1st Operations Group

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1st Operations Group
150px
1st Fighter Wing
Active Founded May 5, 1918-active October 1 1991
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Type Fighter Operations Group
Role Air dominance
Size 2 F-22 Raptor squadrons
1 F-15 Eagle squadron
1 operations support squadron
Part of 1st Fighter Wing
Ninth Air Force
Garrison/HQ Langley Air Force Base, Virginia
Motto Aut Vincere Aut Mori - Conquer or Die
Battles/wars World War I
World War II

The 1st Operations Group is the oldest major air combat unit in the United States Air Force. As the 1st Pursuit Group it saw combat in World War I, and as the 1st Fighter Group combat in World War II. Pilots of the 1st Group are credited by the USAF with destroying 554.33 aircraft and 50 balloons, and 36 pilots are recognized as being aces.

The pilots of the 1st Group included Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, credited as the top scoring ace in France during World War I. During World War II, the 1st FG was among the first groups deployed overseas in the summer of 1942. The group flew missions in England as part of the Eighth Air Force, then was transferred to North Africa in November 1942. It experienced significant combat as part of the Twelfth Air Force, moved to Italy, and became part of the fighter force of the Fifteenth Air Force. The 1st FG hosted the first operational U.S. jet fighters in 1945.

After 30 years of inactivation between 1961 and 1991, the group was re-activated as the 1st Operations Group, 1st Fighter Wing, equipped with both F-15 Eagle and F-22 Raptor fighters.

1st Pursuit Group[edit]

World War One[edit]

On January 16, 1918, Brig. General Benjamin D. Foulois, Chief of Air Service, AEF, assigned Major Bert M. Atkinson to command of the 1st Pursuit Organization Center, a temporary administrative and training organization for arriving U.S. pursuit squadrons. The 94th and 95th Aero Squadrons were the first to be assigned, beginning combat in March. On May 5, 1918, the AEF redesignated the 1st Pursuit Organization Center at Gengault Aerodrome, Toul, France, as the 1st Pursuit Group, the first American group-level fighter establishment (the 1st Corps Observation Group, organized in April 1918, was the first U.S. group). Major Atkinson became the 1st Pursuit Group's first commanding officer, followed by Major Harold E. Hartney on August 21, 1918. The 27th and 147th Aero Squadrons were assigned to the group on June 1, and the 185th Pursuit Squadron, a night fighter unit, in October.

The 1st Pursuit Group was equipped with Spads, Nieuport 28s and Sopwith Camels. From May until the November 11 armistice, the Group recorded 1,413 aerial engagements, accumulating 151.83 confirmed kills on enemy aircraft, and 50 confirmed balloon victories. Nineteen of its pilots—five from each squadron except the 27th—were recognized as "aces". For its participation, the 1st received seven campaign streamers. Two of the four pilots earning the Medal of Honor for actions during World War I were members of the 1st Pursuit Group: 2Lt Frank Luke Jr. and 1Lt. Edward V. "Eddie" Rickenbacker.

The 1st Pursuit Group was based at Toul (May 5, 1918), Touquin (June 28, 1918), Saints (July 9, 1918), Rembercourt (September 1, 1918), and Colombey-les-Belles, France (December 9-December 24, 1918).

Aces of the 1st Pursuit Group
Pilot Squadron Airplanes Balloons Total
Capt. Edward V. Rickenbacker 94th Aero Squadron 22 4 26
2nt Lt. Frank Luke, Jr. 27th Aero Squadron 4 14 18
Capt. James A. Meissner 147th Aero Squadron 7 1 8
2nd Lt. Wilbur W. White 147th Aero Squadron 7 1 8
Capt. Hamilton Coolidge 94th Aero Squadron 5 3 8
1st Lt. Reed M. Chambers 94th Aero Squadron 6 1 7
1st Lt. Sumner Sewall 95th Aero Squadron 5 2 7
1st Lt. Harvey Weir Cook 94th Aero Squadron 3 4 7
1st Lt. Lansing C. Holden 95th Aero Squadron 2 5 7
1st Lt. Douglas Campbell 94th Aero Squadron 6 6
1st Lt. Edward P. Curtiss 95th Aero Squadron 6 6
2nd Lt. John K. McArthur 27th Aero Squadron 6 6
2nd Lt. Kenneth L. Porter 147th Aero Squadron 6 6
1st Lt. Jerry C. Vasconcelles 27th Aero Squadron 5 1 6
1st Lt. James Knowles 95th Aero Squadron 5 5
1st Lt. James A. Healy 147th Aero Squadron 5 5
2nd Lt. Ralph A. O'Neill 147th Aero Squadron 5 5
1st Lt. Harold R. Buckley 95th Aero Squadron 4 1 5
1st Lt. Joseph F. Wehner 27th Aero Squadron 5 5

SOURCES: Air Force Historical Study 73: A Preliminary List of USAF Aces 1917-1953, and Air Force Historical Study 133: US Air Service Victory Credits, World War I.

Air Service duty[edit]

The end of World War I was followed immediately by a massive demobilization of the U.S. Army Air Service, both in reduction of personnel and dissolution of air units, including the 1st Pursuit Group, de-mobilized December 24, 1918. A new 1st Pursuit Group began to be formed on June 10, 1919, at Selfridge Field, Michigan, and became an official part of the Air Service on August 22, 1919, consisting of the 27th, 94th, 95th and 147th Aero Squadrons, and the 2nd Air Park. The new 1st Pursuit Group, as part of the U.S. Eighth Corps moved to Kelly Field, Texas, on August 31, 1919, and Ellington Field, Texas, on June 30, 1921. There the 94th Aero Squadron operated the Pursuit Training School. The 1st Pursuit Group returned to Selfridge on June 14, 1922, as part of the U.S. Sixth Corps, where it remained until World War II.

The designation of the aero squadrons was changed to "pursuit" on March 15, 1921, and the 147th Squadron became the 17th Pursuit Squadron on March 31. The 2nd Air Park was re-named the 57th Service Squadron on January 2, 1923. In 1924 the original 1st Pursuit Group was re-constituted on paper and consolidated with the active group formed in 1919. Two squadrons were transferred from the group, the 95th (1927) and the 17th (1940), replaced on January 1, 1941, by the 71st Pursuit Squadron. The 27th, 71st, and 94th Squadrons became the permanently assigned components of the group and wing. In December 1939 the group was re-designated 1st Pursuit Group (Interceptor), and in May 1941, 1st Pursuit Group (Fighter).

During the 1920s the group conducted pursuit training, tested new aircraft, participated in maneuvers and mobilization tests, conducted annual cold weather testing, gave demonstrations for other units, participated in civil airport dedications, and competed in the National Air Races each autumn. In 1922 Selfridge hosted the event. Captain Burt E. Skeel, commander of the 27th Pursuit Squadron, was killed October 4, 1924, in the crash of a Verville-Sperry Racer at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, at the start of Pulitzer Trophy event of the 1924 Races.

File:Curtissp1hawk.jpg
Curtiss P-1 Hawk

The group changed aircraft frequently during its service between wars, as new types were developed and older models became outdated. It began its service flying Curtiss JNS, SE-5, and Fokker D.7 fighters left over from the First World War. From 1922 to 1925 it operated primarily MB-3A fighters. In 1925 it acquired Curtiss PW-8s for use by the 17th Pursuit Squadron, in 1926 Curtiss P-1 Hawks (a derivative of the PW-8), and in 1929 Boeing P-12s. Throughout this period each squadron often operated a different fighter type from the others.

Winter flying was conducted each February at Camp Skeel at Oscoda, Michigan, although in January 1927 the group instead sent a detachment to Ottawa, Ontario; in January 1929 conducted a lengthy search and rescue operation for a missing person in Petoskey, Michigan; and in January 1930 flew a squadron to Spokane, Washington and back by way of North Dakota and Montana. Temperatures during the Petoskey rescue reached -30° F, disabling the aircraft engines. A local cement company extended a steam hose to thaw engine oil and other components, enabling the aircraft to operate.

The use of airpower demonstrations and participation in the dedication of civil airports to publicize the Air Corps reached its peak in 1929, when units of the 1st Pursuit Group participated in 24 airport dedications and 8 demonstrations. It garnered favorable publicity in other ways, however, using bombs to break up an ice jam on the Clinton River on February 24, 1925, and escorting Charles Lindbergh to Canada in 1927.

On January 21, 1924, the Adjutant General approved the 1st Pursuit Group's emblem, designed with the unit's history as its basis. The green and black colors represent the colors of the Army Air Service, the five stripes signify the original five flying squadrons, and the five crosses symbolized the five major World War I campaigns credited to the group. A crest above the shield bore the Group's Latin motto "Aut Vincere Aut Mori", translated: Conquer or Die. In 1957, the emblem was revised, with the crest was removed and the motto placed in a scroll beneath the shield, now assigned to the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing.

Army Air Corps service[edit]

File:Curtiss P-6 Hawk.jpg
Curtiss P-6 Hawk in markings of 17th Pursuit Squadron, 1st Pursuit Group
The Air Corps Act of 1926, passed in part due to the controversies involving William Mitchell and in part to the recommendations of the Morrow Board, replaced the Air Service with the U.S. Army Air Corps. The Act authorized a 5-year plan for expansion and modernization of the Air Corps, still consisting of the original 6 groups, with the 1st the only pursuit group.

Resistance by the Coolidge administration to implementation of the plan for economic reasons, followed by the onset of the Great Depression severely limited the expansion. The 1st Group experienced restriction on its training operations and curtailment of personnel salaries. Officers were detached for duty with the Civilian Conservation Corps at varied intervals. However the Air Corps was able to expand from 6 to 14 groups in its first decade of existence, half of which were new pursuit groups. The 1st Pursuit Group trained individual squadrons at Selfridge and provided experienced cadres to the formation of these groups.

From February to June 1934 the 1st Pursuit Group delivered the mail in the north central United States under an executive order of President Franklin Roosevelt (see Air Mail Scandal). Original orders called for 35 pilots and 16 aircraft to be detached for mail service, but the Curtiss P-6 Hawk and Boeing P-12 fighters detailed had insufficient cargo capacity potential. Ultimately 56 pilots were listed in group records as detached for mail service, and approximately half the group's 70 aircraft were involved. Six were involved in crashes in the first week, struggling through severe winter weather in Ohio, including one fatality on the first day. Altogether twelve aircraft were lost in eleven crashes, with one pilot and one enlisted man killed, and four pilots and one mechanic injured.

File:Boeing P-12.jpg
Boeing P-12 with Captain Ira Eaker

On March 1, 1935, all operational flying units, previously assigned to corps-level ground commands, were consolidated under a new centralized air force command named General Headquarters, Air Force. GHQ Air Force was divided into three wings, and the 1st Pursuit Group became part of the 2nd Wing.

In 1937 the group received its first enclosed cockpit, monoplane fighter with retractable landing gear, the Seversky P-35. The P-35 was obsolete from the beginning of its operational history and replacement by the Republic P-43 Lancer began in 1940. This fighter too was unsuitable for modern combat, and preparations for the possibility of U.S. participation in the Second World War introduced the 1st Pursuit Group to the new P-38 Lightning in July 1941, with the 27th Pursuit Squadron receiving the first operational aircraft in the Army Air Force's inventory.

1st Pursuit Group Commanders[edit]

File:Republic P-43 Lancer.jpg
Republic P-43 Lancer
Commander date
Lt.Col. Davenport Johnson August 22, 1919April 26, 1920
Major Reed M. Chambers April 26, 1920June 29,1920
Capt. Arthur R. Brooks June 29, 1920October 5, 1920
Major Carl Spaatz October 5, 1921April 25, 1921
Capt. Arthur R. Brooks April 25, 1921December 21, 1921
Major Carl Spaatz December 21, 1921—September 1924
Major Thomas G. Lanphier, Sr. September 1924—February 4, 1926
Capt. Vincent B. Dixon February 4, 1926June 26, 1926
Major Thomas G. Lanphier, Sr. June 26, 1926August 25, 1928
Major Ralph Royce August 25, 1928May 15, 1930
Major Gerald E. Brower May 15, 1930July 18, 1932
Major Adlai H. Gilkerson July 18, 1932July 4, 1933
Lt.Col. Frank M. Andrews July 4, 1933October 4, 1934
Lt.Col. Ralph Royce October 4, 1934April 30, 1937
Major Edwin J. House April 30, 1937
Col. Henry B. Clagett 1938
Col. Lawrence P. Hickey 1939
Lt.Col. Robert S. Israel July 1941—June 1942

1st Fighter Group in World War II[edit]

1st Fighter Group
Active 1941-12-07 to 1945-10-16
Country United States
Branch United States Army Air Forces
Type Fighter Group
Role Air Superiority
Close air support
Size 1,000 personnel
125 P-38 aircraft
Part of Twelfth Air Force
Fifteenth Air Force
Battles/wars DUC: August 25, 1943
DUC: August 30, 1943
DUC: Ploieşti, May 18, 1944

On the date the United States entered World War II the 94th Pursuit Squadron was in El Paso, Texas, its 20 P-38s en route from Selfridge Field to March Field, California. The 27th and 71st squadrons were immediately sent with an additional 12 P-38s and 24 P-43 fighters to March Field to provide the West Coast air defense against Japanese attack.

During its brief duty at March Field the Group provided cadre for newly-mobilized fighter groups, losing over half of its assigned officers and enlisted men, but still made preparations for deployment to Europe on 25 April 1942. Before its departure, however, retired captain Eddie Rickenbacker made the first of several visits to the group both at home and abroad during World War II, listened to the Group’s concerns and reported them to General "Hap" Arnold. Rickenbacker also worked with Arnold to reinstate the hat-in-the ring emblem, absent since Rickenbacker himself claimed the right to it when he retired, back to the 94th Fighter Squadron.

In 1942, U.S. war policy placed first priority with the war in Europe. VIII Fighter Command Special Orders 46, dated 25 June 1942, deployed 86 aircraft and pilots of the newly designated 1st Fighter Group to England as part of Operation Bolero, with the first aircraft departing on June 27. Flights of P-38s were led by individual B-17s from the 97th Bomb Group navigating the route between Presque Isle, Maine, Labrador, Greenland, and Iceland. En route the 27th Fighter Squadron was detached at "Indigo" airfield, Reykjavík, Iceland, for air defense duty in July and August. On July 15, 1942, six fighters from the 94th FS and their two B-17 escorts were forced by bad weather and low fuel to land on a glacier in Greenland. The crews were all recovered safely but the aircraft were abandoned.

Group headquarters and the 71st Fighter Squadron were based at RAF Goxill, near Kingston upon Hull, and the 94th FS at Kirton in Lindsey. The 27th flew to England on August 27 after the group had moved south to Ibsley, and was based at High Ercall. During the late summer of 1942, the 1st FG flew training, escort and fighter sweeps over German-occupied France. The group experienced its first combat loss on October 2, 1942, when a P-38F escorting B-17 Flying Fortress bombers on a mission to Méaulte, France, was shot down by a German fighter of JG 26 near Calais, and 2nd Lt. William H. Young was killed in action.

The fighter and bomber groups initially deployed to England (97th and 301st Bomb Groups, and 1st, 14th, 31st, and 52nd Fighter Groups) were re-assigned to support Operation Torch and redeployed to North Africa. While in transit, two 94th FS Lightnings were forced by mechanical difficulties to land in neutral Portugal, where the aircraft were confiscated and the pilots interned. However 1st Lt. Jack Ilfrey escaped, returned to the group, and became one of its leading aces. 1st Lt. Robert N. Chenoweth was killed when his P-38, on a ferry flight from the UK to North Africa, crashed into a mountain at Ortigueira, Corunna, Spain, on November 15, 1942. By November 13, 1942, the group completed the move to Algeria, where they provided close air support and fighter protection against the Afrika Korps.

On November 29, 1942, the 94th Fighter Squadron flew the group's first combat sorties in the Mediterranean theater, strafing a German airfield and recording several aerial victories. However, as the year came to a close, the group's morale sagged. Though the move from England to the desert environment added sometimes 200-300 hours to the life of the liquid-cooled Allisons, few replacement parts and virtually no replacement aircraft were available. Col. Clifford R. Silliman, in charge of Lightning maintenance and repairs for the 1st, 12th and 14th fighter groups, recalled that no hangars, machine shops or service bays were available, forcing ground crews to make repairs in the open air. Crewmen were exposed not only to attack but to virtually incessant blowing sand and dust that continually fouled filters, breathers and lubricants. The searing sun was so intense that mechanics were unable to as much as touch the aluminum surfaces of the fuselage, wings and cowlings with exposed skin, Silliman said. The grating sand found its way not only into engine components and weapons but crewmens' bedding, footwear, clothing, hair, eyes and even their teeth. Pilots recorded some kills, but the loss ratio in air-to-air combat was even at best. For nearly a year, the group moved throughout Algeria and Tunisia, flying bomber escort and providing air coverage for the ground campaign. On February 23, 1943, the group began two days of low-level strafing missions in support of hard-pressed Allied troops at Kasserine Pass, losing several aircraft.

In April 1943 the Germans made several concerted attempts to reinforce the Afrika Korps using Ju 52 transports flown at wavetop level over the Mediterranean Sea, resulting in a series of interceptions by Allied aircraft and large numbers of transports destroyed. On April 5 pilots of the 27th FS shot down 11, plus four Ju 87 Stukas and two Me 109 escorts, losing two Lightnings. On April 10 the 71st FS intercepted another large force escorted by 15 Macchi 200 and Fw 190 fighters, shooting down 20 transports and 8 of the escorts without loss to itself. The North African campaign ended with the capture of Tunis on May 7, 1943.

Markings and squadron codes[edit]

In 1943 the squadrons of the 1st Fighter Group began to apply distinctive colors to their tailbooms, wingtips and propeller tips for rapid unit identification. This was in addition to the fuselage letter codes assigned to the group by the Eighth Air Force which it continued to use when reassigned to the Twelfth Air Force in November 1942. The 27th FS used red (squadron code HV, radio callsign PETDOG), the 71st FS used white (squadron code LM, callsign CRAGMORE), and the 94th FS used yellow (squadron code UN, callsign SPRINGCAP). When the group began receiving P-38s in an unpainted aluminium finish in the spring of 1944, the 71st changed its color to black. Red spinners were also introduced sometime in 1944 to the entire group. During the time of the North Africa invasion, the national insignia was outlined in yellow, replaced by a star-and-bar outlined in red in early 1943. From May 1943 on the standard star-and-bar national insignia was used.

Italian operations[edit]

Six months of continuous combat in North Africa was followed by a short break, flying reconnaissance and escort missions around the Mediterranean. The respite ended on August 15, 1943, as air attacks increased against southern Italy in preparation for landings at Salerno. On August 25, the 1st FG launched 65 P-38s, and joined with 85 other fighters, conducted a fighter-bomber attack against the airfield complex at Foggia. In addition to strafing ground targets, pilots of the 1st FG damaged or destroyed 88 German aircraft, with a loss of two P-38s. For this mission, the group received its first Distinguished Unit Citation (DUC). Five days later, on August 30, the 1st Fighter Group earned its second DUC. The group dispatched 44 aircraft to escort B-26 bombers to the railroad marshalling yards at Aversa, Italy, and were opposed by approximately 75-100 German fighters. Outnumbered two to one, the group engaged the Luftwaffe for 40 minutes, enabling the bombers to strike their target and return to base without loss, but in doing so lost 13 fighters themselves, with 10 pilots killed.

File:P-38 2.jpg
Lockheed P-38G Lightning

The 1st Fighter Group became part of the newly-created Fifteenth Air Force in December 1943 and moved to Italy, temporarily based at several airfields until its base at Salsola Airfield was ready on January 8, 1944. Living and supply conditions improved for the airmen, who received new P-38Js in the spring. On April 16, 1944, the group flew its 1,000th combat mission.

The 1st Fighter Group received its third DUC for an escort mission on May 18, 1944. Assigned to escort the force of 700 B-17 and B-24 bombers to the oil refineries at Ploieşti, Romania, bad weather caused roughly half the bombers to abort the mission. The 1st Fighter Group continued through the heavy weather to support B-17s that continued to the target and engaged 80 Luftwaffe and Romanian fighters attacking the Flying Fortresses. The group's 48 P-38s shot down and damaged nearly 20 aircraft for a loss of one P-38, and drove off the rest.

The minimal effect of high altitude bombing raids on the Ploieşti refineries prompted Fifteenth Air Force planners on June 10, 1944, to lay on a low level dive bombing attack by 48 P-38s of the 82nd Fighter Group and 45 of 1st FG. Mechanical turnbacks reduced the force by 21 aircraft, nine from the 1st Group. En route to the target much of the 1st FG was separated from the main force by a navigational error. Part of the 71st Fighter Squadron observed and attacked 6 Dornier 217 bombers but underestimated the numbers of Romanian IAR 80s escorting the bombers. Although six fighters and two bombers were credited as shot down, the 71st lost 9 Lightnings. When the 82nd FG arrived in the target area, along with the 27th Fighter Squadron and one flight of the 71st, they found the Ploieşti defense forces fully alert and a protective smoke screen concealing the targets. Flak shot down 7 P-38s during the attack, and 2 more were lost in strafing attacks on the return to Italy. After the attack, the 27th Fighter Squadron engaged 30-40 Me 109s, claiming 4 destroyed, 2 probables, and 4 damaged, but lost 4 P-38s in the engagement. In all, the 1st Fighter Group had 14 P-38s shot down, its heaviest single day loss of the war, while claiming 18 kills, including five by a 71st pilot, 1st Lt. Herbert Hatch. The 82nd FG lost an additional 8 Lightnings.

From August 10 to August 21, 1944, the 94th Fighter Squadron deployed sixty Lightnings to Aghione, Corsica, providing air support for the Allied invasion of Southern France. On an escort of a photo reconnaissance mission to Munich on November 26, 1944, the group lost an aircraft and pilot to an Me 262 jet.

The group's last major operation of the war came between January 16 and February 19, 1945. Under Operation Argonaut, the 1st FG escorted British and American delegations to the Yalta Conference, deploying 51 P-38's to protect the ships and aircraft carrying President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and their aides to and from the Crimea. The group changed bases shortly after its return to combat operations, moving to Lesina. There the 1st Fighter Group received two YP-80A jet fighters (serials 44-83028 and 44-83029) sent to the theater for operational testing ("Project Extraversion"). Although the jets were marked for combat operations with easily identifiable tail stripes and the letters 'A' and 'B' on their noses, and flown on two operational sorties by the 94th FS, neither saw combat before the end of the war.

On April 15, 1945, the 27th Fighter Squadron, which had scored the 1st Fighter Group's first kill of the war, also recorded the group's last aerial victory of World War II, during a mission in which 5 Lightnings were shot down strafing German airfields, with 4 pilots killed. Its final combat losses occurred on April 23, 1945, when three aircraft were shot down and a pilot, Capt. Clarence I. Knapp, killed in action.

During nearly three years of combat flying, from August 31, 1942 to May 6, 1945, the 1st Fighter Group flew over 21,000 sorties on 1,405 combat missions.

Aerial victories[edit]

The first aerial victory by a 1st Fighter Group pilot (and the first USAAF kill in the European Theater of Operations) occurred August 14, 1942, by a 27th Fighter Squadron pilot, 2nd Lt. Elza E. Shahan, stationed in Iceland, with the downing of an Fw 200C-3 Condor, a credit shared with a P-40C pilot of the 33rd Fighter Squadron. The final victory occurred April 15, 1945, by 1st Lt. Warren E. Danielson, also of the 27th Fighter Squadron, shooting down an Fw 190 near Regensburg.

The 1st Fighter Group had 402.5 claims credited for German aircraft destroyed in air-to-air combat recognized by U.S. Air Force Historical Study No. 85, with 17 pilots identified as aces. Among the various units of the 1st, the 27th Fighter Squadron had the most victories, with 83 pilots credited with 176.5 kills. The 94th Fighter Squadron was credited with 124 kills by 64 pilots and the 71st Fighter Squadron with 102 kills by 51 pilots.

The uneven distribution of kills among the squadrons is an apparent reflection of an unequal degree of contact with German fighter units after June 1944, almost all of which occurred in July 1944. Of the last 38 kills awarded to the 1st Fighter Group, 30 were by the 27th FS (24 in July, 2 in August 1944, and 4 in 1945). The 71st FS recorded only four, with the last occurring October 21, 1944, while the 94th recorded four in July 1944 and none thereafter.

Aces of the 1st Fighter Group
Pilot Squadron Credits Aircraft flown
Capt. Thomas E. Maloney 27th Fighter Squadron 8 Maloney's Pony
1st Lt. Philip E. Tovrea, Jr. 27th Fighter Squadron 8 La Muñeca Plata
1st Lt. Jack M. Ilfrey¹ 94th Fighter Squadron 7.5 Texas Terror
1st Lt. Meldrum L. Sears 71st Fighter Squadron 7
Capt. Armour C. Miller 27th Fighter Squadron 6 Jinx serial no. 43-2872
1st Lt. Donald D. Kienholz 94th Fighter Squadron 6 Billy Joe/ Serbcka Sloboda
Capt. Darrell G. Welch 27th Fighter Squadron 5
Capt. Newell O. Roberts 94th Fighter Squadron 5
Capt. Joel Owens 27th Fighter Squadron 5
1st Lt. Daniel Kennedy 27th Fighter Squadron 5 Beantown Boys
1st Lt. John L. Wolford² 27th Fighter Squadron 5
1st Lt. Rodney W. Fisher 71st Fighter Squadron 5
1st Lt. Lee V. Wiseman 71st Fighter Squadron 5 Spurly
1st Lt. Richard J. Lee 94th Fighter Squadron 5
1st Lt. Everett Miller 94th Fighter Squadron 5 Martha J
2nd Lt. John A. MacKay 27th Fighter Squadron 5 Shoot, You're Faded
2nd Lt. Herbert B. Hatch 71st Fighter Squadron 5 Mon Amy
2nd Lt. Franklin C. Lathrope 94th Fighter Squadron 5

¹Scored two more victories with another group ²Killed in action

SOURCE: Air Force Historical Study 85: USAF Credits for the Destruction of Enemy Aircraft, World War II. Lt. Shahan's kill is documented in Air Force Historical Study 105: Air Phase of the North African Invasion, November 1942, p. 34

Bases and casualties[edit]

1st FG combat losses
171 P-38's lost in combat
102 Pilots killed in action
4 Pilots missing in action
35 Pilots captured

European-African bases of the 1st Fighter Group

Location date
RAF Goxhill, England June 10, 1942
RAF Ibsley, England August 24, 1942
Tafaraoui, Algeria November 13, 1942
Nouvion, Algeria November 20, 1942
Biskra, Algeria December 14, 1942
Chateau d'un-du-Rhumel, Algeria February 1943
Mateur, Tunisia June 29, 1943
Cagliari, Sardinia October 31, 1943
Gioia del Colle, Italy December 8, 1943
Salsola (Foggia #3 airfield), Italy January 8, 1944
Vincenzo, Italy January 8, 1945
Salsola, Italy February 21, 1945
Lesina, Italy March 16-October 1945

SOURCE: Maurer Mauer

USAAF commanders[edit]

Commander date
Maj John O Zahn 1 May 1942
Col John N Stone 9 Jul 1942
Col Ralph S Garman 7 Dec 1942
Maj Joseph S Peddie 8 Sep 1943
Col Robert B Richard 19 Sep 1943
Col Arthur C Agan Jr 15 Nov 1944
Lt Col Milton H Ashkins 31 Mar 1945
Lt Col Charles W Thaxton 11 Apr 1945
Col Milton H Ashkins 28 Apr 1945-unkn.
Col Bruce K. Holloway 3 Jul 1946
Col Gilbert L Meyers 20 Aug 1946

Campaigns and honors[edit]

Campaigns[edit]

File:WWIRib.gif  

World War I:

  • Lorraine
  • Champagne
  • Champagne-Marne
  • Aisne-Marne
  • Oise-Aisne
  • St Mihiel
  • Meuse-Argonne
File:EAMERib.gif  

World War II:

  • Air Offensive, Europe
  • Algeria-French Morocco
  • Tunisia; Sicily
  • Naples-Foggia
  • Anzio
  • Rome-Arno
  • Normandy
  • Northern France
  • Southern France
  • North Apennines
  • Rhineland
  • Central Europe
  • Po Valley
  • Air Combat, EAME Theater

Honors[edit]

File:PresUnitRib.gif

Distinguished Unit Citation

  • Italy, 25 August 1943
  • Italy, 30 August 1943
  • Ploesti, 18 May 1944

Post-war air defense role[edit]

File:Production P-80s af.jpg
P-80B of 71st Fighter Squadron in foreground

The 1st Fighter Group was inactivated October 16, 1945. In the post-war reorganization of the Army Air Forces, the group was re-activated as a redesignation of the P-80 Shooting Star-equipped 412th Fighter Group at March Field, California, on July 3, 1946.

The Air Force became an independent service on September 18, 1947, and the 1st Fighter Group part of the newly created 1st Fighter Wing. (See 1st Fighter Wing for command assignments.) During the summer of 1947, the Army Air Force issued the "Wing-Base" plan, creating a self-sufficient wing at each base. As a result, on August 15, 1947, the 1st Fighter Wing was activated at March Field, California, and the 1st Fighter Group was assigned as its combat group. Administrative, maintenance and support, and medical functions were the responsibility of separate support groups.

When the 1st Fighter Wing was re-equipped with F-86 fighters in 1949 the group was re-designated 1st Fighter-Interceptor Group. In January 1950, while stationed at George Air Force Base, California, the 1st Group formed an aerial demonstration team, the "Sabre Dancers." The team, composed of five pilots of the 27th Fighter Squadron, flew their most distinguished show on April 22, 1950, at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, for an audience that included President Harry S Truman.

During the Korean War, the 1st Group served in an air defense role while the Wing's elements divided to provide defense for both coasts. The 1st FIG Headquarters, and the 27th and 71st Fighter Interceptor Squadrons were temporarily detached to the Eastern Air Defense Force, while the Wing headquarters and the 94th Fighter Interceptor Squadron were assigned as part the Western Air Defense Force. The group was inactivated on February 6, 1952, in a general reorganization of all air force units and its squadrons assigned directly to the wing.

On August 18, 1955, the group's designation was changed to 1st Fighter Group (Air Defense) and it was re-activated as part of the Air Defense Command. Equipped first with F-86 Sabre fighters, the group transitioned to F-102 Delta Dagger aircraft. It served as part of the 30th Air Division and the Detroit Air Defense Sector, based at Selfridge Air Force Base, before being re-assigned as part of the 1st Fighter Wing. The 1st Fighter Group was inactivated on February 1, 1961.

USAF commanders 1948-1961[edit]

Commander date
Col Frank S Perego Jan 1948
LtCol Jack T Bradley Jul 1950
Col Dolf E Muehleisen Jun 1951
Col Walker M Mahurin 1951
Capt Robert B Bell Jan-c. Feb 1952
Col Norman S Orwat 1955-

1st Operations Group[edit]

See main article: 1st Fighter Wing

On 1 October 1991, the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing was redesignated 1st Fighter Wing and the 1st Fighter Group re-activated as the 1st Operations Group to control its F-15 and operations support squadrons at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia.

On March 15, 1992, the 74th Air Control Squadron was transferred to the 1st Fighter Wing to provided command and control of air operations during deployments. On February 1, 1993, the 41st and 71st Rescue Squadrons, and the 741st Maintenance Squadron were also assigned to the 1st Fighter Wing. Stationed at Patrick AFB, Florida, the units provided search and rescue for NASA's space shuttle missions, and support of combat search and rescue operations in Southwest Asia. Additionally, C-21 operational support aircraft were assigned to the Wing on 1 April 1993 with the establishment of Detachment 1, 1st Operations Group. On 1 May, the detachment inactivated and the 12th Airlift Flight, with the same mission, activated.

On June 14, 1995, the 1st Rescue Group was activated as part of the 1st Fighter Wing and assumed operational control of the Search and Rescue organizations. On April 1, 1997, the 12th Airlift Flight was transferred to Air Mobility Command, leaving the group tasked with only fighter and air control operations.

In 2003 the 27th and 94th FS began transition to the F-22 Raptor, with the 94th FS reaching full operational status on December 16, 2005.

1st Operations Group commanders[edit]

Commander date
Col Robert A. Corson 1 Oct 1991
Col Michael M. Dunn 20 Jul 1992
Col John P. Marty 3 Jun 1993
Col Daniel P. Leaf 26 May 1994
Col William K. Davis 30 Jun 1995
Col Felix Dupre 27 Oct 1995 (additional duty)
Lt Col Stephen R. Brown 25 Mar 1996 (temporary)
Col Irving L. Halter Jr. 28 Jun 1996
Col Herbert J. Carlisle 12 Jun 1998
Col John Day Mar 2000 (temporary)
Col Stanley Kresge 12 May 2000
Col Tod D. Wolters 17 May 2002
12 June 2004

Honors[edit]

File:Air Force Outstanding Unit Award ribbon.png

Air Force Outstanding Unit Award

  • 1 May 1992 to 30 April 1994
  • 1 June 1995 to 31 May 1997
  • 1 June 1998 to 31 May 2000
  • 1 June 2000 to 31 May 2001

1st FG P-38 on exhibit[edit]

File:P-38 Lightning head-on.jpg
P-38 Glacier Girl near Langley AFB, Virginia, in 2004

Beginning in 1977, at least a dozen different groups attempted to locate and recover one of the eight aircraft abandoned on the Greenland ice cap after the forced landing of July 15, 1942. One of the B-17s was located and found to have been crushed by the glacial forces. A P-38 in restoreable condition was then located in 1988 approximately 268 feet below the surface. Efforts to bring it to the surface began in May 1992, culminating in the recovery in October 1992 of P-38F-1-LO 41-7630, last flown by 1st Lt. Harry L. Smith, Jr., 94th Fighter Squadron.

The P-38 was subsequently restored to flying condition over the next ten years, dubbed Glacier Girl by its new owner, the Lost Squadron Museum, and flown on October 26, 2002. The P-38 (civil aviation number N17663) is stored at the museum's location in Middlesboro, Kentucky. The Lightning is believed to be the only flyable P-38 in existence. A scale model kit of Glacier Girl was released by Academy Plastic Model Co.-Model Rectifier Corporation (Kit No. 12208) in July 2006. (FineScale Modeler July 2006, pp.69-70)

External links[edit]

Sources[edit]

  • Shiner, John F., "From Air Service to Air Corps: The Billy Mitchell Era", Winged Shield, Winged Sword: A History of the United States Air Force Vol. I (1997) Chapter 3, ISBN 978-0-16-049009-5
  • Maurer, Maurer: -Air Force Combat Units of World War II, Office of Air Force History (1961). ISBN 978-0-405-12194-4
  • _______. Air Force Historical Study 73: A Preliminary List of USAF Aces 1917-1953, Office of Air Force History (1962) pdf file
  • _______. Air Force Historical Study 133: U.S. Air Service Victory Credits, World War I, Office of Air Force History (1969) pdf file
  • Ravenstein, Charles A., Air Force Combat Wings 1947-1977, Office of Air Force History (1984). ISBN 978-0-912799-12-4
  • Zeske, Jim, "Workbench Review", FineScale Modeler July 2006, Vol.24, No.6, Kalmbach Publishing.
  • Freeman, Roger A. The Mighty Eighth (1993 edition). ISBN 978-0-87938-638-2