P-47  "JUG"


Brief History of 146th Fighter-Bomber Group - 1943 -1956.

Prepared by
USAF Historical Division
Research Studies Institute
Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama
September 1956

Contributed by Lou Breuer of the 412th Squadron

During World War II the 146th Fighter-Bomber Group (then designated the 373d Fighter Group) participated in the aerial operations which made possible the establishment of the Normandy beachhead and the rapid advance of the Allied ground forces into Germany. Although in combat only 12 months, the Group took part in 6 campaigns and was awarded 1 Distinguished Unit Citation for outstanding performance of duty in action.

The Group, after returning to the United States in August 1945, was inactivated at Mitchel Field, New York, on 7 November 1945. Approximately six months later, on 24 May 1946, the unit was redesignated 146th Fighter Group and allotted to the California Air National Guard. The unit was ordered into active military duty on 1 April 1951; after a period of duty with first the Strategic Air Command and later the Tactical Air Command, it was relieved from active duty on 1 January 1953 and returned to the control of the State of California.

The 146th Fighter-Bomber Group was constituted as the 373d Fighter Group on 25 May 1943. The unit, consisting of the 410th, 411th, and 412th Fighter Squadrons, was activated at Westover Field, Massachusetts, on 15 August 1943. The original personnel for the 373d were supplied by the 326th Fighter Group. Training for the 373d Fighter Group began at Westover Field in September 1943 and was continued at Norfolk Army Air Base, Virginia, where the unit moved on 22 October.

On 12 February 1944 the Group's training was brought to a halt and the organization prepared for its departure overseas. The Group moved to Camp Shanks, New York, on 15 March. One week later the unit's personnel moved to the New York Port of Embarkation, boarded the HMS Duchess of Bedford, and on the following day sailed for Great Britain. The ship reached Greenock, Scotland, on 3 April, and the men disembarked and moved to their new station at Woodchurch, Kent, England. During the remainder of the month the Group prepared for combat operations by flying training missions. Some of the pilots, in order to gain experience, participated in missions with the 358th Fighter Group.

The 373d Fighter Group flew its first combat mission--a fighter sweep over the coast of France--on 8 May 1944. No aerial opposition or flak was encountered. All planes returned safely to their base. Three days later the unit escorted a group of B-26's to France. Then, on the 21st the organization participated in its first strike into Germany, when 50 of its P-47's conducted a fighter sweep over the lower Ruhr Valley.

The unit met its first enemy air opposition on the mission of 24 May, when it was attacked by seven FW-109's while escorting bombers to Belgium. In the ensuing engagement Lieutenant Everett E. Peters of the 412th Squadron shot down one of the enemy attackers. Three days later the Group completed its first dive-bombing mission--a strike against a railway bridge in the vicinity of Rouen. During another strike on that same target later in the day, the unit's pilots scored three direct hits.

The mission accomplished by the 373d Fighter Group in May 1944 prepared the unit for the tremendous tasks it was to undertake during the month of June. In all, the 373d completed 54 missions, consisting of 1,532 sorties, during the month. Fourteen of its missions were flown on D-Day (6 June), when it patrolled the beaches and provided top cover for other outfits in dive-bombing attacks against enemy targets.

In the days succeeding the successful establishment of the Normandy beachhead the 373d Group swept behind enemy lines, attacking motor convoys, troops, transportation facilities, and other tactical and interdictory targets, in an effort to isolate the battlefield. Often the pilots directed their strikes against any target of opportunity which would hamper the movement of enemy supplies, hinder communications, and check the flow of German reinforcements to the front.

On 25 June the 411th Squadron became the first component of the 373d Fighter Group to land in France. On that day the squadron was sent out to patrol the area between Le Havre and Cap de Barfleur. When their fuel supply was nearly exhausted the squadron's P-47's were relieved by aircraft from one of the other squadrons, and the pilots landed at Aseville on the Cherbourg Peninsula. At that landing strip the planes were refueled and the pilots took off to patrol the same area. Later they returned to their base at Woodchurch.

Although the 373d Group was primarily concerned with ground support and interdiction operations, it did, on several occasions, engage the enemy in aerial combat. For example, on 7 June, one day after the landings, the 410th Fighter Squadron accounted for three aerial victories. Two of those enemy planes were downed by Captain Cowell Van Deventer, and the other was destroyed by Lieutenant William R. Eichelberger. On 29 June, while the 411th Fighter Squadron was providing top cover for a dive-bombing strike against rolling stock in the Le Mans-Tours area, its pilots ran into seven Me-109's. In the battle which ensued the 411th's pilots chalked up five aerial victories.

The movement of the 373d Fighter Group to France in July 1944 hindered its operations during the latter part of the month; however, in August the Group's operations were once again in high gear. With reduced flying distance to and from the front lines the unit was able to complete 94 missions during the month. Most of those missions were in support of General George Patton's Third Army, which during the month burst out of Normandy and into Brittany, conquered all of that peninsula except three stubborn port cities, and swept 140 miles past liberated Paris to within 60 miles of the German border.

During that rapid advance across France the 373d Fighter Group and other XIX Tactical Air Command units blazed the way for General Patton's tank columns. The 373d, along with the other units, provided "umbrella cover" for the advancing ground forces, knocked out enemy rail and railroad transportation, and struck again and again at enemy tanks, gun emplacements, troop concentrations, and strongpoints.

Late in August and early in September the 373d Fighter Group devoted much of its attention to blasting the German fortifications at Brest. After the Third Army burst out of Normandy at Avranches on 1 August and began its rapid advance to the east, the first real stumbling block was met at Brest. The old fortifications of that city had been reinforced by the Germans and presented a most formidable barrier. In spite of repeated air attacks and shelling by 31 artillery battalions, the enemy still held on to its position.

Early in September the Ninth Air Force made the city its primary objective. In addition to continuing its air attacks with bombardment aircraft, the Ninth Air Force directed eight fighter groups, (one of which was the 373d), consisting of approximately 400 planes, to provide air cooperation for the troops assaulting the city. Continuous dive-bombing and strafing attacks by the 373d Fighter Group and its sister organizations finally forced the enemy to withdraw into the city itself. In the final phase of the assault the 373d attacked enemy strongpoints which were obstructing the progress of our ground troops.

After 12 September the 373d Fighter Group returned to supporting the front line elements of General Patton's Third Army. Despite the fact that the unit's base was far from the front lines, it completed 67 dive-bombing and reconnaissance missions--some of them to targets as far away as Luxembourg and Saarbrucken.

On 1 October 1944 the 373d Fighter Group was transferred from the XIX Tactical Air Command to the newly-formed XXIX Tactical Air Command. Thereafter the 373d sought to isolate the front line battle areas by cutting rails and by destroying bridges and other transportation targets; and it gave direct ground support to elements of the Ninth Army by hitting enemy strongpoints, tanks, and gun positions.

Late in October the Group moved to Le Culec, Belgium, where it was located when, on 16 December, the Germans began their historic breakthrough which resulted in the Battle of the Bulge. From 19 to 23 December, while the Germans smashed Allied positions, Allied airpower lay helpless, bound down by unfavorable weather conditions which helped to shield the German thrust. Then, on 24 December the weather cleared and the 373d Group and other air units flew attack after attack in support of our beleaguered ground forces through the remainder of December and during the entire month of January 1945. The German thrust was checked, and the enemy was slowly pushed back. So effective were the Allied aerial blows that by 1 February our ground forces had regained the positions held prior to 16 December.

Throughout that entire battle the 373d Group played a small but significant role. Despite swirling snow, impenetrable fog, freezing rain, and biting cold weather, the Group flew 13 missions during the month of January. Typical of the results attained in the missions were those of 1 January. On that day the unit destroyed 18 vehicles, 27 buildings, 15 railroad cars, and 4 tanks, and effected 19 road and railroad cuts.

In Februray 1945 the Germans, with their attempted breakthrough thwarted, were retreating rapidly. To cut off that retreat and to prevent the Germans from forming a formidable line of defense, the 373d Fighter Group and other XXIX Tactical Air Command units made repeated attacks against the enemy's retreating columns and against transportation targets behind enemy lines. During the month the Group destroyed a total of 605 buildings, 412 railroad cars, 12 locomotives, 88 motor vehicles, and 2 tanks. The unit also effected 193 railroad and road cuts. and it blasted bridges, supply dumps. ammunition stores, gun positions, and pockets of resistance. Operations of that type continued until the war came to an end early in May 1945.

Before closing the combat chapter of the 373d's history, mention should be made of the mission conducted on 20 March 1945, when the Group's pilots destroyed or damaged 119 enemy aircraft on the ground. At the end of that day's operation Colonel James G. McGehee, the Group's Commanding Officer, stated: "Our boys got tired of waiting for the Krauts to come up and fight so they went down and got the Bochs on the ground."

When the war ended the 373d Fighter Group was stationed at Lippstadt, Germany. Later in the month the unit moved to Illesheim. Germany, where it remained until some time in July. The Group then moved back to England, where on 25 July it boarded the SS West Point and sailed for the United States.

After arriving at the Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation on 1 August, the Group moved to Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia. On the following day the 373d was transferred to Sioux Falls Army Air Field. South Dakota. The Group's stay at that base was short, for on 17 August it moved to Seymour-Johnson Field, North Carolina, and then to Mitchel Field, New York, on 28 September. Less than two months later, on 7 November  1945, the 373d Fighter Group was inactivated.

The unit was redesignated 146th Fighter Group and allotted to the California Air National Guard, effective 24 May 1946. The Group was extended Federal Recognition at Van Nuys Municipal Airport, California, on 14 September 1946. At that time it was composed of the 195th and 196th Fighter Squadrons. The 196th Squadron was called to active duty on 10 October 1950 and was subsequently assigned to the 116th Fighter-Bomber Group and sent to Japan. The 197th Fighter Squadron and the 115th Bombardment Squadron, Light were assigned to the 146th Group on 1 November 1950.

The 146th Group's composition remained unchanged until 1 February 1951, at which time the 195th, 197th, and 115th Squadrons were replaced by the 178th (North Dakota National Guard), 186th (Montana National Guard), and the 190th (Idaho National Guard) Fighter Squadrons.

On 1 April 1951, the 146th Fighter Group was called into active military service at Lockheed Air Terminal, Burbank, California. On 16 April the Group was assigned to Strategic Air Command, and shortly thereafter the Group was reduced to a "paper organization" with only one officer and one airman assigned. The unit remained in that status until 16 November 1951, at which time it was assigned to Tactical Air Command.

A few days after the Group had been manned, it took part in a four-day Operational Readiness Test. During that four-day period the unit performed various simulated combat missions, including fighter sweeps, close support strikes, ground-controlled interceptions, and escorts. In March 1952 most of the unit's personnel were airlifted to Waco Municipal Airport, Texas, where they took part in Exercise "Long Horn," a joint air-ground maneuver. In mid-April the 146th Group returned to George Air Force Base, California, where it continued to carry out routine training. On 1 January 1953, the Group was relieved from active military service and returned to the control of the State of California. The Group, composed of the 115th, 195th, 196th, and 197th Fighter-Bomber Squadrons, took station at Van Nuys Metropolitan Airport, California.


 A. Organizational Status

    Constituted
Headquarters, 373d Fighter Group. WD Ltr. AG 322 (5-24-43) OB-I-AFRPG-M, dated 25 May 1943.
    Activated
At Westover Field, Massachusetts, on 15 August 1943. GO 52, HQ., I Fighter Command, 12 Jun 1943, pursuant to the above-cited Ltr., dated 25 May 1943.
    Redesignated
Headquarters, 373d Fighter Group, Single Engine, on 28 April 1944. Pursuant to WD Ltr. AG 320.2 (31 Jul 43) PE-A-M-C, dated 20 August 1943.
    Redesignated
Headquarters, 373d Fighter Group. Date and authority unknown. 
    Inactivated
At Mitchel Field, New York, on 7 November 1945, GO 100, Hq., First Air Force, 7 November 1945, pursuant to WD Ltr. AG 322 (18 Oct 45) OB-I-AFCOR- M, dated 23 October 1945.
    Redesignated
Headquarters, 146th Fighter Group, effective 24 May 1946, WD Ltr. AG 322 (26 Nov 46) AO-I-AFCOR-M, dated 5 December 1946.
    Allotted to National Guard
Effective 24 May 1946. WD Ltr. AG 322 (26 Nov 46) AO-I-AFCOR-M, dated 5 December 1946.
    Allotted to State of California
Effective 24 May 1946. WDSNG Ltr. 325.4 (Air) (PWP) Gen-31, 24 May 1946.
    Authorized to be Organized
On 15 August 1946. WDSNG Ltr. 325.4 (Air) (PWP) Calif. (2 Aug 46), dated 8 August 1946.
    Extended Federal Recognition
At Van Nuys Metropolitan Airport, California, on 14 September 1946, by authority Secretary of War. WDSNG Ltr. 325.4 (Air) Calif.-8 (14-9-46),
dated 14 September 1946, This was changed to Lockheed Air Terminal,
Burbank, California, effective 26 January 1951, DA&AF Ltr., National Guard Bureau, 30 January 1951.
    Redesignated
Headquarters, 146th Fighter Group, on 1 February 1951. DA&AF Ltr., National Guard Bureau, 30 January 1951.
    Ordered into Active Military Service
On 1 April 1951. DAF Ltr. 322 (AFOMO 981f), 9 February 1951.
    Redesignated
Headquarters, 146th Fighter-Bomber Group, effective 1 June 1951, GO 48, Hq., Strategic Air Command, 5 June 1951, pursuant to DAF Ltr. 322 (AFOMO 211g), 23 May 1951.
    Relieved from Active Military Service
On 1 January 1953. DAF Ltr. 322 (AFOMO 177h), 15 November 1952.
    Returned to State of California Control
On 1 January 1953. GO 102, Hq., Ninth Air Force, 8 December 1952, pursuant to DAF Ltr. 322 (AFOMO 177h), 15 November 1952.


 B. Composition

410th Fighter Squadron, Single Engine 15 Aug 43 - Nov 45
411th Fighter Squadron, Single Engine 15 Aug 43 - Nov 45
412th Fighter Squadron, Single Engine 15 Aug 43 - Nov 45
195th Fighter-Bomber Squadron 14 Sep 46 - 1 Feb 51

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1 Jan 53 -
196th Fighter-Bomber Squadron 14 Sep 46 - 10 Oct 50

"

1 Jan 53 -
197th Fighter-Bomber Squadron 14 Sep 46 - 1 Feb 51

"

1 Jan 53 -
115th Fighter-Bomber Squadron 1 Nov 50 - 1 Feb 51

"

1 Jan 53 -
178th Fighter-Bomber Squadron 1 Feb 51 - 1 Jan 53
186th Fighter-Bomber Squadron 1 Feb 51 - 1 Jan 53
190th Fighter-Bomber Squadron 1 Feb 51 - 1 Jan 53
4453d Organizational Maintenance Squadron 1 Jun 51 - 14 Jan 52
4453d Armament Electronics Maintenance Squadron 1 Jun 51 - 14 Jan 52
146th Maintenance Squadron 1 Jun 51 - 14 Jan 52


 C. Assignments

First Air Force; I Fighter Command: 15 August 1943
Ninth Air Force; XIX Tactical Air Command: 4 April 1944
Ninth Air Force; XXIX Tactical Air Command (Prov.): 1 October 1944
Continental Air Force; Second Air Force: 4 August 1945
Continental Air Force; First Air Force: 20 August - 7 November 1945
California Air National Guard; 64th Fighter wing: 14 September 1946
California Air National Guard; 146th Composite Wing: 1 November 1950
Continental Air Command; Fourth Air Force; 146th Fighter Wing: 1 April 1951
Strategic Air Command; 146th Fighter Wing: 16 April 1951
Strategic Air Command; Second Air Force; 146th Fighter Wing: 1 April 1951
Tactical Air Command; Ninth Air Force; 146th Fighter-Bomber Wing: 16 Nov 1951
California Air National Guard; 146th Fighter-Bomber Wing: 1 January 1953


 D. Station List

  United States  
    Westover Field, Massachusetts 15 Aug 43 - 22 Oct 43
      Norfolk Army Air Base, Virginia 23 Oct 43 - 15 Feb 44
    Richmond Army Air Base, Virginia 15 Feb 44 - 15 Mar 44
      Camp Shanks, New York 15 Mar - 22 Mar 44
    New York Port of Embarkation 22 Mar 44 - 23 Mar 44
  At sea (aboard HMS Duchess of Bedford) 23 Mar 44 - 3 Apr 44
Scotland
      Greenock 3 Apr 44 - 3 Apr 44
England
      Woodchurch, Kent   419 4 Apr 44 - 19 Jul 44
France
      Tour-En-Bessin   A-13 19-31 Jul 44 - 19-20 Aug 44
    St. James   A-29 19-20 Aug 44 - 18-24 Sep 44
      Reims   A-62 19-24 Sep 44 - 22-27 Oct 44
Belgium
      Le Culot   Y-89 22-27 Oct 44 - 11-15 Mar 45
Holland
      Venlo   Y-55 11-15 Mar 45 - 20-24 Apr 45
Germany
      Lippstadt   Y-98 20-24 Apr 45 - 20-21 May 45
    Illesheim   R-10 20-28 May 45 - Jul 45
England Jul 45 - 25 Jul 45
At sea (aboard SS West Point) 25 Jul 45 - 1 Aug 45
United States
    Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation 1 Aug 45 - 1 Aug 45
    Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia 1 Aug 45 - 2 Aug 45
    Sioux Falls Army Air Field, South Dakota 4 Aug 45 - 17 Aug 45
    Seymour-Johnson Field, North Carolina 20 Aug 45 - 27 Sep 45
    Mitchel Field, New York 28 Sep 45 - 7 Nov 45
    Van Nuys Metropolitan Airport, California 14 Sep 46 - 26 Jan 51
    Lockheed Air Terminal, Burbank, California 26 Jun 51 - 1 May 51
    Moody Air Force Base, Georgia 10 May 51 - 15 Oct 51
    George Air Force Base, California 25 Oct 51 - 1 Jan 53
    Van Nuys Metropolitan Airport, California 1 Jan 53 -


 E. Commanding Officers

  Lt. Col. (later Col) William H. Schwartz, Jr. 15 Aug 43 - 17 Nov 44
Col. James C. McGehee 17 Nov 44 - 23 May 45
Lt. Col. James P. McCarthy 24 May 45 - 25 Oct 45
Col. Clarence A. Shoop 14 Sep 46 - 9 Feb 51
Lt. Col. Jack D. Blanchard 9 Feb 51 - Apr 51
7 Jan 52 - 4 Apr 52
Col. Amos P. Riha 4 Apr 52 - 27 Oct 52
Col. Paul P. Douglas 27 Oct 52 - 1 Jan 53


 F. Aircraft Used

  1943-1945 P-47
1951-1952 F-51, T-6, C-47, T-33


 G. Battle Honors

  Air Offensive, Europe WD GO 85,   1945
Normandy WD GO 102, 1945
  Northern France WD GO 103, 1945
Ardennes * WD GO 114, 1945
  * Changed to Ardennes-Alsace by WD GO 24, 1947  
Central Europe WD GO 116, 1945
  Rhineland WD GO 118, 1945


 H. Distinguished Unit Citation

For action over the Rhine River, on 20 March 1945 WD GO 56, 1945

Note: The text of the above citation is not available in the Archives of the USAF Historical Division


 Bibliographical Note

The material for this paper was drawn, in large part, from the histories of the 146th Fighter-Bomber Group and its predecessors, and from histories of the 195th and 196th Fighter-Bomber Squadrons. These histories are deposited in the Archives of the USAF Historical Division, Research Studies Institute, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.

Supplementary information was obtained from the following sources: records of the First, Second, and Ninth Air Forces; histories of the 146th Fighter-Bomber Wing, and of the XIX and XXIX Tactical Air Commands; documents from the offices of the Adjutant General and Air Adjutant General; and the Unit Record Card, maintained by the National Guard Bureau, Washington, D.C.

Since National Guard units not on active duty do not submit historical reports, the USAF Historical Division does not have detailed information concerning the unit's history after 1945.

This document was contributed by Lou Breuer of the 412th Squadron

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last update: 10 Nov 04

 

412th Squadron patch image courtesy of Bruce Lowell and Bob Colangelo.