332d Fighter Squadron
|Guess who won The National Gunnery
meet in Las Vegas Air Force Base in 1949? It was the 332d FG of
Lockbourne Air Force Base. The 332d won first place in the
conventional fighter class. Representing the 332d FG were:
Captain Alva Temple of the 301st Fighter Squadron, Lieutenant Harry
Stewart of the 99th Fighter Squadron.
Captain Alva Temple placed second in the fighter pilot's individual score with a mark of 576. They were three perfect score registered by the pilots of the team to put them in first in the skip bombing phase. In one mission the pilots chalked up 18 out of 18 for a perfect, score. In addition to a perfect score in the skip bombing, Captain Alva Temple received a perfect score of 8 out of 8 rocket firings. Lieutenant James Harvey and Harry Stewart had near perfect scores of 7 out of 8.
Each pilot participating in the Gunnery Meet was required to compete in five different events. The events were: Air to air gunnery at 10,000 and 20,000 feet altitude, rock-firing, strafing, dive-bombing and skip-bombing. Three pilots represented each fighter group and an average of the pilots scores for all events were taken and that what represented the group's scores.
Captain Frederick Parker, commended Staff Sergeant Bennie Farmer for an outstanding job as an crew chief. Other personnel attending the meet included and alternate pilot, Lieutenant Halbert Alexander, Armorer chief, Master Sergeant Fred Archer; Operation chief First Sergeant Wendell D. LaFleur; Line chief, Kenneth Austin, who was tragically killed in an F-82 at the meet; Crew Chief, Staff Sergeants Johnathan C. Gibson, Buford A. Johnson, Miles N. Matthews, and Willie L. McNair: Armorers, S/Sgt. Robert L. Moore, Henry Norman Jr., Raymond Rounds, Sgt Elijah M. Dyer, Cpl. James Fleming and Cleveland Thompson; Propeller specialist, S/Sgt. Solomon Oliver, and Hydraulic specialist, Cpl. P. Rhinehart.
The 332d Fighter Group was a combination of, the three new Tuskegee squadrons 100th, the 301st, and the 302d. The 332d FG had entered combat in the Italian campaign. When they were joined by the veteran 99th FS in July of 1944, the Tuskegee Airmen began to come into their own as an elite fighting unit.
When the 332d switched to the P-51 Mustang fighter, this put them on par with most anything the German Air Force had, Tuskegee Airmen decided that they wanted the bomber crews and the enemy interceptors to know when the 332d was on station. So, they got the reddest paint that they had, and painted the P-51 nose and tails, not in camouflage, but in the reddest red on all 72 of those P-51s, and the 332d become known as the "Red Tails'.
After about 100 escort missions with a batting average of no losses, the bomber crews referred to the 332d FG as the Red Tail Angels. The Red Tail Angles of the 332d would end the war as the only fighter group to never lose an escorted bomber to enemy fighters. The Tuskegee Airmen downed 111 enemy fighters, including three of the eight Messerschmitt ME-262 jets shot down by the Allies during the war. The group also destroyed countless targets during harrowing ground attack missions. Sixty-six Tuskegee Airmen died in combat during WW II.
The 332d Fighter Group, under Colonel Davis, arrived in Italy in the early part of 1944, received theater training and had started flying missions in the same theater, but at a different base, Montecorvino, near Salerno. On July 3, 1944, the 99th was merged into the 332d Fighter Group, which was located at a new base near Ramitelli, Italy. The 332d Fighter Group now consisted of the 99th, the 100th, the 301st, and the 302d Fighter Squadrons, making it the only four-squadron group in its theater of operations.
The men of the 332d knew that upon their performance depended the future of Blacks in military aviation. This was a heavy burden for them to carry in addition to all of the other life-threatening risks faced by fighter pilots in combat. Although this weight was willingly accepted, make no mistake it was a considerable burden.
The 332d was given a tired and inadequate airplane to operate, the P-39, but in June the 332d was assigned the high-performance P-47 aircraft, and soon thereafter the P-51 Mustang, the best fighter developed by the U.S. during World War II.
While fighting the Germans, both in North Africa and Italy, the Tuskegee Airmen flew more than 1500 missions some 15,000 combat sorties. A look at just few missions in first-line fighters will illustrate the diversity of their combat assignments and a measure of their success.
On June 9, 1944, the men of the 332d scored their first kills on the first of a series of 200 bomber-escort missions that earned the 332d "Redtails" the unique distinction of never having lost a friendly bomber to an enemy fighter.
With Colonel Davis leading, thirty nine P-47s took off from Ramitelli, on the east coast of central Italy, escorting B-24 bombers to their targets in Munich, Germany. As they approached Udine, Italy, a formation of Me-109s, made a diving attack on the American bombers. The Tuskegee Airmen pursued the enemy. Lieutenant Wendell segment of the battle, Colonel Davis led a flight of eight P-47 in an attack on eighteen Me-109s, and the Tuskegee Airmen bagged several more enemy aircraft. By the time the 332d had returned to Ramitelli, the 39 Tuskegee Airmen had engaged in battle more than one hundred enemy aircraft destroying five of the enemy and damaging another.
On June, 25 Wendell O. Pruitt, and Lieutenant Gwynne Pierson, jointly sank a German destroyer using only machine guns. This was the only such sinking in the entire war, and a most important victory for the Tuskegee Airmen.
On July 18, sixty one P-51 fighters, with Captain Lee Rayford in the lead, escorted American bombers to southern German targets. The mission was to escort the bombers to the I.P. (the initial point of their run on the target) and pick them up as they withdrew from the target. As it turned out the bombers were late, and the fighter pilots, having aircraft with much shorter range, grew increasingly concerned. The Tuskegee Airmen knew that if they departed, the bombers would have not fighter protection for the most dangerous part of the mission, and would pay dearly. They also knew that each second of delay endangered the fighters, for they might not have enough fuel to fly back to their home base. Nevertheless, the 332d pilots waited longer than their orders required and escorted the tardy bombers to their target, taking on more German aircraft than the sixty one in their formation. During this engagement, the 332d pilots shot down eleven German fighters without losing a single pilot.
On March 24, 1945, the 332d Fighter Group participated in a cooperative mission with five other fighter groups to escort bombers over Berlin. This was a maximum effort mission, Colonel Davis led fifty nine P-51s fighters north towards Germany on a 1600 mile round-trip flight. The mission was to provide maximum protection for the bombers. The 332d's assignment was to rendezvous with the bombers at Brux, about 150 miles south of Berlin, and escort them to the I.P. at the edge the of the city. The target was the Daimler-Benz tank assembly plant, the most heavily protected target in the Third Reich. This assignment was a very high honor for the group as well as an indication of the respect and confidence that the high command had finally developed for the Tuskegee Airmen. As they approached Berlin they met a swarm of German fighters, which included at least thirty of the newest jet-fighter aircraft in the German inventory (the Me-262).
The 332d Fighter Group was supposed to have been relieved as the I.P. by another fighter group, but the relieving unit failed to make the rendezvous. Despite low fuel and ammunition, the 332d stayed with the bombers. Closer to the target, the bombers were attacked by another formation of German jet fighters which were successfully fought off by the 332d pilots.
Constituted as 332nd Fighter Group on 4 July 1942. Activated on 13 October 1942. Trained with P- 39 aircraft. Moved to Italy, arriving early in February 1944. Began operations with Twelfth Air Force on 5 February. Used P- 39's to escort to escort convoys, protect harbors, and fly armed reconnaissance missions.
Converted to P - 47's during April - May and changed to P- 51's in June. Operated with Fifteenth Air Force from May 1944 to April 1945, being engaged primarily in protecting bombers that struck such objectives as oil refineries, factories, airfields, and marshalling yards in Italy, France, Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Rumania, Bulgaria, and Greece. Also made strafing attacks on airdromes, railroads, highways bridges, river traffic, troop concentrations, radar facilities, power stations and other targets. Received a Distinguished United Citations (DUC) for a mission on 24 March 1945 when the group 3scorted B-17's during a raid on a tank factory at Berlin, fought the interceptors that attacked the formation, and strafed transportation facilities while flying back to the base in Italy. Returned to the United States in October 1945. Inactivated on 19 October 1945.
1 July 1947, Equipped with P-47's. Inactivated on 1 July 1949. Stations: Tuskegee, Alabama, 13 October 1942: Selfridge Field, Michigan, 29 March 1943: Oscoda, Michigan, 12 April 1943; Selfridge Field, Michigan, 9 July - 22 December 1943; Montecorvino, Italy, 3 February 1944; Capodichino, Italy, 15 April 1944; Ramitelli Airfield, Italy, 28 May 1944; Cattolica, Italy, c. 4 May 1945; Lucera, Italy, c. 18 July - September 19445; Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, 17 - 19 October 1945; Lockbourne Army Air Base, Ohio, 1 July 1947 - July 1949.
Lieutenant Colonel Sam W. Westbrook, Jr., 19 October 1942; Colonel Robert R. Selway, Jr., 16 May 1943; Colonel Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., 8 October 1943; Major George S. Roberts, 3 November 1944; Colonel Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., 24 December 1944, Major George S. Roberts, 9 June 1945 - unknown; Unknown, 1 July - 28 August 1947; Major William A. Cambell, 28 August 1947 - 1 July 1949.
American Theater; Air Combat, EAME Theater; Rome-Arno; Normandy; Northern France; Southern France; North Apennines; Rhineland; Central Europe; ProValley.
Decorations: Distinguished Unit Citation, Germany 24 March 1945.