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
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
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.