The 354th Fighter Group

 

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  The 354th Fighter Group

 

'The Pioneer Mustang Group'

 

The unit was equipped with P51Mustangs, the first fighter group to be supplied with these aircraft, reflected in the groups name. The Mustang was the outstanding escort fighter of the Second World War.

 

This Group moved to England in October 1943 and was based at Station 150 from 13 November 1943 until April 1944.   It was assigned to the Ninth Air Force and engaged in combat from December 1943 until May 1945.  The group quickly settled in at Boxted, taking over some empty farmhouses and establishing their headquarters in Langham Lodge, a large house due south of the airfield.

 

The work of the 354th Fighter Group was to escort heavy bombers on long-range missions deep into enemy territory.  It was during the period at Station 150 that Major James H. Howard won the Medal of Honor for his single-handed efforts to defend a bomber formation that was attacked by about 30 Me110s while on a mission over Germany on 11th January 1944.  The citation reads, '... Colonel Howard continued his aggressive action in an attempt to protect the bombers from numerous fighters.  His skill, courage and intrepidity on this occasion set an example of heroism, which will be an inspiration to the Armed Forces of the United States.' This was the only Medal of Honor to be awarded for fighter operations over Europe.

 

One of the squadrons in the 354th Group, the 353rd Sqn, accounted for nearly 300 aircraft by the end of the war, a squadron record unsurpassed in the USAAF. The top ace in the Ninth Air Force was Captain Eagleston who was part of the Group.

The 354th supported the Normandy invasion on D-Day by escorting gliders and by dive-bombing and strafing bridges and railways near the front lines for the next few days.

 

The group received two Distinguished Unit Citations and also the French Croix de Guerre with Palm.

 

Major James H.Howard was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and then to Colonel and became Commander of the Group from February to April 1944.