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36th Fighter Group

The 36thFighter Group served in the Caribbean early in the war, providing air defense and anti-submarine patrols with P-39 Airacobras and P-40 Warhawks. It returned to the United States in mid-1943 to re-equip with the P-47 Thunderbolt. During March and April 1944, the 36thand its three squadrons, the 22nd, 23rd, and 53rd, moved to England and joined the Ninth Air Force. The 36thoperated primarily as fighter-bombers, strafing and dive-bombing armored vehicles, trains, bridges, buildings, factories, troop concentrations, gun emplacements, airfields, and other targets. The 36thflew some escort missions, and starting in May flew armed reconnaissance, escort, and interdictory missions in preparation for the Normandy Invasion.

A P-47D of the 23rd Fighter Squadron, 36th Fighter Group, being serviced at a captured airbase in Germany, c. 1945.

In June the 36thprovided air cover over the Normandy landing zones and flew close-support and interdictory missions. It moved to France in July, and flew missions in support of the breakthrough at St. Lo and the thrust of Third Army toward Germany in August and September. The 36threceived a Distinguished Unit Citation (DUC) for operations in September when it attacked German columns south of the Loire and disrupted the enemy’s retreat across France. The 36thmoved to Belgium in October, and supported Ninth Army. It participated in the Battle of the Bulge from December 1944 through January 1945, flying armed reconnaissance and close-support missions.

A Republic P-47 Thunderbolt from the 36th Fighter Group taking off from Niedermendig, Germany c. 1945.

The 36th supported First Army’s push across the Rhine River in February, and supported operations at the Remagen bridgehead and during the airborne assault across the Rhine in March. It received a second DUC for its performance on April 12, when the group, operating in the face of intense antiaircraft fire, relentlessly attacked airfields in southern Germany, and destroyed a large hangar and numerous aircraft. The group remained in Europe for several months after V-E Day.

A P-47D of the 22nd Fighter Squadron, 36th Fighter Group is extricated from the mud at Le Culot airfield, Belgium in December of 1944.

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