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31st Fighter Group

The 31stPursuit Group (Interceptor) was constituted on December 22, 1939 and activated on February 1, 1940. The group trained with P-39s and participated in maneuvers. The group was re-designated the 31stFighter Group in May 1942 and moved to England, May - June 1942. The group was assigned to the Eighth Air Force and equipped with Spitfires.

U.S. Army Air Corps Bell P-39D Airacobra fighters of the 31st Pursuit Group at Selfridge Field, Michigan in 1941.

The group entered combat in August 1942 and supported a raid made by Canadian, British, American, and French forces at Dieppe on August 19. The group escorted bombers and flew patrol and diversionary missions until October. It was assigned to the Twelfth Air Force for the invasion of North Africa, the pilots of the group flying Spitfires from Gibraltar to Algeria on November 8, 1942 and the ground echelon landing at Arzeu beach the same day. The group attacked motor transports, gun positions, and troop concentrations during the three-day campaign for Algeria and French Morocco. It helped to defeat Axis forces in Tunisia by supporting ground troops and providing cover for bomber and fighter aircraft. During May and June 1943, the group provided escort for bombers on raids to Pantelleria and cover for naval convoys in the Mediterranean. The group supported the landings on Sicily in July and took part in the conquest of that island. The group covered the landings at Salerno early in September 1943 and at Anzio in January 1944. The group also operated in close support of Allied ground forces in Italy and flew patrol and escort missions.

An Mk. V. Spitfire of the 309th Fighter Squadron, 31st Fighter Group Spitfire in North Africa, May 1943.
Major Sam J. Brown, Commanding Officer of the 307th Fighter Squadron, 31st Fighter Group, before leaving on a mission over Vienna, Austria. June 13, 1944.

It was assigned to the Fifteenth Air Force in April 1944, converted to P-51s, and thereafter engaged primarily in escort work. It received a Distinguished Unit Citation for a mission on April 21, 1944 when the group, despite the severe weather that was encountered, provided cover for a force of heavy bombers during a raid on production centers in Rumania. On numerous other occasions, the group escorted bombers that attacked objectives in Italy, France, Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Rumania, Yugoslavia, and Greece. In addition, it provided escort for reconnaissance aircraft and for C-47s engaged in the airborne operation connected with the invasion of Southern France.

North American P-51 Mustang fighters of the 31st Fighter Group in formation over Italy, c. December 1944.

The group also flew strafing missions against airdromes and communications targets, and took part in an operation in which a task force from the Fifteenth Air Force attacked targets in Rumania while flying to Russia on July 22, 1944 and while returning to Italy on July 26. On July 25, after escorting P-38s from a base in Russia for a raid on an airdrome in Poland, the 31st group made attacks on a convoy of German trucks and on a force of German fighter-bombers, being awarded a DUC for its performance. The group strafed rail and highway traffic in northern Italy in April 1945 when Allied forces were engaged in their final offensive in that area. The group returned to the United States in August and was inactivated on November 7, 1945.

A North American P-51 Mustang of the 31st Fighter Group in flight over Italy, c. December 1944.

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.