Activated on January 1, 1943, the P-47 Thunderbolt-equipped 358thFighter Group and its three squadrons, the 356th, 366th, and 367th, moved to England in September and October. Combat operations with the Eighth Air Force began on December 20, and the group was reassigned to the Ninth Air Force on January 31, 1944. The 358thserved as bomber escort until April. At that point it switched to ground attack, dive-bombing marshalling yards and airfields in preparation for the invasion of Normandy. During the invasion, the group escorted troop carriers over the Cotentin Peninsula and attacked bridges, rail lines and trains, vehicles, and troop concentrations.
Moving to France in July, the group supported the breakthrough at St. Lo and flew escort, interdiction, and close-support missions during the drive across France into Germany. It earned a Distinguished Unit Citation (DUC) for operations from December 24, 1944 to January 2, 1945 attacking rail lines and rolling stock, vehicles, buildings, and artillery, and destroying numerous enemy fighter planes during a major assault against Allied airfields. The 358thearned a second DUC on March 19 to 20, 1945 for destroying or damaging large numbers of motor transports and thus hampering German forces withdrawing from west of the Rhine.
The group earned a third DUC between April 8 and 25, attacking enemy airfields near Munich and Ingolstadt, engaging in aerial combat, and supporting advancing ground forces by attacking motor transports, tanks, locomotives, guns, and buildings. The 358th also earned the French Croix de Guerre with Palm for assisting in the liberation of France. The 358thFighter Group returned to the United States in July 1945 and inactivated on November 7.
Campaigns: American Theater; Air Offensive, Europe; Normandy; Northern France; Rhineland; Ardennes-Alsace; Central Europe