78th Fighter Group: Wikis


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78th Fighter Group
Active 1942-1961
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Type Air Defense
Part of Air Defense Command

The 78th Fighter Group (78 FG) is an inactive United States Air Force unit. It was last assigned to the San Francisco Air Defense Sector, being assigned to Hamilton Air Force Base, California. It was inactivated on 1 February 1961.

During World War II the group was an Eighth Air Force fighter unit stationed in England assigned primarily to RAF Duxford. It claimed 338 air and 358 ground aircraft destroyed. It flew its last misson on 13 April 1945.



For additional history and lineage, see 78th Air Base Wing


  • Constituted as 78th Pursuit Group (Interceptor) on 13 Jan 1942
Activated on 9 Feb 1942
Redesignated 78th Fighter Group in May 1942.
Inactivated on 18 Oct 1945.
Redesignated 78 Fighter-Interceptor Group on 20 Jan 1950
Inactivated on 6 Feb 1952
  • Established as 566th Air Defense Group on 8 Oct 1954
  • Redesignated 78th Fighter Group (Air Defense) on 20 Jun 1955
Activated on 18 Aug 1955 by redesignation of 566th Air Defense Group
Inactivated on 1 Feb 1961

*Note: Became subordinate unit of the 78th Fighter Wing on 24 September 1948


Attached to: 3d Bombardment (later Air) Division, 5 Sep 1944-10 Oct 1945
Attached to Western Air Defense Force, 10 Nov 1949-31 Jul 1950



Tenant unit, station (Mansfield Kaserne) under United States Army control

Aircraft assigned

Operational History

World War II

Republic P-47C-2-RE Thunderbolts of the 82d Fighter Squadron. Serial 42-6249 (2nd from front) was lost after ditching in North Sea off Egmond aan Zee, Netherlands after being hit by anti-aircraft fire February 10, 1944. Pilot MIA
North American P-51D-20-NA Mustang Serial 44-63279 of the 83rd Fighter Squadron

The 78th Fighter Group was activated in 1942. It initially trained for combat with P-38's and served as part of the west coast air defense organization. Moved to England in November 1942 and was assigned to Eighth Air Force. The group lost its P-38's and most of its pilots in February 1943 when they were assigned to Twelfth Air Force for service in the North African campaign.

The group was reassigned to Duxford airfield in April 1943 and reequipped with P-47s. Aircraft of the group were identified by a black/white chequerboard pattern.

The group consisted of the following squadrons:

From Duxford, the 78th flew many missions to escort B-17/B-24bombers that attacked industries, submarine yards and docks, V-weapon sites, and other targets on the Continent. The unit also engaged in counter-air activities and on numerous occasions strafed and dive-bombed airfields, trains, vehicles, barges, tugs, canal locks, barracks, and troops.

In addition to other operations, the 78th participated in the intensive campaign against the German Air Force and aircraft industry during Big Week, 20-25 Feb 1944 and helped to prepare the way for the invasion of France. The group supported the landings in Normandy in June 1944 and contributed to the breakthrough at Saint-Lô in July.

The group converted to P-51s in December 1944 and participated in the Battle of the Bulge, Dec 1944-Jan 1945 and supported the airborne assault across the Rhine in March.

The 78th Fighter Group received a Distinguished Unit Citation for activities connected with the airborne attack on Holland in September 1944 when the group covered troop carrier and bombardment operations and carried out strafing and dive-bombing missions. The group received a second DUC for destroying numerous aircraft on five airfields near Prague and Pilsen on 16 April 1945.

The 78th Fighter Group returned to Camp Kilmer New Jersey and October 1945 and was deactivated in place on 18 October.

Cold War

78th Fighter Squadron F-84D 48-750, about 1950.
Lockheed F-94C-1-LO Starfire 59-641 of the 84th Fighter Interceptor Squadron
The 83d FIS showing off their brand-new Starfighters in 1958. Lockheed F-104A-15-LO Starfighters 56-0772 and 56-0776 are identifiable
Convair F-106A-90-CO Delta Dart Serial 57-2504 of the 84th FIS.

The 78th FG was reactivated in Germany on 20 August 1946 by a redesignation of the 368th Fighter Group. The group was reactivated due to the Air Force's policy of retaining only low-numbered groups on active duty after the war.

In Germany the group was assigned to the United States Air Forces in Europe XII Tactical Air Command for duty with the occupation force. The group was assigned to AAF Station Straubing, and flew the former 368th's P-47 Thunderbolts from the airfield. The unit was transferred, without personnel and equipment, to Mitchel Field, New York in June 1947.

At Mitchel, the group remained in active duty status and was assigned to Air Defense Command. The group was manned with a small cadre of personnel, being equipped with a few P-51D Mustangs. On 16 November 1948, the 58th was reassigned to Hamilton AFB, California where it was assigned of ADC's Fourth Air Force. At that time the 78th Fighter Wing was established by the Hobson reorganization plan, with the 78th Fighter Group becoming a component of the wing, controlling its flying resources.

In February 1949, the 78th Fighter Group received the first of the new production F-84D Thunderjets, with these aircraft going to the assigned 82d, 83d and 84th Fighter Squadrons. The F-84Ds became problematic with cracks appearing in wing spars or skin beginning in September. The group lost four jets in accidents by the end of the year.

On 1 July 1949, Air Defense Command was inactivated as a major command, the 78th Fighter Wing being assigned to Continental Air Command (ConAC). On 1 September 1949 ConAC created the Western Air Defense Force, to which the 78th Fighter Wing was assigned. Redesignated the 78th Fighter-Interceptor Group in January 1950.

With the breakout of the Korean War in June 1950, the 78th Fighter Group was the only remaining ConAC F-84 unit with an air defense commitment, the group lost many personnel which were reassigned to Far East Air Force units engaging in combat with deployed units. The personnel losses were replaced with less-experienced federalized Air Force Reserve or Air National Guard personnel. At the same time, ConAC placed the 78th Fighter Group on 24/7 air defense alert status, with the three squadrons rotating among themselves for one day on and two days off alert periods.

Throughout this period, the F-84Ds remained problematic with wing integrity, the group having only 50 of its authorized 70 aircraft operational, as a third of its aircraft had been sent to Republic Aircraft or Air Materiel Command depots for repairs. This led to excess hours being put on the remaining aircraft, reducing their designed operational life. By the first quarter of 1951, the number of operational aircraft on station was reduced to 44, with only 34 actually being combat ready. The manpower shortage was worse, with only seven of the forty combat-rated pilots being available, the remainder being assigned Europe or combat duty in Korea.

Om June 1951, the 78th Fighter Group received the first four of the F-89B Scorpions, as a replacement for the F-84Cs. The Scorpions were assigned to the 83d and 84th Fighter Squadrons, while the 82d retained the best of the groups remaining F-84Ds, while the remainder were either shipped as replacement aircraft to South Korea or sent to Republic for refurbishing.

By the end of 1951, the 82d Fighter Squadron stood alert during daylight hours while the other two squadrons rotated night and fowl weather duties. The F-89s, however, were rushed into service too rapidly. There were not enough trained pilots and radar operators, and there were not enough maintenance personnel who knew the intricacies of the complex and troublesome Hughes E-1 fire control system. The in-service rate of the F-89B was appallingly low, and crashes were all too frequently.

The 78th Fighter Group was inactivated on 6 February 1952 along with its host wing as part of an ADC reorganization, being replaced by the provisional 4702d Fighter-Interceptor Wing when Hamilton was placed under the ADC 28th Air Division. The inactivated 78th's squadrons were reassigned to the 4703d Defense Wing. The 82d was transferred to Larson AFB, Washington; the 83d and 84th FIS to Paine AFB, Washington.

The unit was reactivated in 1955 by a redesignation of the 566th Air Defense Group at Hamilton AFB. The 566th was activated as the host unit at Hamilton when the 4702d Fighter-Interceptor Wing was inactivated in November 1952. The unit was redesignated as result of ADC "Project Arrow" notable unit redesignation program. Its 82d, 83d and 84th Fighter-Interceptor Squadrons were reassigned to the wing. The group flew numerous interceptors for West Coast air defense until its inactivation on 1 February 1961 when group components were assigned direclty to the Wing as the 78th converted to the tri-deputate system.


 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.
  • Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947-1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0912799129.
  • USAAF Duxford Airfield, Station 357
  • 78th Fighter Group on www.littlefriends.co.uk
  • Freeman, Roger A. (1978) Airfields of the Eighth: Then and Now. After the Battle ISBN 0900913096

External links


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