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339th Fighter Group

Activated as the 339thBombardment Group (Dive) equipped with A-24 Banshee (Dauntless) and A-25 Helldiver dive-bombers on August 10, 1942 the 339thconverted to P-39 Airacobras in July 1943. Redesignated the 339th Fighter-Bomber Group in August, the 339thand its three squadrons, the 503rd, 504th, and 505th, moved to England during March and April 1944. In England it was assigned to the Eighth Air Force and re-equipped with P-51 Mustangs. The 339thbegan combat operations with a fighter sweep on April 30.

Section of the 503rd Fighter Squadron, 339th Fighter Group in-flight. Pilots from L to R are: Lt. Ethelbert Graham Jr, Lt. John R. Byers, Lt. Jerry P. Bush and Capt. Clarence W. Knott. c. 1944-1945.

It was re-designated the 339thFighter Group in May. It engaged primarily in escort duties during its first five weeks of operations, and flew missions to cover medium and heavy bombers striking strategic targets, enemy communications, and combat formations. The 339thfrequently strafed airdromes and other targets of opportunity while on escort missions. It received a Distinguished Unit Citation for operations on September 10 and 11, when the group, while escorting bombers to targets in Germany, attacked airdromes near Erding and Karlsruhe and destroyed or damaged numerous enemy aircraft despite intense anti-aircraft fire. The group also shot down or drove off enemy interceptors attacking the bombers under its charge. 

Captain Peters chats with his ground crew near the cockpit of his North American P-51 of the 339th Fighter Group at the Eighth Air Force Station F-378 in England on July 16, 1944.

The 339thprovided fighter cover over the English Channel and the coast of Normandy during the invasion of June 1944, and strafed or dive-bombed vehicles, locomotives, marshalling yards, antiaircraft batteries, and troops. It attacked transportation targets as Allied armies drove across France after the St. Lo breakthrough in July, and flew area patrols during the airborne attack on Holland in September.

Capt. Joseph G. Farrell, 503rd Fighter Squadron, 339th Fighter Group, seen here at the head of a line of 503rd aircraft at Bassingbourn, England during the winer of 1944 or early 1945.

The 339thescorted bombers during the German counterattack in the Ardennes from December 1944 through January 1945, and provided area patrols during the assault across the Rhine in March. Among all these varied duties, the outstanding feature of this group’s combat record is the large number of enemy aircraft it destroyed in the air or on the ground during its one year of operations. The 339thFighter Group returned to the United States in October and inactivated on October 18.

Pilots of the 339th Fighter Group stand beside the North American P-51 'Fabasca' at their airbase in England on October 16, 1944. From L to R left to right: Captain Burnsey, Major Gravette, Major Reynolds and Captain Peters.

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