in combined air and ground victories.

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This section contains records relating to the 56th Fighter Group.

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Publication note

Select Bibliography:
Unit Histories: For a more detailed history of the 56th Fighter Group, see Larry Davis, 'The 56th Fighter Group' (Carrollton, Texas Squadron/Signal Publications, 1991). A reference copy is available in the Norfolk Record Office searchroom. For a copy of Robert S. Johnson, 'Flying the P-47 Thunderbolt with the 56th Fighter Group in World War II' (Ballantine, 1959), see MC 371/906.
See also, 'The 56th Fighter Group in World War II' (Infantry Journal Press, 1948) and William Hess, 'Zemke's Wolfpack' (Motorbooks, 1992). The Norfolk Record Office does not hold copies of these publications. However, there are copies in the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library's collection, available through the Norfolk Library Service.
Published Memoirs:
There are many published 56th Fighter Group memoirs. A selection is listed in James T. Controvich, 'The United States Air Force and Its Antecedents' (Maxwell Air Force Base, 1991). Please note that this publication is not available at the Norfolk Record Office.
Websites giving further information about the 56th Fighter Group and on which this administrative history of the Group is based [accessed 4 August 2010]:
56th Fighter Group:
8th Air Force:
Eighth Air Force Historical Society:
Little Friends:

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