Summary of the 406th Fighter Group History During WWII
After months of training at various Southern bases the 406th embarks from New York on the "Sterling Castle" arriving in Liverpool and assigned to Ashford, Kent from where it flew its first operational mission on May 9, 1944. Fighter sweeps, escort duties and dive bombing missions lead up to June 6th and D-Day, when the group provides top cover over Utah Beach. Thereafter the 406th transitions to what proves to be a most effective role — Tactical Airpower — and the ground attack for which the 406th's distinctive willingness to aggressively press home the attack and to pay for it was ideal thus leading to their effective yet unassuming success.
Assigned to a rapid succession of airfields across France, Belgium and finally Germany while living in often muddy tents and war ravaged buildings the Group felt like "gypsies" as it encounters air to air combat and provides support to thrusting armored columns and uses the emerging technique of ground controller communication to pinpoint enemy frontline positions and seemingly having a constant presence over enemy marshalling yards, rail lines, bridges, Lufewaffe installations and troop and material concentrations — made even more effective when the 406th was the first American fighter group to be equipped with rockets. Such an attack on September seventh on a massive enemy column lead to the capture of 20,000 Germans and the request of their General Elster to surrender to who he felt was primarily responsible for his defeat — the Army Air Force for which the 406th received its first Presidential Citation.
Living, moving, training and above all fighting the enemy continues with little let up through Northern France, Ardennes, Central Europe and Rhineland campaigns right into December when the 406th found itself sharing Mourmelon camp with the 101st Airborne when they were hastily called to Bastogne with the 406th assigned their air cover at this, the Battle of the Bulge. For five days and 519 unrelenting sorties the 406th brings aerial firepower to bear both on the ground and in the air with the reappearance of the Luftwaffe, helping to stop the 101st from being overrun and blunting a potential enemy break out at a loss of 10 pilots and 40 of the 60 operational P-47's suffering battle damage leading to the Group's second Presidential Citation and visit from General McAuliffe.
The aftermath of that victory saw the 406th contribute to a crescendo of destruction on enemy troops and material clogging rear assembly areas even as strongholds along the retreating enemy lines needed to be bombed and strafed accounting for ever increasing numbers of destroyed locomotives, track and rolling stock, buildings, tanks, trucks, gun emplacements, horse drawn equipment and on ground aircraft plus the demise and capture of troops leading to Operation Flashpoint and the crossing of the Rhine where the 406th covered allied airborne landings in Germany.
The war's final home base was Handhoff airfield in Germany which saw several missions against a frantic enemy being harassed from both east and west until the operational space assigned the 406th narrowed significantly due to Russian advances- a prelude to April 20th and the last wartime mission that put a final tally on 13,612 sorties, 34,000 hours of flying time, 133 aircraft lost to enemy action, 85 men MIA/KIA, 292 enemy destroyed in the air or on the ground, tons upon tons of ordinance delivered and thousands of targets, many critical, destroyed as contribution to victory in Europe.