20th Fighter Group (Squadrons 6176)
By Ron Mackay
Publisher: Squadron/Signal Publications 1996 80 Pages
PDF 29 MB
The USAAF entered the Second World War with its sights set on using its heavy bombers to strike military targets in daylight. The parallel development of fighters to provide cover to and from any target, no matter how deep into the enemy hinterland, was constantly lagging far behind. The heavy armament borne by the B-17 and B-24 probably influenced the commanders to rely on this as the primary defense of the bombers, in the hopes that it would keep bomber losses at an acceptable minimum.
The P-47 Thunderbolt was in operational service by 1943. but they could not escort the bomber formations deep into central Europe, even with the belated provision for drop tanks.
The first P-38 group to arrive in England was the 2()th Fighter Group, its arrival gave General Eaker (commander, 8th Bomber Command) a degree of hope that at last his bombers might have a escort worthy of the name. If not. then the entire bomber offensive was in grave danger.
The 2()th Fighter Group's lineage went back to November of 1930. but the history of one of its three squadrons, the 79th Fighter Squadron, extended back to 1918. Originally created on 22 February 1918. as the 79th Aero Service Squadron at Waco. Texas, it was soon demobilized at Taliaferro Field. Texas in November. Reactivated (in an inactive status) as the 79th Observation Squadron on 1 October 1927. the unit was renamed the 79th Pursuit Squadron on 8 May 1929. The unit was called to active status on I April 1933.
In contrast, the 55th Fighter Squadron was created as the 55th Pursuit Squadron (inactive) on 15 November 1930. The third squadron, the 77th Fighter Squadron, was created as the 77th Observation Squadron during 1927. It redesignated as the 77th Pursuit Squadron in 1929. The 20th Pursuit Group was activated on 15 November 1930 at Mather Field, flying P-12s. Between 1932 and 1939, the Group was based at Barksdale. LA. with the P-I2s being replaced by P-26s and later P-36s. A move to California, where it moved from base to base ended on 14 February 1942. when the Group moved back to Wilmington. Delaware, flying P-40s.
Although reportedly scheduled for duty with the 8th Air Force, the 20th had a long road to travel before reporting for action. During 1942. its personnel moved no less than four times before the unit learned that they were to transition into the P-38. On I January 1943. the unit began to transition.