348th Fighter Group (USAAF)

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History

The 348th Fighter Group (USAAF) was based in the south-west Pacific and fought on New Guinea, in the Dutch East Indies, the Philippines before ending the war operating against the Japanese Home Islands.

The group was formed in the United States late in 1942 and moved to Port Moresby on New Guinea (via Australia) in May-June 1943. Between then and November 1944 the group slowly moved west along the island, following the advancing Allied troops. It flew a mix of bomber escort missions, fighter patrols and reconnaissance missions.

On one reconnaissance mission on 11 October 1943 Col Neel E Kearby, the group commander, won the Medal of Honor. He was leading a group of four aircraft returning from a reconnaissance mission at Wewak when he spotted a group of Japanese bombers with a heavy fighter escort. Despite being outnumbered (and not having completed his reconnaissance mission), he ordered his formation to attack the Japanese. Kearby himself claimed six victories in the battle.

The group itself was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for supporting the Allied invasion of New Britain between 16 and 31 December 1943.

During 1944 the group attacked Japanese bases in western New Guinea and the Dutch East Indies (in particular Ceram and Halmahera, off the western tip of New Guinea), in order to prevent the Japanese garrisons of those areas intervening during the upcoming invasion of the Philippines.

In February 1944 the group was allocated to the air forces supporting the invasion of the Admiralty Islands but poor weather prevented it from taking part on the first day of the attack.

In May 1944 the group was chosen to be the first fighter group to move to Wakde Island after it was captured by US forces, and the group was installed by 22 May. Space was limited on the main island, and so the group camped on the nearby Insoemanai Island and used a ferry to reach the air base. The aircraft followed on 26 May. The group was used to support the longer campaign on the mainland opposite Wakde (Lone Tree Hill).

In June 1944 the group took part in the pre-invasion bombardment of Noemfoor, before moving to the island in August. On the day of the invasion itself the group was one of three that between them flew 161 sorties over the invasion beaches. On September the group was joined by its new fourth squadron, making it the first fighter group in the South West Pacific Area to have four squadrons.

In November 1944 the group moved to Leyte, one month after the US invasion. The group was used to provide convoy and bomber escorts, attack Japanese bases and support ground troops fighting on the Philippines. In February 1945 it attacked Japanese barges attempting to ferry troops from Manila to Bataan and Corregidor.

The group was awarded a second Distinguished Unit Citation for defending a bomber force attacking Clark Field on 24 December 1944 from heavy Japanese fighter attacks.

During this period the group was also used to attack Japanese shipping off the coast of China, and provided escorts for bombers heading to the Asian mainland and Formosa.

Early in 1945 the group became one of the first in the South-West Pacific Area to convert to the P-51 Mustang, an aircraft that was in short supply in the Pacific.

In July 1945 the group moved to the Ryukus. From there it flew a mix of bomber escort and ground attack missions against targets on Kyushu.

The group moved to Japan in October 1945 but was inactivated there on 10 May 1946.

Books

Pending

Aircraft

1943-1945: Republic P-47 Thunderbolt

Timeline

24 September 1942 Constituted as 24 September 1942
30 September 1942 Activated
May-June 1943 To Southwest Pacific and Fifth Air Force
November 1944 To Philippines
July 1945 To Ryukyus
October 1945 To Japan
10 May 1946 Inactivated

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Col Neel E Kearby: Oct 1942
Col Robert R Rowland: 17 Nov 1943
Lt Col William M Banks: 8 Jun 1945
Maj Walter G Benz: 26 Nov 1945-unkn

Main Bases

Mitchel Field, NY: 30 Sep 1942
Bradley Field, Conn: 4 Oct 1942
Westover Field, Mass: 29 Oct 1942
Providence, RI: c. 3 Jan 1943
Westover Field, Mass: 28 Apr-9 May 1943
Port Moresby, New Guinea: 23 Jun 1943
Finschhafen, New Guinea: 16 Dec 1943
Saidor, New Guinea: 29 Mar 1944
Wakde: 22 May 1944
Noemfor: 26 Aug 1944
Leyte: 16 Nov 1944
San Marcelino, Luzon: 4 Feb 1945
Floridablanca, Luzon: 15 May 1945
Ie Shima: 9 Jul 1945
Itami, Japan: Oct 1945-10 May 1946

Component Units

340th: 1942-1946
341st: 1942-1946
342nd: 1942-1946
460th: 1944-1946

Assigned To

September 1942-May 1943: New York Fighter Wing; I Fighter Command; First Air Force
1943-1945: V Fighter Command; Fifth Air Force
  1944-1945: 85th Fighter Wing; Fifth Air Force

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (13 January 2016), 348th Fighter Group (USAAF) , http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/USAAF/348th_Fighter_Group.html

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