31st FIghter Group in World War II
Return With Honor
The 31st, comprised of the 307th, 308th, and 309th Fighter Squadrons, was one of World War II’s most distinguished fighter groups. It was the top scoring fighter group in the Mediterranean Theater of Operation with 571 victories. It produced thirty-three aces. Maj. James L. Brooks is its third highest scoring ace. For every loss the 31st sustained, its fighter pilots destroyed eight enemy aircraft.
Overseas for thirty-seven months, the 31st flew in twelve campaigns: Algeria-French Moracco, Tunisia, Sicily, Naples-Foggia, Rome-Arno, Po Valley, North Apennines, Southern France, Northern France, Balkans, Rhineland, and Air Offensive Europe.
The 31st earned two Distinguished Unit Citations: 21 April 1944 (Ploesti) and 25 July 1944 (Mielec, Poland).
Originally know as the 31st Pursuit Group, it was formed on February 1, 1940 at Selfridge Field, Michigan and was equipped with Bell P-39s, and, briefly, with Curtiss P-40s.
In July 1942, the group arrived in England and began flying British Spitfires under the Eighth Air Force. It was the first American fighter group to set foot on British soil since World War I.
The 31st was the first fighter group to participate in the European Theater of Operations in World War II and first saw combat on 19 August 1942 at Dieppe, a German occupied port on France’s northern coast.
During the Dieppe Raid, the 31st became the first American fighter group to destroy an enemy aircraft in Europe when Lieutenant Samuel F. Junkin, Jr. of the 309th Squadron shot down a German FW-190.
The 31st was transferred from the Eighth Air Force to the Twelfth Air Force in October 1942. In November 1942, the group moved to North Africa. The 31st was the first American fighter group to go into action in Algeria when they flew in support of Operation Torch, the Invasion of North Africa.
On 28 June 1943, the 31st became the first American fighter group to operate from Malta (Gozo Island).
The 31st became the first American fighter group to operate from Sicily when they moved to Ponte Olivo Airfield on 13 July 1943.
The 31st was the first American fighter group to land in Italy. On 21 September 1943, they moved to Montecorvino, then Pomigliano on 14 October 1943, and then Castel Volturno, north of Naples, on 19 January 1944.
On 31 March 1944 the 31st became part of the Fifteenth Air Force, 306th Fighter Wing, and on 2 April 1944 moved to San Severo, Italy, on the Adriatic coast, near the spur. They transitioned from Spitfires to P-51 Mustangs. The 31st was the first fighter group to go on operational status with P-51s in the Mediterranean Theater.
The 31st Fighter Group was also the first group in the Mediterranean Theater to shoot down a German jet when, on 22 December 1944, First Lieutenant Eugene P. McGlauflin and Second Lieutenant Roy L. Scales (308th Squadron) shared a victory over a German Me-262.
The 31st returned to the United States on 22 August 1945.
31st Fighter Group bases:
|Base||Date of Arrival||Date of Departure|
|Selfridge, Michigan||1 Feb 1940|
|Baer Field, Indiana||25 Jan 1942||29 Jan 1942|
|New Orleans Army Airbase||1 Feb 1942||19 May 1942|
|RAF Atcham, England||10 June 1942||1 Aug 1942|
|RAF Biggin Hill, England||1 Aug 1942||24 Aug 1942|
|RAF Hampnett England||25 Aug 1942||23 Oct 1942|
|Tafaraoui Airdrome, Oran, Algeria||8 Nov 1942||14 Nov 1942|
|La Senia Airdrome, Oran||14 Nov 1942||6 Feb 1943|
|Cazes Airdrome, Casablanca (308th)||10 Jan 1943||31 Jan 1943|
|Thelepte Airdrome, Tunisia||6 Feb 1943||17 Feb 1943|
|Tebessa Airdrome, Algeria||17 Feb 1943||22 Feb 1943|
|Youks-les-Bains, Tunisia||22 Feb 1943||25 Feb 1943|
|Kalaa Djerda, Tunisia||25 Feb 1943||9 March 1943|
|Thelepte Airdrome, Tunisia||9 Mach 1943||13 April 1943|
|Sbeitla Airdrome, Tunisia||13 April 1943||18 April 1943|
|Le Sers Airdrome, Tunisia||18 April 1943||18 May 1943|
|Korba North, Tunisia||18 May 1943||28 June 1943|
|Gozo Island, Malta||28 June 1943||14 July 1943|
|Ponte Olivo, Sicily||14 July 1943||19 July 1943|
|Aggrigento, Sicily||14 July 1943||2 Aug 1943|
|Termini Airdrome, Sicily||2 Aug 1943||8 Sept 1943|
|Milazzo Airdrome, Sicily||8 Sept 1943||20 Sept 1943|
|Monte Corvino, Italy||20 Sept 1943||14 Oct 1943|
|Pomigliano, Italy||14 Oct 1943||18 Jan 1944|
|Castel Volturno, Italy||18 Jan 1944||2 April 1944|
|Anzio, Italy (307th)||22 Jan 1944|
|San Severo, Italy||2 April 1944||28 Feb 1945|
|Mondolfo, Italy||28 Feb 1945||15 July 1945|
|Triolo, Italy||15 July 1945||5 Aug 1945|
|Naples, Italy||5 Aug 1945||13 Aug 1945|
|Drew Field, Tampa, Florida||25 Aug 1945|
31st Fighter Group commanders
|Colonel Harold H. George||1 Feb 1940 to 1 July 1941|
|Colonel John R. Hawkins||1 July 1941 to 5 Dec 1942|
|Colonel Fred M. Dean||5 Dec 1942 to 13 July 1943|
|Lt. Colonel Frank A. Hill||13 July 1943 to 13 Sept 1943|
|Colonel Charles M. McCorkle||13 Sept 1943 to 4 July 1944|
|Colonel Yancy S. Tarrant||4 July 1944 to 4 Dec 1944|
|Colonel William A. Daniel||4 Dec 1944 to 31 Oct 1945|