The 86th Fighter Group was constituted as the 86th Bombardment Group (Light) on January 13, 1942 and activated on February 10, 1942. It was redesignated as the 86th Bombardment Group (Dive) in September 1942, the 86th Fighter-Bomber Group in August 1943, and the 86th Fighter Group in May 1944. The group moved to North Africa in March through May 1943. The 86th trained until July, and then began combat with the Twelfth Air Force. It engaged primarily in close support of ground forces, with the group moving forward to bases in Sicily, Italy, Corsica, France, and Germany as the battle line changed.
The group also flew patrol and interdictory missions. It used A-36, P-40, and P-47 aircraft to attack convoys, trains, ammunition dumps, troop and supply columns, shipping, bridges, rail lines, and other objectives. The 86th participated in the softening up of Sicily and supported the invasion by the Seventh Army in July 1943. It provided cover for the landings at Salerno in September 1943 and assisted the Allied advance toward Rome in January through June 1944. The group supported the invasion of Southern France in August 1944 and operated against enemy communications in northern Italy from September 1944 to April 1945. It also attacked enemy transportation in Germany during April and May 1945.
The 86th Fighter Group received two Distinguished Unit Citations: the first for action on May 25, 1944 when the group repeatedly dived through intense flak to destroy enemy vehicles and troops as German forces tried to stop the Allies short of Rome; the second for activity against convoys and airfield installations in northern Germany on April 20, 1945 to disorganize the enemy's withdrawal from that area. The group remained in Germany after the war as part of United States Air Forces in Europe until it transferred, without personnel and equipment, to the United States in February 1946. The 86th Fighter Group inactivated on March 31, 1946.
Campaigns: American Theater; Air Combat, EAME Theater; Sicily; Naples-Foggia; Anzio; Rome-Arno; Southern France; North Apennines: Rhineland; Central Europe.