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