The 1stFighter Group was organized as the 1st Pursuit Group in France on May 5, 1918. It was demobilized in France on December 1918 and redesignated the 1stPursuit Group (Interceptor) in December 1939, and 1stPursuit Group (Fighter) in March 1941. The group trained, participated in exercises and maneuvers, put on demonstrations, took part in National Air Races, tested equipment, and experimented with tactics, using Spad, Nieuport, DeHavilland, SE-5, MB-3, PW-8, P-I, P-6, PT-3, P-16, P-26, P-35, P-36, P-38, P-41, P-43, and other aircraft during the period 1919-1941. It was the only pursuit group in the Army’s air arm for several years; later, furnished cadres for new units. It moved to the west coast immediately after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and flew patrols for several weeks. It was redesignated 1stFighter Group in May 1942 and moved to England, between June and July 1942, assigned to the Eighth Air Force.
It entered combat with P-38 aircraft on August 28 and flew a number of missions to France before being assigned to Twelfth Air Force for duty in the Mediterranean Theater. The group moved to North Africa, part of the ground echelon landing with the assault forces at Arzeu beach on November 8, 1942. The air echelon arrived a few days later and the group soon began operations, attacking enemy shipping, escorting bombers, flying strafing missions, and performing reconnaissance duties during the campaign for Tunisia. The group participated in the reduction of Pantelleria. It escorted bombers to targets in Sicily and later aided ground forces during the conquest of that island by strafing and dive-bombing roads, motor transports, gun emplacements, troop concentrations, bridges, and railways.
The group flew missions against the enemy in Italy and received a Distinguished Unit Citation for its performance on August 25, 1943 when the group carried out a strafing attack on Italian airdromes, destroying great numbers of enemy aircraft that presented a serious threat to the Allies’ plans for landing troops at Salerno. The group also escorted bombers to Italy, receiving another Distinguished Unit Citation for a mission on August 30, 1943 when the group beat off enemy aircraft and thus enabled bombers to inflict serious damage on marshalling yards at Aversa. The group supported the invasion at Salerno in September and continued operations with the Twelfth Air Force until November 1943. Assigned to the Fifteenth Air Force with the primary mission of escorting bombers that attacked targets in Italy, France, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Rumania, Yugoslavia, and Greece. The group received its third Distinguished Unit Citation for covering the withdrawal of B-17s after an attack on Ploesti on May 18, 1944. The group also flew strafing and dive-bombing missions in an area from France to the Balkans. Supported the landings at Anzio in January 1944 and the invasion of Southern France in August 1944. It continued operations until May 1945 and was inactivated in Italy on October 16, 1945.
Campaigns: Air Combat, EAME Theater; Air Offensive, Europe; Algeria-French Morocco; Tunisia; Sicily; Naples-Foggia; Anzio; Rome-Arno; Normandy; Northern France; Southern France; North Apennines; Rhineland; Central Europe; Po Valley