Tucson's Own: the 406th Fighter Group
The 406th Fighter Group trained for the most part in this country's Southeast, left for England from a Northern port and fought exclusively in Europe during World War II. What then makes it "Tucson's Own" World War II fighter group? You'll find the reasons in a set of circumstances that happened well before the start of the war and then well after the Allied victory in 1945. The Tucson connection begins with the 406th's respected commanding officer, AV Grossetta.
AV Grossetta was born in Tucson, attended the University of Arizona, joined the Army Air Corp and after flight school was stationed in Alaska. When the war came AV was in quick fashion promoted to Colonel and sent to join the 406th as their commanding officer... a position he held during the entire time the unit served with distinction in combat.
Grossetta was the namesake of his grandfather AV Grossetta, who had migrated to Tucson in 1880 going on to become a successful businessman, Territorial Senator and well regarded scion of one of Tucson's leading pioneer families. Through their hard work and willingness to give back to the community the Grossetta family is well known throughout Tucson even to this day.
With this historical template in mind, fast-forward to the 1970's with AV Grossetta now retired from the Air Force and back in Tucson working in banking. He and some friends got interested in starting a small regional air museum, drawing from Tucson's long history of flight related activities due no doubt to the Southwest's superb weather. This endeavor grew leaps and bounds to become the Pima Air and Space Museum, a non-profit public collection of over 300 aircraft ranking in size only behind the Smithsonian and the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.
As this was going on, elsewhere throughout the United States former members of the 406th were collecting items related to their personal experiences during the war. This effort was eventually lead by Jack Yarger, a 406th pilot during the war, who happened to relocate just up the road from Tucson in Goodyear, Arizona. It was apparent to Jack that the ever-growing collection was in need of a depository for safe keeping, access to scholars and to be viewed by the public.
For a while that place was at the University of Akron. But with Jack now in Arizona these arrangements left the Archive too far away for him to manage. Jack came to have discussions with his old friend AV Grossetta that lead to further discussions with Pima Air and Space Museum. In 1996 the 406th Fighter Group WWII Memorial Association endowed its Archive to the Museum.
This chain of events was capped off with a 406th Reunion held in the "Old Pueblo" in 2001, representing a coming home of sorts for the 406th. The Final Reunion in 2007 will be held in Tucson as well. After all these years and the course of events described here, where else would be a more fitting permanent location? The members of the 406th Fighter Group WWII Memorial Association look forward to a long and prosperous relationship with the Pima Air and Space Museum and are proud to call Tucson home. The 406th: It took over 50 years but it is... Tucson's Own!