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318th Fighter Group
318fg2.jpg
318th Fighter Group Insignia
Active 1942 – 1946
Country United States
Branch United States Army Air Forces
Role Fighter
Part of Twentieth Air Force
Garrison/HQ Pacific Ocean Theater of World War II
Engagements World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon.svg
  • World War II
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign (1944-1945)

The 318th Fighter Group was a World War II United States Army Air Forces combat organization. It served primarily in the Pacific Ocean theater of World War II.

Contents

History

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Operational Units

Aircraft Flown

Stations

Operational history

Veterans of the South West Pacific Area of World War II, the 318th Fighter Group was initially assigned to the Seventh Fighter Command, which was later known as the Pineapple Air Force. The 7th Fighter Command (later known as Seventh Air Force) were the first American Fighters to engage the enemy and the last to engage the enemy during World War II.

The 318th Fighter Group was activated in October 1942 when the remainders of the 72d and 44th Fighter Squadrons were transferred from the 15th and 18th Groups. The 73d and 333d Fighter Squadrons were transferred in November 1942 and January 1943. In March 1943 the 44th was transferred out of the group and was replaced by the 19th Fighter Squadron. The group was equipped with P-4OKs, P-4ONs, and Douglas A-24s, but in June 1943 the Bell P-39Q Airacobras began to arrive at Bellows Field and the 72nd Fighter Squadron traded their P-40s for the Flying Cannon, the Bell Airacobra.

In December 1943 the 72nd Fighter Squadron in their P-39s were catapulted from the deck of the Escort aircraft carrier USS Nassau (CVE-16) and landed at Makin atoll on the island of Butaritari. At the completion of the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign the 72nd FS was transferred to the newly activated 21st Fighter Group to prepare for the job of escorting the Boeing B-29 Superfortresses over Japan.

During 1944 the 318th was equipped with Republic P-47Ds and during the Marianas campaign, working closely with Marine ground forces, pioneered close infantry support and employed the first use of napalm. On Saipan they had the dubious distinction along with the 21st Fighter Group on Iwo Jima of being the only Army Air Force units to engage in ground combat. The squadrons of the 318th Fighter Group were attacked by Japanese ground forces in June 1944 on Aslito Airfield, Saipan, sustaining modest casualties. Eventually, as they outranged most of their targets, they acquired some P-38 lightnings and flew them as well. However, in the Seventh's heaviest losses since December 7, 1941, the 21st Fighter Group was besieged in their tent camp on Iwo Jima before dawn on March 26, 1945. Pilots and ground personnel took a crash course in infantry tactics and finally destroyed the superior enemy force but suffered 15 dead and 50 wounded.

The 318th was the first unit to receive the new long range P-47Ns in early 1945, before moving next door to Okinawa on Ie Shima.

Army fighter planes flew from aircraft carriers no less than seven times in the Pacific. P-36s to Hawaii in February 1941, the 73d FS to Midway in P-40s in June 1942, the 45th FS to Kanton Island and 72nd FS to Makin in P-39s in December 1943, the 19th, 73d and 333d F.S. to Saipan in P-47s in June 1944. The Makin and Saipan operations were catapult shots.

Most notably, the Seventh's airmen pioneered Very Long Range fighter operations across the Pacific with missions of historic length and duration: Kauai to Midway Atoll, Midway to Kaneohe and Makin to Jaluit and Maloelap. By late 1944 Lockheed P-38s of the 318th were routinely flying missions to Truk and Iwo Jima from Saipan—1,500-mile, 8-hour trips. And by 1945, with new aircraft, VLR sorties were the rule rather than the exception for the Seventh's fighters.

In April 1945 the 15th and 21st Fighter Groups began flying 1300 mile escorts and sweeps from Iwo Jima to Honshu- in the North American P-51 Mustang. In May 1945 the 318th Group advanced to le Shima where they reached out to Japanese targets in Kyu-shu- and China.

During the summer of 1945, the 318th Fighter Group (along with the 15th and 21st from the VII Fighter Command) was reassigned to the Twentieth Air Force and continued its fighter sweeps against Japanese airfields and other targets, in addition to flying long-range B-29 escort missions to Japanese cities, until the end of the war. On August 13, 1945 the 318th flew from le Shirna to Tokyo—1,680 statute miles, 8 1/2 hours of non-stop flight.

The 318th was assigned to Eighth Air Force in August 1945, shortly after V-J Day. Moved to the US, December 1945 – January 1946. Inactivated on January 12, 1946.

After the war, it was redesignated the 102d Fighter Group in May, 1946.[1]

See also

References

PD-icon.svg This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  • Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0892010924.

External links


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