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20th Fighter Group

The 20thFighter Group was authorized on the inactive list as the 20thBalloon Group on October 18, 1927. It was re-designated as the 20thPursuit Group in 1929 and activated on November 15, 1930. It was again re-designated as the 20thPursuit Group (Fighter) in 1939, the 20thPursuit Group (Interceptor) in 1941, and 20thFighter Group in 1942. The group was equipped successively with P-12, P-26, and P-36 aircraft prior to World War II; it used P- 39s and P-40s during the early part of the war. The group converted to P-38s in January 1943. The 20thtrained, participated in maneuvers and tactical exercises, and took part in aerial reviews and demonstrations during the period of 1930 to 1939, and provided personnel for and helped to train new units during 1940 to 1941. It served as an air defense organization after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It began intensive training late in 1942 for combat duty overseas.

Formation photo of 77th Fighter Squadron P-51s over Deenethorpe, England.

The group moved to England in August 1943 and became part of the Eighth Air Force. It entered combat with P-38s late in December and for several months was engaged primarily in escorting heavy and medium bombers to targets on the continent. The group frequently strafed targets of opportunity while on escort missions. It retained escort as its primary function until the end of the war, but in March 1944, the group began to fly fighter-bomber missions, which became almost as frequent as escort operations. It strafed and dive-bombed airfields, trains, vehicles, barges, tugs, bridges, flak positions, gun emplacements, barracks, radio stations, and other targets in France, Belgium, and Germany. 

Pictured is Lt. Andrew B Donnellan, 79th Fighter Squadron, 20th Fighter Group from Brooklyn, NY who flew a P-51D. 1944-1945

The 20thbecame known as the “Loco Group” because of its numerous and successful attacks on locomotives. The group received a Distinguished Unit Citation for performance on April 8 when the group struck airfields in central Germany and then, after breaking up an attack by enemy interceptors, proceeded to hit railroad equipment, oil facilities, power plants, factories, and other targets. It flew patrols over the English Channel during the invasion of Normandy in June. The group supported the invasion force later that month by escorting bombers that struck interdictory targets in France, Belgium, and Holland, and by attacking troops, transportation targets, and airfields. 

Lt. Arthur W Heiden of the 79th Fighter Squadron shakes hands with crew chief T/Sgt. Max Pyles in front of his plane, "Lucky Lady". Other crew members are Sgt. Cavalier (rad), S/Sgt. Birdwell (a.c.c.) and Sgt. Fink (arm).

The group converted to P-51s in July and continued to fly escort and fighter-bomber missions as the enemy retreated across France to the Siegfried Line. It participated in the airborne attack on Holland in September; escorted bombers to Germany and struck rail lines, trains, vehicles, barges, power stations, and other targets in and beyond the Siegfried Line during the period of October to December; took part in the Battle of the Bulge from December 1944 to January 1945, by escorting bombers to the battle area; flew patrols to support the airborne attack across the Rhine, March; and, carried out escort and fighter-bomber missions as enemy resistance collapsed in April. The group returned to the United States in October and was inactivated on October 18.

Pilots of the 77th Fighter Squadron, 20th Fighter Group at Kings Cliffe circa late 1944- early 1945.

Campaigns: American Theater; Air Offensive, Europe; Normandy; Northern France; Rhineland; Ardennes-Alsace; Central Europe

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