Activated on December 1, 1942, the 357th Fighter Group trained with P-39 Airacobras in preparation for duty overseas. With its three squadrons, the 362nd, 363rd, and 364th, the group moved to England in November 1943. It re-equipped with P-51 Mustangs, and served briefly with the Ninth Air Force before transferring to the Eighth Air Force. Combat operations with the Eighth Air Force began on February 11, 1944, with a fighter sweep over Rouen. The 357thserved primarily in a fighter escort role, providing penetration, target, and withdrawal support for bombers attacking strategic objectives in Europe.
It participated in the “Big Week” assault (February 20-25) against the German Air Force and aircraft industry. The group received a Distinguished Unit Citation (DUC) for two escort missions in the face of heavy opposition. On March 6, 1944 the 357thprovided target and withdrawal support during the first Eighth Air Force heavy bomber attack on Berlin, and on June 29 the group protected bombers attacking Leipzig. The group earned a second DUC when it broke up a large force of interceptors while covering a January 1945 bomber raid on Derben.
The group also conducted counter-air patrols, made fighter sweeps, and flew strafing and dive-bombing missions attacking airdromes, marshalling yards, loco- motives, bridges, barges, tugboats, highways, vehicles, fuel dumps, and other targets. The 357thparticipated in the invasion of Normandy in June 1944, the break out at St. Lo in July, the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 and January 1945, and the airborne assault across the Rhine in March. The group flew its last mission, an escort operation, on April 25. It was then moved to Germany in July and assigned to the U.S. Air Forces in Europe for duty with the army of occupation. The 357thFighter Group inactivated in Germany on August 20, 1946.
Campaigns: Air Offensive, Europe; Normandy; Northern France; Rhineland; Ardennes-Alsace; Central Europe