14th Fighter Group (USAAF)

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History

The 14th Fighter Group (USAAF) was a P-38 Lightning Group that fought in Tunisia and the Italian campaign, as well as providing bomber escorts for attacks across southern Europe.

The group was formed in the United States in January 1941 and trained with the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk and Republic P-43 Lancer before converting to the P-38 Lightning. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor the group used its P-38s to fly patrols along the US West Coast, where there was a real fear of a Japanese attack.

In late July 1942 the ground echelon set sail for Britain. The air echelon, with its P-38s, moved to the north-eastern United States, then to Presque Isle. The first twenty-eight P-38s, escorted by six B-17s, flew from Presque to Goose Bay on the Canadian Coast on 22 July, end the from there to Greenland, Iceland and finally Prestwick in Scotland. The group then moved to the south-east, where it moved onto existing RAF fighter bases in order to operate alongside their more experienced allies.

The 14th Fighter Group didn't see combat with German fighters during its short period in Britain (it did carry out some escort missions but they were unopposed). It was soon allocated to the new Twelfth Air Force, which was to support Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. The group was able to fly into Algeria directly from Britain within 11 days of the invasion. Initially the group was based in the west of Algeria, but within a few days it moved east to take part in the battles in Tunisia. Before the move the group escorted a force of B-17s in an attack on Tunis on 19 November, but German attacks soon forced the American heavy bombers to move to less vulnerable bases further west.

The first squadron moved to Youks on 21 November and was immediately thrown into combat against a German column advancing towards Gafsa. Six aircraft were lost in landing accidents after they returned to their new base after dark. The group was mainly concerned with the fighting in central Tunisia, although also reached the Tunisian east coast (destroying a number of Axis transport aircraft at Gabes on 24 November) and was sometimes dragging into the fighting further north. The move east did cause some problems, as the group had not been expected to need much transport and had many of its vehicles when space had to be saved in the invasion fleets.

By the start of 1943 the USAAF began to run short of P-38s in North Africa. The 14th was kept up to strength by taking aircraft from the 1st Fighter Group, and then from the 82nd Fighter Group. Even so the group was being worn down, and by mid January had to be withdrawn from Youks to rest and recover. They were still operational, and on 20 January took part in the first successful air attack on the Axis convoys bringing supplies over from Sicily. Twelve P-38s from the group escorted six B-25s that sank the 5,000 ton tanker Saturno. This phase lasted until 28 January when the group handed its remaining P-38s over to the 82nd Fighter Group and prepared for a move to the rear.

The group was rested and recovered by the end of April, in time to take part in the final battle for Tunisia.

Between 8 May and 11 June the group took part in the massive aerial bombardment of Pantelleria, an attack that broke the morale of the defenders and led to the surrender of the island.

During the invasion of Sicily the long range P-38s were used on attacks against targets on the Italian mainland. They also attacked the Axis evacuation route in mid-August 1943, badly damaging their transport routes.

From November 1943 the group's main task was to escort the Italian based strategic bombers as they raided targets across much of southern Europe. At the same time it continued to carry out attacks on German transport links, attacking targets across much of the same area.

During the battle for Anzio the Luftwaffe made a major effort, assembling a much larger bomber force than at any time since the battle of Sicily. The Allies responded with a series of major attacks on Luftwaffe airfields. The 14th Fighter Group took part in one unusual raid on 30 January 1944. The target was the series of airfields around Udine in Austria. Five bomber groups and three fighter groups (including the 14th) attacked in the normal way to attract German attention. At the same time the 325th Fighter Group followed the main raid, then got ahead of it and hit the German fighter bases just as their aircraft were taking off. The result was a devastating defeat for the Luftwaffe forces in Austria.

The group was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for defeating a series of German fighter attacks during a raid on a ball-bearing factory in Austria on 2 April 1944

The group took part in Operation Dragoon - the invasion of the South of France - carrying out a heavy attack on German airfields on 17 August 1944 (D+2).

The group was inactivated in Italy on 9 September 1945.

Books

 

Aircraft

1941-42: Republic P-43 Lancer, Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, Vultee P-66 Vanguard
1941-45: Lockheed P-38 Lightning

Timeline

20 November 1940 Constituted as 14th Pursuit Group (Fighter)
15 January 1941 Activated
May 1942 Redesignated 14th Fighter Group
July-August 1942 To England and Eighth Air Force
November 1942 To North Africa and Twelfth Air Force
November 1943 To Fifteenth Air Force
9 September 1945 Inactivated

Commanders (with date of appointment)

1st Lt Troy Keith: 15 Jan 1941
Col Thayer S Olds: 18 Apr 1941
B Taylor: 26 Sep 1943
Col Daniel S Campbell: 18 Jul 1944
Col Thomas B Whitehouse: Mar 1945-unkn.

Main Bases

Hamilton Field, Calif: 15 Jan 1941
March Field, Calif: c. 10 Jun 1941
Hamilton Field, Calif: 7 Feb-16 Jul 1942
Atcham, England: 18 Aug-Nov 1942
Tafaraoui, Algeria: 15 Nov 1942
Maison Blanche, Algeria: 18 Nov 1942
Youks-les- Bains, Algeria: 22 Nov 1942
Berteaux, Algeria: 9 Jan 1943
Mediouna, French Morocco: 5 Mar 1943
Telergma, Algeria: 5 May 1943
El Bathan, Tunisia: 3 Jun 1943
Ste-Marie-du-Zit, Tunisia: 25 Jul 1943
Triolo Airfield, Italy: 12 Dec 1943
Lesina, Italy: Sep-9 Sep 1945

Component Units

37th Fighter Squadron: 1943-45
48th Fighter Squadron: 1941-45
49th Fighter Squadron: 1941-45
50th Fighter Squadron: 1941-42

Assigned To

1941: 9th Fighter Wing; possibly part of Fourth Air Force
July-November 1942: Eighth Air Force
November 1942-November 1943: 5th Bombardment Wing; Twelfth Air Force
1943-1944: 5th Bombardment Wing; Fifteenth Air Force
1944: 306th Fighter Wing; Fifteenth Air Force

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (13 June 2014), 14th Fighter Group, http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/USAAF/14th_Fighter_Group.html

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