February 1943 10th The 361st Fighter Group was activated at Richmond Army
Air Base, Virginia, comprising personnel from the 327th Fighter Group, under the
command of Maj. Thomas J.J. Christian, Jr., great-grandson of the famous Civil
War general "Stonewall" Jackson.
1943 26th Equipped with Republic P-47 Thunderbolts, the fledgling 361st moved
to Langley Field, Virginia, and began flying its first training missions.
1943 The Group moved to Camp
Springs Army Air Base in Maryland, where most of the flying training and ground
school was completed. 20th The 361st Group's three fighter squadrons, the 374th, 375th and
376th were detached to Millville Army Air Base, New Jersey, for gunnery
1943 28th 36
P-47s led by L/Col. Christian left Camp Springs on a cross-country training
flight, stopping over at Charlotte, North Carolina, Atlanta, Georgia and
Meridian, Mississippi, arriving at Harding Field, Baton Rouge, Louisiana on the
30th. Meanwhile, the Group's ground echelon started moving men and equipment
back to Richmond AAB and began the final preparations for overseas movement.
October 1943 6th With
the exception of one aircraft which was abandoned during manoeuvres, the flight
returned to Richmond. Later that month, all officers and enlisted men of the
squadrons took part in a bivouac about 12 miles from the base. The end of the
month saw the Group's P-47s transferred to the 327th Fighter Group, as
preparations continued for the expected movement overseas.
November 1943 4th Following
a number of practice parades, the 361st held its formal Group Review. 10th
An advanced echelon comprising Maj. Joseph J. Kruzel, Capt. Wallace
E. Hopkins and Lt. Griffith flew to England to make preparations for the
Group's move to the ETO. 11th All
other personnel departed by train for the staging area at Camp Shanks, New York.
23rd 361st personnel sailed for England aboard the liner Queen Elizabeth,
arriving in the Clyde six days later. 30th After an overnight train journey, personnel arrived at RAF Bottisham,
Cambridgeshire. Group was assigned to VIII Fighter Command, Eighth Air Force.
1943 1st L/Col.
Thomas J.J. Christian, Jr. assumed command of the 361st Fighter Group and
supporting units. During the
following weeks the Group received the first of its assigned P-47 Thunderbolts. 12th The 361st was assigned to the 66th Fighter Wing.
1944 3rd RAF
Bottisham was officially handed over to the Group and renamed AAF Station F-374. 13th The
Group had on strength 57 P-47s, one VS Spitfire and one Miles Master
communications aircraft. 15th 361st
Fighter Group declared operational, but the first mission was scrubbed. 21st The Group flew its first combat mission, despatching 52 P-47s on an
area patrol west of St. Omer, France, led by Maj. Ben Rimerman of the 353rd FG.
All returned safely. 29th During its fourth mission, the 361st suffered its first loss when Lt.
Charles B. Screws of the 374th was hit by flak and crash-landed his plane north
of Amiens. 30th The Group claimed its first victories during the first of two bomber
escort missions when 374th Squadron pilots destroyed four Me109s near Rheine,
Germany, but Lt. Ethelbert F. Amason was killed in action.
1944 5th Lt.
William J. Shackelford's P-47 flipped over on landing after returning from an
area support mission east of Rouen. During
a four day period later that month, the Group destroyed a further six enemy
aircraft, but three pilots were lost. 21st Lt. Floyd M. Stegall of the 375th was forced to abort and
suffered engine failure over Holland. 22nd
376th pilot Lt. Daniel B. Nazzarett was killed in action
during a scrap with Fw190s near Cleve, Germany. 24th Lt.
Dennis B. Weaver was shot down by flak during an attack on a German E-Boat off
the Dutch coast. He was posted missing in action.
1944 5th Lt. Glenn T. Berge of the 374th was killed when his P-47
crashed soon after take-off. 6th While
providing withdrawal support for bombers attacking Berlin, 361st
pilots claimed five Fw190s destroyed for no loss. 8th Two more
enemy fighters were knocked down as, once again, the Group supported 8th
AF heavies bombing Berlin. 11th The 361st was transferred to the 67th Fighter Wing. 15th Four 361st pilots were detached to Metfield
and assigned to a special low-level strafing unit, "Bill's Buzz Boys",
named in honour of Gen. William E. Kepner. 17th During the Group's first airdrome strafing mission,
Chartres was attacked with claims of two enemy aircraft destroyed, one probable
and three damaged. 22nd 375th
pilot Lt. James A. Rogers was lost after ditching his flak-damaged P-47 in the
1944 8th 361st Thunderbolts conducted a sweep between the enemy coast
and Steinhuder Lake and later provided withdrawal support for B-24s bombing
Brunswick, claiming nine enemy fighters destroyed, including a Fw190 and an
Me109 shot down by Lt. Alton B. Snyder, Jr. of the 375th. However,
Lt. Albert C. Duncan was killed in action. 11th Station Photographer Lt. Phillip E. Heacox was reported missing after
flying a mission as a gunner in a 91st Bomb Group B-17. The
flak-damaged Fort crash-landed in Sweden. 13th During a bomber escort mission over Belgium, 374th pilots Lts.
Robert J. Stolzy and James R. Golden went to the aid of a 94th BG
Fortress crew after they had been forced to ditch in the English Channel. The
crewmen were later picked up by Air/Sea Rescue. During the second half of April, two enemy planes were destroyed in the
air and a further 16 on the ground for the loss of six P-47s.
1944 1st The Group began to re-equip with North American P-51 Mustangs and took
delivery of 17 new planes. While
returning from an escort mission over France, a Ju188 night-fighter was shot
down by Capt. John W. Guckeyson and Lt. William A. Rautenbush of the 375th. 13th The first all Mustang mission was flown. 16th Lt.
Eugene W. Kinnaird of the 375th was killed when his P-51 crashed
during a mock dogfight with a RAF Hurricane. 19th 59 P-51s were dispatched on the Group's first escort
mission to Berlin, but one plane was abandoned in the Channel. 21st 361st pilots claimed 23 locomotives destroyed during attacks
on rail transportation targets, but two pilots were lost.
more pilots were lost on another mission to Berlin. 27th
375th Commander Maj. George L. Merritt, Jr. destroyed a
Fw190 near Lille/Vendeville airdrome and became the Group's first Fighter Ace.
28th Ground attack alert was sounded amid rumours of the
expected invasion and concerns about the possibility of an enemy paratroop
attack. 29th While providing target support over Cottbus, the Group claimed 12 E/A
destroyed in the air, plus seven on the ground. Within thirty seconds, 376th
pilot Lt. Dale F. Spencer shot down four Me410s near Lansberg as they prepared
to attack the 401st BG.
1944 6th The Group's contribution to D-Day comprised six strafing and
dive-bombing missions, during which at least 15 locomotives and an ammunition
train were destroyed, plus 23 trucks and armoured cars and two enemy aircraft on
the ground. However, three pilots were posted MIA. 7th Four more enemy planes were destroyed on the ground as a result of four
more missions in support of the Allied landings, but 375th CO Major
George L. Merritt, Jr. was KIA.
19th 374th pilots Lts. David L. Callaway, Lawrence E. Downey,
Walter H. Sargent and Robert J. Stolzy, also Capt. Joe L. Latimer were lost on
an abortive bomber escort mission over France due to bad weather.
25th During the first of two missions, the 361st destroyed ten
enemy fighters in the air without loss. Lts. Jack S. Crandell (375th)
and Vernon R. Richards (374th) each destroyed a pair of Me109s.
29th 374th Squadron pilots strafed Oschersleben
airdrome claiming at least 16 enemy aircraft destroyed and eight damaged. Top
scorer was 374th Commander L/Col. Roy A. Webb, Jr. with five
destroyed and one damaged.
1944 5th Although the Group's Mustangs destroyed four more enemy aircraft,
including two Me109s claimed by Lt. Dale F. Spencer which qualified him as an
Ace, two more pilots were posted MIA, both from the 374th. Capt.
Shelby J. Harris was hit by light flak after shooting up a Ju88 on Chateau
Thierry airdrome and Lt. John R. Bernert was presumed to have been shot down
during a scrap with Me109s near Amiens. 7th Even though one P-51 was lost in a take-off crash, the 361st
chalked up nine more aerial victories while escorting 8th AF heavies
to Leipzig. Five of these were claimed by the 375th, but two of the
remainder confirmed Lt. Dale F. Spencer as the Group's leading pilot with
eight aerial victories. 20th While the Group was supporting bombers attacking Kothen, five enemy
fighters were destroyed by 375th pilots Lt. Sherman Armsby (3) and
Lt. William T. Kemp (2). 25th An area support mission over Normandy saw the destruction of two
enemy planes on the ground, but two pilots were posted MIA, Lt. Robert O.
Comstock of the 376th and Lt. James J. Robinson of the 374th.
August 1944 4th
The 361st escorted 1st Bomb
Division B-17s attacking targets at Peenemunde. After the bombing of Anklam
airdrome, one 376th flight strafed the field, claiming three Ju88s
destroyed and two damaged, but the flight leader Capt. Sam C. Wilkerson, Jr. was
hit by intense light flak and baled out. Two other pilots were also posted MIA. 5th En route
to Magdeburg, the 374th and 375th Squadrons engaged a
gaggle of Me109s, claiming five destroyed and one damaged for no loss. 8th The Group was transferred to the 65th Fighter Wing. 12th
dive-bombing and strafing missions were carried out against rail transportation
targets in France with the loss of Lts. John E. Engstrom and Merle C. Rainey of
the 375th, Lt. Clarence E. Zieske of the 374th and the
Group Commander, Col. Thomas J.J. Christian, Jr. 14th Col. Ronald F. Fallows assumed temporary command of the
361st. 18th 376th pilot Lt. Milton A. Dahl died in a mid-air collision
with a 78th FG P-47 near the base. The pilot from Duxford was also
killed. 25th During the morning mission, three more Me109s were destroyed by 375th
pilots near Rostock for no loss. 31st Eighth Fighter Command Group Commanders' conference took place at Bottisham. L/Col. Roy B. Caviness
assumed command of the Group and Station F-374.
1944 11th 375th pilot Lt. John H. Lougheed was killed in a collision
with a B-24 of the 448th BG. 12th Another target escort mission to Magdeburg proved to be the most
successful to date, with claims of 14 Me109s destroyed, including three shot
down by Lt. William T. Kemp, but Lt. Robert E. Geck of the 375th was
KIA. This total also included a '109 destroyed by Lt. Dale Spencer plus
another shared with Lt. Robert W. Ward, bringing Spencer's personal aerial
score to 9.5 victories. 17th
376 sq. P-51's were attacked by 15 Me-109's during a patrol in support of the
Allied airborne landings in Holland with the loss of Lt. Woodrow W. Glover, but
Lt. William R. Beyer managed to even the score by shooting down the flight
leader after a prolonged chase. 18th Claims of four E/A destroyed in the air and three more on the ground,
plus six damaged, included a lone He111 shot down by Lt. Urban L. Drew and a
six-engined flying-boat destroyed at its moorings on the Baltic coast. However,
374th pilot Lt. Clyde A. Arrants was KIA. 20th L/Col.
Joseph J. Kruzel took command of the 361st FG and Station.
The Group was transferred from VIII FC to the 2nd BD.
25th The 361st began moving men and equipment to AAF Station F-165,
Little Walden, Essex. 27th During a target escort mission to Kassel, the 376th set an ETO record with claims of 18 E/A destroyed in the air, plus seven damaged, and
three destroyed on the ground, plus one damaged. Lt. William R. Beyer became an
"Ace in a Day", claiming five Fw190s destroyed, but Lt. Leo H. Lamb was KIA. 28th The Group flew its last mission from Bottisham. On return, the P-51s
landed at F-165.
1944 6th This day saw the 361st providing freelance rear support
for 3rd BD B-17s bombing Berlin and the loss of two 375th
pilots. 20 miles north-west of the city, Capt. Thomas F. Brubaker attacked a
lone Me109, but as he opened fire the fighter suddenly pulled up and they
collided. Both planes spun to earth, but Capt. Brubaker parachuted to safety.
During the withdrawal, loss of oil pressure forced Lt. David R. Morgan to
abandon his P-51 near Halberstadt. 7th Near Naumburg, pilots of the 374th and 376th
intercepted a formation of 75 Me109s and Fw190s as they attacked the bombers
from the rear, claiming six destroyed. Even so, the most notable combat occurred
on returning to England, when Lt. Urban L. Drew of the 375th shot
down a pair of Me262s as they took off from their base at Achmer, the first
Allied pilot to achieve such a feat. However, Lt. Drew's wingman, Lt. Robert
K. McCandliss was shot down by flak. 15th
Having strafed a small convoy of vehicles, 376th CO Maj. James
B. Cheney was forced to bale out after his plane began smoking and losing oil.
He was later taken prisoner.
1944 2nd While supporting 3rd BD B-17s attacking synthetic oil
installations at Merseburg, the Group's pilots claimed nine enemy fighters
destroyed, including two shot down by Lt. William J. Sykes of the 376th,
but 375th pilots Lts. Charles E. Moore and Charles W. Narvis were KIA.
3rd L/Col. Roy B. Caviness assumed command of the 361st
and F-165. 6th Enemy
jets were encountered once again during a target escort mission to Minden,
resulting in one Me262 destroyed by Lt. William J. Quinn plus another damaged by
F/O John R. Voss, both of the 374th. 9th Capt. Richard M. Durbin of 361st FGHQ was
killed when his P-51 crashed upside-down on landing at Little Walden. 26th During its most successful mission of the war, the Group claimed 23 enemy
aircraft destroyed, two probables and nine damaged for no loss while escorting 2nd
BD B-24s in an attack on the Misburg oil installations. Capt. Elroy E. Neely
(375th), Lt. Paul H. Klees (375th), Lt. George R. Vanden
Heuvel and Capt. William R. Beyer (both 376th) each destroyed two
enemy fighters, the latter increasing his personal aerial score to nine
victories. 27th While escorting the 352nd
FG on a strafing mission north of Brunswick, 361st pilots claimed
five E/A destroyed in the air, one probable and three destroyed on
the ground. Lt. William J. Sykes' personal claim was one Me109 destroyed and
another probably destroyed in the air plus two Me410s and an Me110 destroyed on
L/Col. Junius W. Dennison, Jr. took command of the Group and Station
F-165. 361st Mustangs
conducted a target escort mission to Bingen, with claims of three E/A destroyed
and one damaged. 374th Squadron leader Capt. Jerome R. Mau shot down
two Fw190s near Meinsenheim, while Lt. Eugene W. Keplinger (374th)
claimed one Fw190 damaged. Lt. Harold D. Mitchell of the 376th also
destroyed another Focke-Wulf near Bingen. 5th No
claims were made during another mission to Berlin, but 374th pilot
Lt. Denver J. Wood was posted MIA. 23rd The Group dispatched 60 P-51s and pilots, nine ground
officers and 137 enlisted men to airdrome A-64, St. Dizier in France, in support
of 9th AF operations in the "Battle of the Bulge".
While supporting 8th AF heavies in the Trier area, 375th
pilots destroyed three E/A, but Lt. Caleb J. Layton was KIA. 24th The
Group's air echelon came under temporary control of the XIX Tactical Air
Command, 9th AF. Four
Me109s were destroyed by the 376th during an area support mission in
the Bonn-Trier area. However, one of the claimants, Lt. William J. Sykes, was
shot down and baled out, seriously wounded. 26th During the third of six missions, six more enemy fighters
were claimed by the 376th without loss, including two Fw190s
destroyed by Lt. George R. Vanden Heuvel which qualified him as an Ace.
1945 2nd The
last of four missions saw the 361st patrolling an area between Bonn
and Saarbrucken, when eight Me109s were intercepted south of Pforzheim. Pilots
of the 375th destroyed five for no loss. 3rd-9th Missions
scrubbed because of wintry weather conditions in France.
During two of the four missions flown, P-51s of the 375th flew
fighter-bomber patrols deploying 260lb fragmentation bombs, damaging marshalling
yards at Neustadt and Pforzheim. 13th
Patrols were flown by each squadron damaging a convoy of trucks and tanks
near Kappeln, Lorsch airdrome plus a marshalling yard and factory north of
Frankfurt. On the fourth mission, 25 Mustangs provided area support for 150 RAF
Lancasters attacking Saarbrucken. 15th Four
more patrols were flown deploying 500lb demolition bombs, with mixed
results. The 375th skip-bombed and blocked eight railway tunnels.
22nd During the last of three missions, Capt. Alton B. Snyder, Jr. was brought
down by machine-gun fire while strafing a truck, but belly-landed his plane near
Trier and was taken prisoner. 25th The Group flew four missions during which an Me109 and an Me110 were
destroyed by the 375th, but Lt. Robert G. Adams was hit by return
fire from the '110 and killed in action.
1945 1st The Group was reassigned to VIII FC as a change of station began with the
detachment at St. Dizier moving to airdrome A-84 (later re-designated station
181-A & B), Chievres in Belgium, the 361st sharing the field with
the 352nd Fighter Group. 4th
Advanced air echelon left Little Walden and arrived at 181-B. 6th Main party left F-165 by train for Southampton. 8th
Having arrived the day before, the main
party set sail aboard the troopship "Antenor". As the
Group's P-51s conducted a sweep near Erfurt, a lone He111 was encountered on
the deck and promptly dispatched by pilots of the 376th. Claimants
were Lt. Duane Grounds and Lt. Robert Hobbs. 9th
"Antenor" arrived at Le Havre and the men boarded a train of French
"40 & 8" box cars. 10th-14th
Main party en route by train via Camp Twenty Grand to Brugelette,
Belgium. 14th During a sweep flown by 361st "B" Group near Koblenz, Lt.
Thomas A. Kneifel of the 375th was posted MIA after abandoning his
plane due to fuel shortage. 15th
Main party arrived at Brugelette rail station and began moving into
quarters around 181-B. 22nd A split target escort mission to the Nordhausen area and east of Kassel
saw a flight of 374th Mustangs strafe a switch house and a train, but
Lt. Richard E. Chandler was forced to bale out after his plane struck a ground
1945 5th During the first of two missions, 47 P-51s of the 361st
provided escort to Ninth Air Force A-20s and A-26s. Lt. Raymond L. Schrup of the
376th was hit by flak in a fuel tank, but crash-landed safely in
Holland. 9th The first of three missions saw the Group provide freelance target
support to 9th AF B-26s and claims of 2.5 E/A destroyed. 374th
pilots Lts. Barry R. Hicks and Thomas J. Moore each destroyed a Fw190 while
Capt. Anthony Maurice of the 375th shared another with the pilot of
an unidentified P-51. 14th While leading his squadron on a patrol over the Remagen bridgehead area,
Capt. Eugene Cole of the 375th suffered engine failure, but
successfully crash-landed his plane north-west of Koblenz and was taken
prisoner. 21st 361st Mustangs conducted a target escort mission to Plauen,
with claims of two E/A destroyed. 375th pilot Lt. Richard D. Anderson
and Lt. Harry M. Chapman of the 376th each destroyed an Me262 near
Wittenberg. 22nd The Group escorted a force of 227 RAF Lancasters attacking Hildesheim
marshalling yards. 24th In support of the airborne assault and crossing of the Rhine by Allied
forces, the 361st flew six missions as a continuous area patrol from
Minden to Marburg, but Capt. Russell D. Wade of the 375th was hit by
light flak and KIA. 30th During an anti-jet patrol in the Meldorf-Hollingstedt area, Lt. Kenneth
J. Scott, Jr. of the 376th destroyed an Me262. 31st Four more '262s were attacked and damaged near Brunswick, but F/O Deane
E. Jackson of the 374th was posted missing in action.
1945 4th A target
escort mission to Parchim airfield, in support of 2nd Air Division
B-24s, witnessed what would be the Group's last aerial encounters with
Luftwaffe fighters. The bombers were attacked three times by 30 Me262s but, even
so, 374th pilot Lt. James T. Sloan claimed one destroyed, while
others of both the 374th and 375th claimed another 12
Me262s damaged, for no loss. 6th Following rumours of a return to England, orders from 8th AF
HQ confirmed that the 361st would move back to its former station at
Little Walden. The move began with the transfer of the advance party. 9th Advance party established at F-165.
The last mission flown from Belgium, an uneventful escort mission to
Lechfeld, took off from 181-B and landed at Little Walden. 10th The
Group was transferred from VIII FC to the 65th FW, 2nd Air
Division. C-47s and C-46s moved
heavier equipment to F-165. 12th
Road convoy departed 181-B for Le Havre and returned to the UK via LST
L/Col. Roy B. Caviness assumed command of the Group and Station. 16th A split mission saw one section of the 361st escorting 2nd
AD B-24s to Landshut marshalling yards while the second strafed Kircham,
Reichersburg, Pocking and Muhldorf airfields. 17 E/A were destroyed and five
damaged. However, Lts. Delmar R. Ford and Russell E. Kenoyer of the 376th
were KIA. 17th Another split mission called for one section of the Group to escort 2nd
AD heavies attacking rail targets in Czechoslovakia while the second attacked
Pilsen and Eger airfields. Six E/A were destroyed and seven damaged, but Lt.
Joseph B. Wolfe of the 375th was KIA. 20th An
uneventful target escort mission to Zwiesel was the Group's last operational
mission of WW2.
1945 8th Victory in Europe Day. The 361st Fighter Group was stood down,
having flown a total of 441 combat missions in fifteen months of operations from
air bases in England, France and Belgium. The Group's pilots claimed a total
of 226 enemy aircraft destroyed in the air and a further 105 on the ground, with
the loss of 81 aircraft. 13th 48 P-51s participated in an air review over High Wycombe. 14th Training
program began in preparation for the expected redeployment to the Pacific
Theatre. This would involve pilots training on the Republic P-47 and five
"war-weary" examples were taken on strength.
1945 1st 78th Fighter Group veteran Col. John D. Landers assumed
command of the 361st FG, while L/Col. Roy B. Caviness took over the
78th at Duxford. 23rd During a dive-bombing practice mission at Little Walden, 375th
pilots Lt. John E. Havey and Lt. J. Warren Geron were killed when their P-51s
crashed near the base.
August 1945 15th
VJ-Day. The capitulation of the Japanese made the Pacific trip
unnecessary and, amid conflicting rumours about departure dates, 361st
personnel prepared themselves for the trip home.
Meanwhile, the Group's strength dwindled with the grounding of all
"war-weary" P-51s for storage and transfer of the newer planes to depots.
1945 20th The 361st was alerted for departure to the Zone of the
Interior. By the end of the month,
the 56th and 359th Fighter Groups had moved to Little
1945 Col. Landers was succeeded
by L/Col. Gordon M. Graham and the last of the Group's P-51s were transferred
out. After processing at a staging
area, 361st personnel travelled by train to Southampton.
1945 4th The remnants of the 361st Fighter Group sailed for home on the
Queen Mary and the unit was inactivated at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey on 10