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The 404th after Winkton

404th fighter group

15 July 1945

SUBJECT : Digest of Unit History

TO : Commanding General, Ninth Air Force

The 404th Group was activated 4 February 1943 at Key Field, Meriddian, Mississippi, as a Dive Bombardment unit with four squadrons, the 620th, 621st, 622d and 623d. At Congeree Army Air Field, Congaree, South Carolina, 15 August 1943, the Group was re-organised as a fighter bomber unit, the 623d Squadron was disbanded, and the remaining three were redesignated the 506th, 507th and 508th Fighter Bomber squadrons. On 13 June 1944, at Station 414, Winkton, England, the "bomber" was dropped from the title and the Group redesignated simply the 404th Fighter Group.

The bulk of the initial cadre was drawn from the 48th Fighter Group, Commanding Officers were as follows, Lieut. Col. Lucius G. Drafts, 6 february 1943 to 6 May 1943; Lieut. Col. James Van G. Wilson, 6 May 1943 to 27 January 1944; Lieut. Col. (later Colonel) Carroll W. McColpin, 27 January 1944 to 25 November 1944; Lieut. Col. Leo C. Moon, 25 November 1944 to 23 April 1945; Lieut. Col. John R. Murphy, 23 April 1945 to the present.

The Group was shipped from the New York Port of Embarkation, 22 march 1944, and arrived at Station 414, Winkton, England 5 April 1944. Its first operational missions were flown 1 May 1944, June 6 and 7 the Group flew medium altitude cover over the invasion beaches, operating from 0600 hours in the morning till after midnight. June 18, in answer to a weak transmission for help from French forces of the interior on the Brest peninsula, the entire group flew what is believed to be the only close support mission of its kind in Northern France, bombing and strafing an enemy radio tower and chateau-headquarters. July 7th, having moved to strip A-5 at Chippelle, Normandy, the Group began continental operations.

Flying 14th out of 15 fighter groups, the 404th participated in the mass bombardment along the St. Lô - Periers road 25 July 1944 which opened the way for the St. Lô Breakthrough. During the armored rush from St. Lô to Avranches the last week in July, the Group led the Ninth Air Force in armored column cover missions, flying 40 per cent of the air force total, leading the armor from the narrow corridor west of the Vire river into the open exploitable country of Brittany. It assisted in breaking the serious panzer counter attack westwards from Mortain, August 8 to 9, and scored heavily ahead of First Army units closing the southern pincer around the Falaise gap.

Colonel McColpin on August 27 performed one of the outstanding feats of the war by spinning in three pursuing Focke Wulf 190’s without firing a shot. The aircraft moved to airfield A-48 at Bretigny, South of Paris, 3 September 1944. September 10, the Group flew a series of strikes against rail transportation in the Rhineland from Cologne to Coblenz, for which it was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation. September 15, the planes moved again, to A-68 at Juvincourt, north of Reims. Operating from there 28 September, then Second Lieut. John W. Wainwright single-handedly destroyed six enemy aircraft, three by machine gun fire and three by mid air collisions in the melée. October 1, 1944 the aircraft moved again, to site A-92, at St Trond, Belgium, where it was joined by its parent organisation the 48th Fighter Group.

It participated in the reduction of Aachen October 11-13, and it was the only fighter group to hit is targets through bad weather November 16 preceding the Ninth Army push to the Roer River. The 506th Squadron participated in the air attack that that stopped enemy armored columns at Stavelot December 18, at the start of the Ardennes counteroffensive, and during the enemy retreat from the Ardennes, the Group hit new high scores in the destruction of enemy motor transport January 21- 25 1945. February 22 the Group participated in "Operation Clarion", the great air strike against enemy rail transportation in central Germany. All squadrons flew close operation missions in the Remagen bridge area early in March and March 24 covered the airborne landings at Wesel. April 6th the unit moved to site A-54, Kelz, Germany and April 13 continued on to Y-86, Fritzlar, 20 miles south of Kassel.

The period April 14-20 was spent leading the drive on Leipzig; the Group provided continuous support for the Ninth Armored Division till the city was surrounded, and made the last bombing attack on Torgau before the First Army sat down to wait for the Russians. Missions against the Ruhr pocket and long escorts covering medium bombers into Austria and Czechoslovakia concluded the Group’s European operations, the last mission being flown on May 4.

The Group moved to Site R-50, Stuttgart/Echterdingen, June 23, where it is at the present awaiting redeployment.

404th.jpg (39305 bytes)


Emblem of the 404th Fighter Group

Designed in January 1945, the insignia of the 404th Fighter Group is a heraldic shield, showing a cracked shield, a fallen helmet and a broken sword being struck by a thunderbolt. Background colours are blue sky, and blood-red ground. The Latin inscription. “Igne ferroque hostem armatum con-tere,” on a scroll beneath the shield, may be rendered, "With fire and steel crush the armed (or armored) foe."

It is believed that Lt. Col. Leo C. Moon, S/Sgt. Luis M. Hender-son and Sgt. Joseph H. Saling all participated in the conception, design and execution of this insignia. Both the inscription and the symbolism of the shield (the enemy's defensive armor), the sword (his weapons), the helmet (enemy personnel), and the thunderbolt (representing both attack from the air, and the type of aircraft used by the Group), are singularly appropriate.

For most of the group’s combat career, enemy guns, tanks and troops were it principle targets. When armoured column cover was introduced for the first time in history at the St Lô Breakout, the 404th Fighter Group took a leading part, flying 150 out of a total of 400 armoured column cover missions during the critical period, July 26 - August 1st (1944), opening a corridor from St Lô to Avranches and making possible the final exploitation throughout northern France. During that week, and during the period January 21-25th (1945) against the Ardennes salient, the group achieved some of its greatest successes. Flying against enemy armour and transportation withdrawing from the Bulge four out of five days between January 21 and 25, the Group destroyed or damaged more than 1000 vehicles, or one quarter of its total for an entire year of operations. On January 25th its claims of 500 enemy vehicles made up half of the total for the entire IX Tactical Air Command.

Truly, with the fire of 50 calibre machine guns and the steel of bursting bombs and rockets, the 404th Fighter Group has crushed the enemy, his arms and armour with lightening attacks out of the sky, reddening the soil with his blood.


17 July 1944 - St Lo

"At 18:00, a serious counter attack menaced the the two isolated battalions so an air strike was called. The planes were in the air and over the two battalions in the target area by 2100, but failed to locate the units on the ground. A query from regiment revealed that the units had failed to carry front line marking panels. It was suggested white undershirts and copies of the Stars and Stripes be used. These markings were picked up by the 506th squadron which shortly afterwards came in with telling blows and broke up the threat. The air attack was so devastating and broke up the enemy so completely that a number of Germans ran forward to surrender rather than stay in it. The event proved to be one of the first outstanding examples of close air support in the war and resulted in the rules being rewritten.

10 September 1944    Unit citation from Major General Vandenberg

For outstanding performance of duty in action against the enemy on 10 September 1944. On that date the 404th Fighter Group was assigned to fly three armed reconnaisance air-ground co-operation missions despite extremely unfavorable flying conditions and intense and accurate antiaircraft and small arms fire from ground installations. The fearless pilots of the 404th Fighter Group  undertook these hazardous low-altitude missions and brilliantly aquitted themselves in their sucessful completion. The first mission was flown to the Ameln-Julich-Duren area where the Group destroyed rolling stock and a factory near near Aachen, inflicting great damage. The second mission was flown in the Dumpfeld Koln Aachen area where similar installations were attacked. The third mission in the Wengerohr-Cochen-Koblenz-Koln area resulted in further destruction to vital communications centres. The total d struction as a result of these three missions was twenty-four locomotives destroyed, over one hundred goods wagons destroyed and nearly two hundred damaged, thirty-two railroad lines cut, two bridges rendered unusable, as well as additional important installations damaged or destroyed. The accomplishments of the airmen of the 404th Fighter Group on 10 September 1944, in striking this decisive blow to enemy tranportation, are indicative of the deepest devotion to duty and combat proficiency.

13 October 1944

Friday the 13th was most gratifying. Your high number of successes with one abortive is a good demonstration of your mechanics ability and a good demonstration of leadership. It was a damn good day - Quesada.

15 October 1944

It is my pleasure to congratulate you, the 48th and 404th Fighter GPs, on your outstanding operations in support of VII Corps, on the afternoon of 15 October 1944. The ground commanders report that a heavy counter attack was repulsed as a direct result of of your fine work. Your aggressive spirit, in operating under such adverse weather conditions, reflects credit upon you and this command - Quesada.


jugpil~1.jpg (60171 bytes)

In the picture, left to right: Richard Walker,
Elton Long, Bob Williams, and Kemal Saied.

Chronology after Winkton (with thanks to Bob Williams of the 404th Association whose work this is). If you can help fill in any of the queries in the text please let me know.

3-6 JUL 44 Moved to Chippelle - Normandy (A-5)

3 SEP 44 Moved to Brétigny, France (A-48) - Shared with 365th Fighter Group

17 SEP 44 Moved to Juvincourt, France (A-68) - Shared with 365th Fighter Group

1 OCT 44 Moved to St. Trond, Belgium (A-92) - Shared with 48th Fighter Group
CO - Lt.Col. Carroll W. McColpin
Deputy CO - Lt.Col. Leo C. Moon
Squadrons -
506th - Maj. Joseph H. Sherwood, Jr.(from 508th)
507th - Maj. Howard L. Galbreath
508th - Maj. George McLaughlin (from 506th)

25 NOV 44 CO - Lt.Col. Leo C. Moon
Deputy CO - Lt. Col. Howard L. Galbreath
Squadrons -
506th - Maj. Harry G. Peterson
507th - Maj. James A. Mullins
508th - Maj. Robert J. Garrigan (from 506th)

1 APR 45 Moved to Kelz, Germany (Y-54)

NOTE: 10 April 45 507th - Maj. John A. Marshall (KIA before he assumed command? Did Maj. Kenneth L. Hodges take his place? General section of LEAP OFF mentions Marshall, 507th section does not)

10 APR 45 Moved to Fritzlar, Germany (Y-86) - Shared with 365th Fighter Group

20 APR 45 CO - Lt.Col. John R. Murphy (from 365th FG)

23 JUN 45 Moved to Stuttgart, Germany (R-50)
Shared with ???? from 12th AF
?? JUL 45 Moved to Camp New York, Reims to begin return to ZI

10 AUG 45 Moved to Camp Top Hat, Antwerp

30 AUG 45 Boarded Montclair Victory - Destination Boston, ETA 7 SEP

5 SEP 45 Destination changed to Hampton Roads

8 SEP 45 Arrived Newport News - Camp Patrick Henry All personnel granted leave. Many were separated from service at various locations as they returned home. Remainder reassambled at Drew Field to be reassigned or separated from service on points.

9 NOV 45 404th Fighter Group Deactivated - Drew Field, Tampa, FL

24 MAY 46 404th Fighter Group redesignated 137th Fighter Group. Allocated to Oklahoma ANG

18 DEC 47 137th Fighter Group extended Federal Recognition Airplanes: F-84

10 OCT 50 Ordered to active duty - Will Rogers Field, Oklahoma City, OK

27 NOV 50 Moved to Alexandria Municipal Airport, Alexandria, LA Redesignated 137th Fighter-Bomber Group

4 MAY 52 Moved to France. Assigned to USAFE

13 MAY 52 Arrived Chaumont, France

10 JUL 52 Relieved from active service and returned, without personnel and equipment to the control of Oklahoma ANG. ? Reactivated and redesignated 137th (Troop Carrier/Air Lift ??)