475th Fighter Group (USAAF)

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History

The 475th Fighter Group (USAAF) was created in Australia in 1943, and supported the Allied advance across New Guinea and into the Philippines.

The group had a slightly unusual birth, being activated in Australia on 14 May 1943, the day before it was officially constituted, the reverse of the normal order. It was equipped with the P-38 Lightning, and trained to provide long fighter escorts for bombers attacking Japanese airfields and other positions in the Dutch East Indies and the Bismarck Archipelago. It was the first group in the Australian theatre to be entirely equipped with the P-38. Its first personnel were withdrawn from New Guinea and arrived at their new base on 17 June. Three weeks later reinforcements arrived from the United States. The group received 115 P-38s in June-July.

In August 1943 the group moved to New Guinea, where it became operational on 15 August. In the same month it won a Distinguished Unit Citation for protecting B-25s that were attacking Japanese airfields on Wewak, and also destroying a number of Japanese fighters that attacked the formation.

At the end of September the group was part of the First Air Task Force, the unit with operational control of the bombing raids against Rabaul.

The group won a second DUC for defending American shipping in Oro Bay against Japanese air attacks on 15 and 17 October 1943.

While based on New Guinea the group also provided fighter cover for landings along the coast of New Guinea, in New Britain and the Schouten Islands. When the landings at Cape Gloucester on New Britain were being planned, the group was to be the first fighter group to move to the area, but this part of the plan was abandoned before the invasion.

In February 1944 the group supported the invasion of Los Negros in the Admiralty Islands, losing four aircraft to bad weather at the start of the invasion.

In April 1944 the group took part in the invasion of Hollandia on New Guinea, moving forward to Nadzab to get within range. They were also given aircraft that been modified to improve their range. In mid-May the group moved forward again, onto the newly captured bases at Hollandia, from where it supported the attack on Wakde. On 16 May, the day after the move, the group escorted an attack on Kamiri airfield on Noemfoor.

On 16 June the group helped escort what was then the longest distance B-25 raid in the South West Pacific to date, an attack on the Japanese airfields at Jefman-Samate, to reduce the threat to Biak.

At the start of July the group supported the invasion of Noemfoor, just off the coast of western New Guinea.

In July 1944 the group moved to Biak. From there it was carried out a mix of bomber escort and fighter sweeps over the southern Philippines, Celebes, Halmahera and Borneo.

During this period the group received some training from Charles Lindbergh, who showed them how to extend their range even further by improving their economy at cruising speeds.

The group moved to the Philippines in October 1944. It won a third DUC for its performance during the initial phase of the Allied invasion of the Philippines in October-December 1944, attacking Japanese airfields and other installations, escorting bombers and clashing with Japanese fighters. On 7 December the group supported the Allied landings at Ormoc, clashing with Japanese aircraft that were covering a landing of their own. The 475th and 49th Fighter Groups claimed to have destroyed 51 of the 75 Japanese aircraft that attacked the US landing forces.

Major Thomas B. McGuire Jr was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in December 1944-January 1945. On 25 December 1944 he volunteered to command the fighter escort for B-25s attacking Mabalacat airfield, and on 26 December attacking Clark Field. During these battles he claimed seven victories. On 7 January 1945 he crashed and was killed while attempting to save another pilot during a fighter sweep over Los Negroes Island.

During the first part of 1944 the group supported the troops fighting on Luzon, escorted bombers heading for China and hit railways on Formosa.

In August the group began to move forward to Ie Shima, ready to take part in the attacks on the Japanese Home Islands, but the war ended before the move was complete. In the aftermath of the war the group moved to Korea, to form part of the Far East Air Forces. It remained in the Far East until 1949, converting to the P-51 in 1946 and moving to Japan in 1948, where it was inactivated in 1949.

Books

Pending

Aircraft

1943-1946: Lockheed P-38 Lightning
1946-1949: North American P-51 Mustang

Timeline

14 May 1943 Activated in Australia
15 May 1943 Constituted as 475th Fighter Group
August 1943 Combat Debut
September 1945 To Korea
1948 To Japan
1 April 1949 Inactivated

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Lt Col George W Prentice: 21 May 1943
Col Charles H MacDonald: 26 Nov 1943
Lt Col Meryl M Smith: Aug 1944
Col Charles H MacDonald: 13 Oct 1944
Lt Col John S Loisel: 15 Jul 1945
Col Henry G Thorne Jr: 18 Apr 1946.
Col Ashley B Packard: 20 Jul 1946
Col Leland S Stranathan: c. 22 Mar 1947
Col Carl W Pyle: 7 Jun 1947
Col William 0 Moore: 19 Sep 1947
Lt col Woodrow W Ramsey: 28 Aug 1948-25 Mar 1949.

Main Bases

Amberley Field, Australia: 14 May 1943
Dobodura, New Guinea: 14 Aug 1943
Nadzab, New Guinea: 24 Mar 1944
Hollandia, New Guinea: 15 May 1944
Biak: c. 14 Jul 1944
Dulag, Leyte: 28 Oct 1944
San Jose, Mindoro: 5 Feb 1945
Clark Field, Luzon: 28 Feb 1945
Lingayen, Luzon: c. 20 Apr 1945
Ie Shima: 8 Aug 1945
Kimpo, Korea: c. 23 Sep 1945
Itazuke, Japan: 28 Aug 1948
Ashiya, Japan: 25 Mar-1 Apr 1949.

Component Units

431st: 1943-1949
432nd: 1943-1949
433rd: 1943-1949

Assigned To

1943-1945: V Fighter Command; Fifth Air Force
  1944-1945: 85th Fighter Wing; Fifth Air Force

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (17 September 2018), 475th Fighter Group (USAAF) , http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/USAAF/475th_Fighter_Group.html

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