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332nd Fighter Group

Group

The United States entered World War II with a military that was segregated by race and remained segregated until 1948. War Department planners generally placed White and African-American Army personnel in separate units during World War II.

The 332d Fighter Group was constituted on 4 July 1942, and activated on 13 October, predominantly manned with African-American personnel. Consisted of the 100th, 301st and 302d Fighter Squadrons at Tuskegee Army Air Field, Alabama. Trained with P-39 Airacobra and P-40 Warhawk aircraft for an extended period of time as the Army Air Forces was reluctant to deploy African-American fighter pilots to an overseas combat theater. The 100th Fighter Squadron pre-dates the 332d Fighter Group, being formed on 19 February 1942. The 100th carried out advanced fighter training of graduates of the Tuskegee Institute primary and basic flight training programs for African-American flight cadets at nearby Moton Field. The first class (42-C) of twelve cadets included student officer Captain Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., who served as Commandant of Cadets, began training on 19 July 1941.

Pilots of the 332d Fighter Group, "Tuskegee Airmen," the elite, all-African American 332d Fighter Group at Ramitelli Airfield, Italy. From left to right, Lt. Dempsey W. Morgran, Lt. Carroll S. Woods, Lt. Robert H. Nelron, Jr., Capt. Andrew D. Turner, and Lt. Clarence P. Lester.
After difficulty in establishing a core of African American pilots and ground crews and providing for training at Tuskegee AAF and First Air Force stations in Michigan, by April 1943, the 332d Fighter Group deployed to Twelfth Air Force in the Mediterranean theater. The group's first combat assignment involved attacking enemy units on the strategic volcanic island of Pantelleria in the Mediterranean Sea, to clear the sea lanes for the Allied invasion of Sicily in July 1943. The air assault on the island began on 30 May 1943. The assignment to a predominately ground attack role prevented the 99th from engaging in air-to-air combat.[1]

In September 1943 the unit was criticized by Col. William W. Momyer for "(failure) to display...aggressiveness and daring for combat" and recommended for removal from operations. Congressional hearings were held on this perceived failure, with the aim of disbanding the squadron. However, neither the recommendation nor the hearings shut down the unit after an AAF study reported that the 99th had performed as well as other P-40 units in the Mediterranean.[2] In the meantime the 99th received a Distinguished Unit Citation for its performance in combat on Sicily. Shortly after a Washington hearing on the feasibility of continuing to use African American pilots, three new fighter squadrons graduated from training at Tuskegee: the 100th, 301st and 302nd. The units then embarked for Africa and were combined to form the all-black 332d Fighter Group.[1]

The squadrons were moved to mainland Italy, where the 99th Fighter Squadron, assigned to the group on 1 May 1944, joined them on 6 June at Ramitelli Airfield, in the small city of Campomarino, on the Adriatic coast. From Ramitelli, the 332d Fighter Group escorted Fifteenth Air Force heavy strategic bombing raids into Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Poland and Germany. Flying escort for heavy bombers, the 332d earned an impressive combat record. The Allies called these airmen "Red Tails" or "Red-Tail Angels," because of the distinctive crimson paint prominently visible on the tail section of the unit's aircraft.[3]
The Tuskegee Airmen initially were equipped with Curtiss P-40s, briefly with Bell P-39 Airacobras (March 1944), later with Republic P-47 Thunderbolts (June–July 1944), and finally with the aircraft with which they became most commonly identified, the North American P-51 Mustang (July 1944).[1]

On 27 and 28 January 1944, Luftwaffe Focke Wulf Fw 190 fighter-bombers raided Anzio, where the Allies had conducted amphibious landings on 22 January. Attached to the 79th Fighter Group, 11 of the 99th Fighter Squadron's pilots shot down enemy fighters. Captain Charles B. Hall claimed two shot down, bringing his aerial victory total to three. The eight fighter squadrons defending Anzio together claimed 32 German aircraft shot down, while the 99th claimed the highest score among them with 13.[4] They began operations with Twelfth Air Force on 5 February. They used P-39s to escort convoys, protect harbors, and fly armed reconnaissance missions, converted to P-47s during April–May, and changed to P-51s in June.[1]

They operated with the Fifteenth Air Force from May 1944 to April 1945, being engaged primarily in protecting bombers that struck such objectives as oil refineries, factories, airfields, and marshaling yards in Italy, France, Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Greece. They also made successful strafing attacks on airdromes, railroads, highways, bridges, river traffic, troop concentrations, radar facilities, power stations, and other targets.

The unit received a Distinguished Unit Citation for a mission on 24 March 1945 when the group escorted B-17s during a raid on the Daimler-Benz tank factory at Berlin, fought the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet interceptors that attacked the formation, and strafed transportation facilities while flying back to the base in Italy. During the action, its pilots were credited with destroying three Me 262s of the Luftwaffe's all-jet Jagdgeschwader 7 in aerial combat that day, despite the American unit initially claiming 11 Me 262s on that particular mission.[5] Upon examination of German records, JG 7 records, just four Me 262s were lost and all of the pilots survived.[5] In return, the 463rd Bomb Group, one of the many B-17 groups the 332d were escorting, lost two bombers,[5] and the 332d lost three P-51s during the mission.[5] Fifteenth Air Force dispatched about 660 bombers, 250 of these headed for Berlin. Altogether, Fifteenth Air Force lost nine B-17s and one B-24, out of the fighter escort, five P-51 Mustangs were destroyed during this sortie. Three of the four Me 262 jets that were lost by the Luftwaffe were reportedly shot down, all their pilots bailed out wounded.[6]

Flying escort for heavy bombers, the 332d earned an impressive combat record. Reportedly, the Luftwaffe awarded these airmen the nickname, "Schwarze Vogelmenschen," or "Black Birdmen."[citation needed] The Allies called these airmen "Redtails" or "Redtail Angels," because of the distinctive crimson paint applied on the vertical stabilizers of the unit's aircraft.[7]

With the end of hostilities in Europe in May 1945, the 332d was reassigned to the 305th Bombardment Wing, to prepare for a move to the Pacific Theater and engage in combat against Japan. With the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the end of the war, this became unnecessary and the 332d returned to the United States and was assigned to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, where it inactivated on 19 October 1945.

Commanding officers
  • Benjamin Davis

    Military | Lieutenant Colonel | Fighter Pilot/Squadron Commander/Group Commander | 332nd Fighter Group
    Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., in full Benjamin Oliver Davis, Jr. (born December 18, 1912, Washington, D.C., U.S.—died July 4, 2002, Washington, D.C.) pilot, officer, and administrator who became the first African American general in the U.S. Air Force. His...

Structure

Part of
Encompassing
  • 99th Fighter Squadron

    99th Fighter Squadron

    Squadron
    The 99th was originally formed as the Army Air Force's first African American fighter squadron, then known the 99th Pursuit Squadron. The personnel received their initial flight training at Tuskegee, Alabama earning them the nickname Tuskegee Airmen....

  • 100th Fighter Squadron

    100th Fighter Squadron

    Squadron
    Established in February 1942 at Tuskegee Army Airfield, Alabama to train African-American flight cadets graduated from the Tuskegee Institute Army contract flying school. At Tuskegee, the squadron performed advanced combat flying training. As the...

  • 301st Fighter Squadron

    301st Fighter Squadron

    Squadron
    The 301st was one of four African-American fighter squadrons to enter combat during World War II. ...

  • 302nd Fighter Squadron

    302nd Fighter Squadron

    Squadron
    The 302d was one of four African-American fighter squadrons to enter combat during World War II. It saw combat in the European Theater of Operations and Mediterranean Theater of Operations from 17 February 1944 – 20 February 1945.

Previously was
Not yet known
Became
Not yet known

Stations

Station Location Date
Based Ramitelli Airfield 28 May 1944 – 4 May 1945

Connections

People

  • William Accoo

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Crew Chief | 332nd Fighter Group
    William Accoo fought with distinction for the 332nd Fighter Group, 99th Fighter Squadron during its World War II campaigns in North Africa, Sicily and Italy. For his service he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor in 2007 by Congressman...

  • Lee Archer

    Military | First Lieutenant | Fighter Pilot | 332nd Fighter Group
    Archer is considered by some as the first and—as of 2010—only black U.S. pilot to earn an "ace" designation, for shooting down at least five enemy aircraft.[9][10] Archer was acknowledged to have shot down four planes, and he and another pilot both...

  • Charles Bailey

    Military | First Lieutenant | Fighter Pilot | 332nd Fighter Group
    Credited with two aerial victories

  • Roscoe Brown

    Military | Captain | Fighter Pilot/Squadron Commander | 332nd Fighter Group
    Scored two victories, including one Me262 jet. ...

  • Herbert Carter

    Military | First Lieutenant | Fighter Pilot | 332nd Fighter Group
    One of the original 33 "Tuskegee Airman" ...

  • Woodrow Crockett

    Military | First Lieutenant | Fighter Pilot | 332nd Fighter Group
    World War II Tuskegee Fighter Pilots from Arkansas ...

  • Benjamin Davis

    Military | Lieutenant Colonel | Fighter Pilot/Squadron Commander/Group Commander | 332nd Fighter Group
    Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., in full Benjamin Oliver Davis, Jr. (born December 18, 1912, Washington, D.C., U.S.—died July 4, 2002, Washington, D.C.) pilot, officer, and administrator who became the first African American general in the U.S. Air Force. His...

  • Lawrence Dickson

    Military | Captain | Fighter pilot | 332nd Fighter Group
    Assigned to 100FS, 332FG, 15AF USAAF. Failed to Return (FTR) recon mission to Praha (Prague), Czechoslovakia, engine failure prompted bale out Killed in Action (KIA). 23-Dec-44 MACR 10734. Awards: DFC, AM (4OLC), PH.

  • Spurgeon Ellington

    Military | Captain | Fighter Pilot | 332nd Fighter Group
    In his book, The Tuskegee Airmen: The Men Who Changed A Nation, Charles E. Francis wrote: ...

  • Frederick Funderburg

    Military | First Lieutenant | Fighter Pilot | 332nd Fighter Group
    Scored the first victories for the 301st FS Went missing 19 December 1944 Declared dead 30 December 1945

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Aircraft

  • 42-4478

    P-39 Airacobra
    P-39L 42-4478 301st FS, 332nd FG, 12th AF, lost on training flight from Montecorvino airbase. Cause unknown, disappeared in clouds in location of Mt Vesuvius. 24th Feb 1944. Pilot 2nd Lt Harry J Daniels KIA. MACR 2700 and MACR 4475

  • 42-75971 Ruthless Ruthie

    P-47 Thunderbolt
    Republic P-47D 42-75971 310th Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group, 12th AF. ...

  • 44-15648 Lollipoop II

    P-51 Mustang

  • 42-103956

    P-51 Mustang

  • 42-103762

    P-51 Mustang

  • 44-11088

    P-51 Mustang

  • 44-15569 Bunnie

    P-51 Mustang

  • 44-15144 Peggin

    P-51 Mustang
    Assigned to 100FS, 332FG, 15AF USAAF. Failed to Return (FTR) recon mission to Praha, Yugoslavia engine failure prompted bale out pilot Capt Lawrence E Dickson Killed in Action (KIA). 23-Dec-44 MACR 10734.

  • 42-103443

    P-51 Mustang

Citations

Distinguished Unit Citation (99th FS) - 27 & 28 January 1944 - Anzio, Italy
Distinguished Unit Citation (Group) - 24 March 1945 - Berlin, Germany

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
01 December 2016 18:17:25 466thHistorian Changes to commanding officers associations and stations
Sources

http://acepilots.com/usaaf_tusk.html

Date Contributor Update
01 December 2016 00:14:35 466thHistorian Created entry with type, category, name, nicknames, citations, description, air forces, aircraft types, unit encompassing associations and media associations
Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/332d_Expeditionary_Operations_Group

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