Activated on October 1, 1942 and equipped with P-40 Warhawks, the 350th, 351st, and 352ndFighter Squadrons of the 353rdFighter Group served as continental air defense before moving to England during May and June of 1943. Re-equipped with P-47 Thunderbolts and assigned to the Eighth Air Force, the 353rdbegan combat operations in August 1943. It regularly escorted bombers that attacked industrial establishments, marshalling yards, submarine installations, V-weapon sites, and other targets while itself frequently strafing and dive-bombing buildings, troops, flak batteries, barges and tug boats, locomotives and rail lines, vehicles, bridges, and airfields.
The group participated in the intensive campaign against the German Air Force and aircraft industry during “Big Week” (February 20- 25, 1944). From this point it increased ground attack sorties in preparation for the invasion of Normandy. During this invasion the 353rd provided cover over the beachhead and close air support. The group also supported the breakthrough at St. Lo in July, and received a Distinguished Unit Citation for supporting the airborne attack on Holland in September. During this operation the group protected bombers and troop carriers and strafed and dive-bombed ground targets.
In October the 353rdconverted to the P-51 Mustang and continued fighter-bomber, escort, and counter-air missions. The group participated in the Battle of the Bulge during December 1944 to January 1945, and in the airborne attack across the Rhine in March. The 353rdFighter Group remained in the theater until October and inactivated in the United States on October 18.
Campaigns: Air Offensive, Europe; Normandy; Northern France; Rhineland; Ardennes-Alsace; Central Europe