406th Fighter Group (USAAF)

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History

The 406th Fighter Group (USAAF) served with the Ninth Air Force and took part in the D-Day landings, the break out from Normandy, the sieges of St Malo and Brest, the advance across France, the Battle of the Bulge and the advance into Germany.

The group was formed in the US in February-March 1943 and moved to Britain in April 1944. The 406th Fighter Group was one of the last two groups to become operational in the Ninth Air Force before D-Day, flying its first mission on 9 May 1944, the same day as the 367th.

On D-Day the group provided air cover of the beach head area. During the campaign in Normandy it flew a mix of armed reconnaissance and dive bombing missions, hit transport links, gun emplacements and other suitable targets.

Republic P-47D Thunderbolt with rocket launchers
Republic P-47D
Thunderbolt
with rocket launchers

On 25 July, at the start of Operation Cobra, the 406th was the only fighter group in the Ninth Air Force to encounter German fighters. In a battle with fifteen Luftwaffe fighters one US fighter was lost but four victories claimed.

The group took part in the sieges of St Malo and Brest, on the right flank of the Allied beach head. It then helped support the advance across France and in particular the advance to the Moselle and Saar.

On 11 August one squadron from the group had another clash with the Luftwaffe, and dispersed a German formation by firing its rockets at them!

On 19 August there was yet another clash, this time as one squadron from the group attacked an airfield near Pontoise. The American pilots were ambushed, and despite the help of a second squadron lost five aircraft. Five victories were claimed, so the Germans probably had the best of this fight. However another squadron from the group evened the score somewhat in a clash where their low level manoeuvres caused two German aircraft to crash.

On 7 September, while operating in support of US troops crossing the Moselle, the group made forty attacks on a group of fifteen German tanks near Arry. The group claimed that all fifteen had been knocked out or immobilized, although later evidence would suggest that this was over-optimistic. The group was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for this effort.

10 September also saw another clash with German fighters, this time with two US aircraft lost and six victories claimed.

On 12 October the group hit some of the fortifications of Metz, after the US army decided to abandon a costly assault on the fortress.

During the Battle of the Bulge the group moved to the Ardennes. Between 23-27 December it operated within ten miles of Bastogne, and won a second Distinguished Unit Citation for its efforts.

On 26 December the group operated in support of the III, VIII and XII Corps from Patton's 3rd Army, as they attempted to lift the siege of Bastogne.

At the start of 1945 the group operated over the Ruhr Valley, flying a mix of bomber escort, ground attack and close-support missions. In March it supported the crossing of the Rhine. It then went on to take part in the advance across Germany.

After the end of the fighting the group became part of the United States Air Forces in Europe as part of the army of occupation. It was inactivated in Germany on 20 August 1946.

Books

Pending

Aircraft

1943-1944: Douglas A-24 Banshee (SBD Dauntless ), Vultee A-35 Vengeance , Kaiser-Fleetwings A-39, Republic P-47 Thunderbolt
April 1944-1946: Republic P-47 Thunderbolt

Timeline

4 February 1943 Constituted as 406th Bombardment Group (Dive)
1 March 1943 Activated
August 1943 Redesignated as 406th Fighter-Bomber Group
April 1944 To Britain and Ninth Air Force
May 1944

Redesignated as 406th Fighter Group

Combat Debut

August 1944 To Continent
20 August 1946 Inactivated

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Lt Col Bryan B Harper: Mar 1943
Col Anthony V Grossetta: c 6 Nov 1943
Lt Col Converse B Kelly: c. Jun 1945
Lt Col Robert C Brown: 27 Sep 1945
Lt Col Arvis L Hilpert: 17 Jan 1946
Col Earl H Dunham: 6 Apr-Aug 1946

Main Bases

Key Field, Miss: 1 Mar 1943
Congaree AAFld, SC: c. 18 Sep 1943-13 Mar 1944
Ashford, England: 4 Apr 1944
Tour-en-Bassin, France: 5 Aug 1944
Cretteville, France: 17 Aug 1944
Le Mans, France: 4 Sep 1944
Mourmelon-le-Grand, France: 22 Sep 1944
Metz, France: 2 Feb 1945
Assche, Belgium: 8 Feb 1945
Handorf, Germany: 15 Apr 1945
Nordholz, Germany: 5 Jun 1945-20 Aug 1946

Component Units

512th (628th): 1943-1946
513th (629th): 1943-1946
514th (630th): 1943-1946

Assigned To

15 September 1944-8 February 1945: 100th Fighter Wing; XIX Tactical Air Command; Ninth Air Force
-8 May 1945-: XXIX Tactical Air Command; Ninth Air Force
1945: 64th Fighter Wing

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (21 October 2016), 406th Fighter Group (USAAF), http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/USAAF/406th_Fighter_Group.html

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