355th FG "The Steeple Morden Strafers"
355th Fighter Group
In World War II
The 355th Fighter Group was first activated 12 November 1942. Originally equipped with P-47 Thunderbolts, the group began using P-51 Mustangs in 1944 and quickly gained acclaim as the "Steeple Morden Strafers," a reference to its base in England and its lethal accuracy at low level. The group was under the command of the 65th Fighter Wing of the VIII Fighter Command. Aircraft of the group were identified by white around their cowling and tail.
The 355th FG flew its first combat mission, a fighter sweep over Belgium, on 14 September 1943 and afterwards served primarily as escort for B-17/B-24 bombers that attacked industrial areas of Berlin, marshalling yards at Karlsruhe, an airfield at Neuberg, oil refineries at Misburg, synthetic oil plants at Gelsenkirchen, locks at Minden, and other objectives. The group also flew fighter sweeps, area patrols, and bombing missions, striking such targets as air parks, locomotives, bridges, radio stations, and armoured cars.
On 5 April 1944, shortly after converting from P-47's to P-51's, the group successfully bombed and strafed German airfields during a snow squall, a mission for which the group was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation.
On D-Day, 6 June 1944, 355th Fighter Group pilots, in conjunction with those form the 4th Fighter Group, conducted missions around Paris, a key staging and routing area for German forces in France. These were the only two 8 AF Fighter groups not tasked to fly over the beachheads. The 8 AF Commander selected these units specifically for their experience in both air-to-air and air-to-ground operations. On 18 September 1944, the 355th Fighter Group participated in the last shuttle escort mission of the war, when they escorted bombers on a three-day deep strike mission from England to Russia, Russia to Italy, and Italy to England. These missions allowed for uninterrupted escort when striking targets beyond fighter escort range. Despite the overwhelming challenges the 355th faced, their efforts ensured the success of many bombing missions made throughout the campaign
The 355th's two highest scoring individuals in air-to-air and air-to-ground, respectively, were Henry W. Brown with 32 (17.5 aerial, 14.5 ground) and William J. Cullerton with 27 (6 aerial and 21 ground) kills. These two pilots, among others, were shot down on air-to-ground missions and taken prisoner. In all, 355th Fighter Group pilots were credited with 365.5 aerial kills and 502.5 ground kills, for a total of 868 aircraft destroyed, the third highest overall, and the top in air-to-ground kills within 8 AF unit.
Organization in World War II
The World War II 355th Fighter Group was organized as follows,
355th Fighter Group The group consisted of the following squadrons:
Station:Steeple Morden Station Callsign:Towrope to 22 April '44 then:Two Room Group Callsign:Sunshade to 22 April '44 then:Uncle (A Group),Hornpipe (B Group), Borax (C Group)
- 354th Fighter Squadron (WR) Haywood to 22 April '44 then Falcon (A Group), Chieftain (B Group)
- 357th Fighter Squadron (OS) Blowball to 22 April '44 then Custard (A Group), Moses (B Group)
- 358th Fighter Squadron (YF) Trooptrain to 22 April '44 then Bentley (A Group), Beehive (B Group)
In Aces High