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World War II

World War II

Activated on Nov. 15, 1942, at Hamilton Field, Calif., the 354th Fighter Group trained in P-39 aircraft there and at other Army airfields for nearly a year. In October 1943, the group moved to Greenham Common, England, where it became the first group to use the new P-51 Mustang.

From their first combat missions in December 1943 through the end of the war, the “Pioneer Mustang Group” wreaked havoc on the German Luftwaffe. Altogether, pilots of the 354th scored 701 confirmed enemy aircraft destroyed in air-to-air combat. Of a total of 44 aces — five or more enemy aircraft destroyed — Lt. Col. Glenn Eagleston was the leading ace, downing more than 18 aircraft.

For four months in late 1944 and early 1945, the 354th flew P-47s and switched its focus from escort and air superiority to fighter-bomber missions — strafing and dive-bombing enemy targets in Belgium, France and Holland. The wing’s efforts during the war earned it two Distinguished Unit Citations and the French Croix de Guerre with Palm.

After V-E Day, the group served with the Army of Occupation before transferring back to the United States in February 1946 and inactivating. On Nov.

19, 1956, the Air Force reactivated the unit as the 354th Fighter-Day Group stationed at Myrtle Beach AFB, S.C. It was redesignated the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing in July 1958.

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