Aces of the 78th Fighter Group
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Eighth Air Force 78th FG flew P-38 Lightning, P-47 Thunderbolt, and P-51 Mustang fighters in air combat against German Luftwaffe Me-109, Fw-190, and Me-262 aircraft.
The 78th FG was originally established as the fourth of the P-38 fighter groups that were expected to perform fighter escort in the newly formed Eighth Air Force. Arriving in England in November 1942, the group lost most of its personnel and all of its aircraft as attrition replacements to units in the North African theatre in February 1943. Left with no flying personnel other than flight leaders, and no aircraft, the group was re-equipped with the P-47 Thunderbolt and newly trained P-47 pilots in March 1943. The 78th flew its first sweep along the Dutch coast in April in company with the 4th FG. Along with the 56th FG, these groups would be the first units in VIII Fighter Command, and as such "wrote the book" on long range fighter escort in the ETO. The 78th FG would ultimately prove to be the only Eighth Air Force fighter group to have flown the P-38 Lightning, P-47 Thunderbolt, and P-51 Mustang in its operational career. Flying from Duxford, in Cambridgeshire, the group's pilots shot down 316 enemy aircraft in air combat, with a further 144 claimed as probables or damaged. Once turned loose in 1944 to attack German airfields, the 78th was also credited with the destruction of 320 aircraft by strafing. The story of the 78th FG will be researched through extensive first-person interviews with eight surviving pilots and ground personnel of the unit, and also using previously recorded interviews with two leading ace pilots who are no longer alive. Photos will be gathered from surviving group members where possible, with emphasis on never-before-published imagery, in addition to other photos from historical collections.