Thursday, August 16, 2012

The 359th Fighter Group

During its 17 months of operation, members of the 359th Fighter Group, comprised of the 368th Fighter Squadron, the 369th Fighter Squadron, and the 370th Fighter Squadron, excelled at escort missions and at the very hazardous jobs of "killing" trains and destroying aircraft on the ground. Although often frustrated at the restrictions placed on pursuing enemy aircraft that endeavored to lure them away from protecting their "big friends," the bombers, the pilots of the 359th faithfully fulfilled the escort missions that comprised approximately 75 percent of their flights.

The 359th Fighter Group was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation as well as numerous battle ribbons, including:

• The Air Offensive Europe ribbon, for preparation for the invasion of Normandy

• The Normandy ribbon, for invasion support and subsequent break out of the beach head areas

• The Northern France ribbon, for support for the drive across France

• The Rhineland ribbon for supporting the airborne invasion of the Netherlands as well as the drive into the Rhine

• The Ardennes-Alsace ribbon for support during the Battle of the Bulge

• And the Central Europe Ribbon for supporting the final actions across Germany

There were 13,455 sorties flown by the pilots of the 359th. In addition to guarding the "heavies" they shot down 241 enemy aircraft, with an additional 33 probables and 69 damaged. Another 122 were destroyed on the ground plus 107 damaged. Almost 500 locomotives and 1,400 railway cars were destroyed or damaged. Other ground attacks supported troop movements and targeted infrastructure. To do all of this 1,000,000 rounds of .50 calibre ammunition was expended along with nearly 900 bombs of varying poundage.

The 359th Fighter Group lost 121 pilots.

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