FIGHTER GROUP HISTORY
The following information on the 414th Fighter Group
is a compilation of input from group members, a review of a book entitled
"Air Force Combat Units of World War II" published in 1960
by the USAF Historical Division, Air University, Dept. of AF and a
review of information contained in the P47N history by Roger Freeman.
The 414th Fighter Group was formed October 5, 1944,
at Seymour Johnson AF Base, Goldsboro, NC., and activated on October
15th, 1944. Most of the pilots had been flying P-40s at Harris Neck,
GA. The Group consisted of three squadrons, the 413th, 437th and 456th.
Colonel Robert Bagby was the Group Commander. In November of '44 the
Group relocated to Selfridge Air Force Base, Mt. Clemens, Michigan
where they transitioned into P-47Ns (long range fighter planes referred
as Thunderbolts). In late December 1944, Colonel Henry G. Thorne took
over as Group Commander and on March 19, 1945, the Group relocated
to BlUethenthal AF Base, Wilmington, NC, in preparation for their
departure to the Pacific war zone.
An advance echelon went on ahead by ship, in May of '45, and two shipments
went on converted aircraft carriers carrying the P-47Ns (109 of them).
The first carrier was the U.S.S. Esperance, with personnel and 49
planes aboard, which shipped over in early June. The 414th Group was
assigned to the 20th Air Force. The second aircraft carrier, the C.V.E.
Casablanca, with 49 planes on the flight deck and 11 on the hanger
deck, and personnel, departed July 7, 1945 and arrived at Guam July
22, 1945. The earlier carrier group (BX Shipment), based temporarily
on Guam, went on two missions to Truk, one of the Carolines, on 13
and 22 July. They had had reports that the Japanese were hiding planes
but there were none seen: one man was lost on one of the missions.
Those already on Iwo Jima began operations in late July with an attack
against a radar station on Chichi Jima. Operations during August were
directed primarily against enemy airfields in Japan but the group
also strafed hangers, barracks, ordinance dumps, trains, marshalling
yards and shipping. One such raid, on August 1, was to Okazaki but
due to a heavy overcast the ground was not visible so a secondary
target, Nagoya East, was approached. It was barren of both planes
and personnel; some of the buildings were strafed. The line of retirement
took the group over the primary target, Okazaki, and there were no
aircraft visible there either.
Specially-assigned B-29 navigation "pathfinders" led the
Thunderbolts to and from Japan; even so, not every fighter could rendevous
on time for the return journey. It was a daunting prospect for the
pilot who had to find his own way back 600 miles to a small island
in a vast ocean. On return from another of the Group's first operations
over Kyushu on August 8th, in support of B-29s bombing Yawata, the
fuel supplies of several Thunderbolts were exhausted, due to siphoning,
and pilots had to bail out in the vicinity of US warships patrolling
the mission flight lanes. Lt. Robert Dunnavant, piloting a 437th Fighter
Squadron P-47N, spent the astonishing period of 8 hours and 45 minutes
in the air. His aircraft's fuel tanks were so depleted when he eventually
reached Iwo, that he dared not try to reach his base at North Field,
landing instead at a small US Navy airstrip he located on the coast.
On August 12, 1945, the second carrier group took off from Guam for
Iwo Jima with B-29s as navigational planes, but they ran into severe
weather and had to abort to Tinian and Saipan. One pilot, Roy Abbott,
spun out of the weather and crashed to the ocean in flames. Another,
George W. Caka, continued on through the weather on his own and wound
up over the 3rd Fleet, 300 miles N.E. of Iwo. He bailed out and was
picked up out of the ocean unconscious; he too died, and was buried
at sea. On August 16, the second carrier group again departed from
Guam, where they had re-gathered, and flew the 720 miles to Iwo. Further
missions to the Empire were planned but were called off shortly before
their departure times. One final mission was flown over Japan, on
August 30, 1945, three days before the September 2nd V-J day. The
planes, B-29s and P-47s arrived at the same time the first wave was
going into the mainland and the treaty was being finalized by MacArthur
on the Missouri. As a show of force, a low, aggressive flyby over
Tokyo and the surrounding area was undertaken. In total, the Group
went on five missions to "the Empire" from Iwo (including
this last one) and two to Chichi Jima.
The Group was reassigned to the 13th A.F. at Clark Field in the Philippines
in mid-December, 1945. The relocation from Iwo wats made with a brief
stopover in Okinawa. The Group flew P-47Ns and P-51s in early; '46
and then , a few F-80s. In mid '46 the Group relocated to Florida
Blanca, in the Philippines (South of Clark Field) and was inactivated
and then, redesignated the 18th Fighter Group under the command of
Col. Bushey. There were 10 jets and 15 P-51s per squadron. The P-47s
were flown back to Clark Field and demolished. On September 30, 1946
the Group was inactivated.
On 18, August, 1955, the 414th Fighter Group (Defense), 437th Squadron,
was reactivated, assigned to the Air Defense Command equipped with
F-84s and, later with F-89s at Oxnard AF Base, CA.
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