The Historical Fighter Group

- The 56th Fighter Group in WWII -

The most celebrated fighter group in the ETO

56th FG was activated on January 14, 1941, and spent its first year training, moving and suffering through various reorganisations. The group practised with P-36 (Curtiss H75 Hawk) and a handful of antiquated P-40s and P-39s, before being issued with the first few P-47 Thunderbolts to roll off the Farmingdale assembly line. 56th FG became the test flight unit for the Thunderbolt and contributed greatly to its development, a fact that was subsequently learned the hard way for those on the receiving end. In September 1942 Major "Hub" Zemke arrived to assume Group command, and he brought 56th FG to the UK, landing in Gourock, January 12, 1943. Following a frenzied preparatory period 56th FG carried out its first combat sortie on April 13, 1943. From then on, the Group was in the thick of the fighting without pause until the end of hostilities in May 1945.

 

56th Fighter Group - The Ace Machine.

The P-47 was arguably on the most potent and prominent fighters of the war. Initially derided for its size and bulbous appearance, the "Jug" soon proved formidable both at high altitude and on the deck. When piloted with cool calculating aggression and outstanding teamwork, the seven-ton monster was in a class of its own. The toughness and lethality of the Thunderbolt was one factor in the Group's success - more importantly however, was leadership, discipline and perseverance - "Hub" Zemke said: "I only break off combat when I am out of gas or bullets." As a consequence of his leadership, innovative spirit and aggressive attitude, 56th Fighter Group "Zemke's Wolfpack" ended the war as the highest scoring US fighter group in the European Theater of Operations.