357th Fighter Group
Brief History

Over the course of World War II the U.S Army Air Forces activated 114 fighter groups. Among these fighter groups, a select few stood out as elite units. The 357th Fighter Group held one of these outstanding combat records, in just over a year of combat 42 pilots would achieve ‘acedom’. Nicknamed “The Yoxford Boys” after a village near their base in Leiston, UK, the 357th boasted the most air-to-air combat victories of any P-51 group in the Eighth Air Force and third among all groups fighting in Europe. Holding the title as the first P-51 Fighter Group of the Eighth Air Force, the group flew 313 combat mission between February 11th, 1944 and April 25th, 1945.

P-39Q - Saga Boy II – 42-19447

The 357th Fighter Group training at Hamilton Army Airfield in their Bell P-39Q Airacobra.

On December 16th, 1942 the group was activated at Hamilton Field, California.  Besides a few veterans, all pilots and personnel were fresh out of Air Force schools.  After transfering to multiple bases across the country for different phases of training in the P-39 Airacobra, on October 24th, 1943, 10 months after being created, the 357th Fighter Wing was cleared for combat.  During their training period, 14 men had died from accidents.

November 3rd, 1943 the 357th started their trek for Europe and on November 30th they moved into Raydon Wood airfield, in Suffolk under the Ninth Air Force. While the group was busy training on their few available North American P-51B Mustangs, the U.S. Air Force realized the need for a long escort fighter and the Mustang fit the bill. On February 1st, 1944 the decision was made to make the Mustang the aircraft of choice for the Eighth Air Force. The 357th was not only re-assigned to the Mighty Eighth but also moved to Station F-373 (RAF Leiston airfield) which was located between the Suffolk towns of Leiston, Saxmundham and Theberton, where they would remain for the remainder of the war. From this base, on February 11th, the 357th FG flew its first official mission in the form of a sweep to the Rouren area, led by ace and recent Medal of Honor recipient Maj James Howard of the 354th FG.

P-51D – 363rd Fighter Squadron

Four P-51 Mustangs of the 363rd Fighter Squadron

The groups main role in the air war was to escort of heavy bombers, mainly B-17’s and B-24’s.  These escort missions led to the creation of some untouched records by the Eighth Air Force.  After the group’s first aerial victory on February 20th, 1944, downing a Me 109 by 1st Lieutenant Calvert L. Williams, 362nd Fighter Squadron, flying a P-51B (G4-U, serial number 43-6448) nicknamed “Wee Willie”, the floodgates were opened for the 357th. These 313 missions resulted in 595.5 German airplanes destroyed in the air and 106.5 destroyed on the ground for a total of 702 victories.  The 357th had 42 pilots become aces, the most of any European Theater of Operations fighter group.

Squadrons

362nd Squadron

362nd Fighter Squadron

363rd Squadron

363rd Fighter Squadron

364th Squadron

364th Fighter Squadron

362nd Squadron

362nd Fighter Squadron

363rd Squadron

363rd Fighter Squadron

364th Squadron

364th Fighter Squadron
Camouflage and Unit Markings

The 357th distinguished themselves from those of other Eighth Air Force groups by holding on to the olive drab paint scheme for most of the war.  Initially all P-51’s arrived finished in a factory-applied olive drab with gray lower surfaces.  However, even after a USAAF policy change that ended this specification on February 13th, 1944, the 357th FG kept the scheme going by field-applying their famed camouflage.

Early in ‘44, the 66th Fighter Wing assigned its five groups their own individual colored spinner and checkerboard pattern along with a two-letter squadron identification code.  The 357th’s group nose colors were red and yellow.  To accompany the squadron codes, each aircraft was also given its own letter identifiers.  In late 1944, the 357th dropped their olive drab color scheme and assigned its three squadrons a color to be painted on their rudder for identification.

Fuselage Codes

362nd Squadron

362nd Squadron Code

363rd Squadron

363rd Squadron Code

364th Squadron

364th Squadron Code

362nd Squadron

362nd Squadron Code

363rd Squadron

363rd Squadron Code

364th Squadron

364th Squadron Code
Tail Colors

362nd Squadron

362nd Squadron Rudder

363rd Squadron

363rd Squadron Rudder

364th Squadron

364th Squadron Rudder

362nd Squadron

362nd Squadron Rudder

363rd Squadron

363rd Squadron Rudder

364th Squadron

364th Squadron Rudder
Media

HISTORIC PICTURES

A look back in the past of real pictures of the 357th and their everyday operations and missions.

P-51D - Tangerine
Bases of Opperation

Raydon

November 30th, 1943 – January 31st, 1944

Leiston

January 31st, 1944 – July 8th, 1945
Group Aces
Pilot Squadron Credits Casualty Status Aircraft Flown
Major Leonard K. “Kit” Carson 362nd 18.5 Nooky Booky and three successors
Major John B. England 362nd 17.5 U’ve Had It, Missouri Armada
Major Clarence E. “Bud” Anderson 363rd 16.25 Old Crow
Major Richard A. “Pete” Peterson 364th 15.5 Hurry Home Honey
Major Robert W. Foy 363rd-Grp 15 Reluctant Rebel, Little Shrimp
Major Donald H. Bochkay 363rd 13.75 Speedball Alice, Alice in Wonderland
1st Lt John A. Kirla 362nd 11.5 Spook
Capt. Charles E. “Chuck” Yeager 363rd 11.5 Glamorous Glen and two successors
Lt Col John A. Storch 364th 10.5 The Shillelagh
Capt Fletcher E. Adams 362nd 9 KIA
May 30th, 1944
Southern Belle
Lt Col Thomas L. “Jack” Hayes Group 8.5 Frenesi
2d Lt Otto D. “Dittie” Jenkins 362nd 8.5 Died Flying Accident

March 24th, 1945

Floogie, Toolin’ Tool, Toolin’ Fool’s Revenge
Major Joseph E. Broadhead 362nd 8 Baby Mike, Master Mike
1st Lt Robert M. Shaw 364th 8
Capt John L. Sublett 362nd 8 Lady Ovella
Capt Charles E. Weaver 362nd 8 Passion Wagon
1st Lt Dale E. Karger 364th 7.5 Karger’s Dollie, Cathy Mae II
Capt Glendon V. Davis 364th 7.5 Pregnant Polecat
Capt Robert H. Becker 362nd 7 Sebastian, Sebastian, Jr.
Capt James W. Browning 363rd 7 KIA
February 9th, 1945
Gentleman Jim and two successors
1st Lt John B. Carder 364th 7 POW
May 12th, 1944
Taxpayer’s Delight
1st Lt Gilbert M. O’Brien 362nd 7 Shanty Irish
1st Lt Joseph F. Pierce 363rd 7 KIA
May 21st, 1944
1st Lt Gerald E. Tyler 364th 7 Little Duckfoot
Lt Col Andrew J. Evans Group 6 Little Sweetie and three successors
Capt. Alva C. Murphy 362nd 6 KIA
March 2nd, 1945
Bite Me
Capt William R. O’Brien 363rd 6 Billy’s Bitch
Capt. John F. Pugh 362nd 6 Geronimo
Major Arval J. Roberson 362nd 6 Passion Wagon
Capt. Robert G. Schimanski 364th 6 Anne Lou
2d Lt Frank L. Gailer 363rd 5.5 POW
November 27th, 1944
Expectant, Jeesil Peesil Mommy
Capt. Paul R. “Shorty” Hatala 364th 5.5 Jeanne, Nellie Jean
1st Lt LeRoy A. Ruder 364th 5.5 KIA
June 6th, 1944
Linda Lu
1st Lt Robert P. Winks 364th 5.5 Trusty Rusty
Capt Raymond M. Bank 364th 5 POW
March 2nd, 1945
Fire Ball
Lt Col Irwin H. Dregne Group 5 Bobby Jeanne / Ah Fung-Goo
Capt Thomas L. “Little Red” Harris 364th 5 POW
May 22nd, 1944
L’il Red’s Rocket
Major Edwin W. Hiro 363rd 5 KIA
September 18th, 1944
Horses Itch
Capt Chester K. Maxwell 364th 5 Lady Esther
1st Lt William C. Reese 364th 5 KIA
May 21st, 1944
Bear River Betsy
1st Lt Morris A. Stanley 364th 5
Capt. Jack R. “Walrus” Warren 364th 5 MIA
March 18th, 1944
Major Raymond Matt Bank 364th 5 Fireball

SOURCE: USAF Historical Study 85: USAF Credits for Destruction of Enemy Aircraft, World War II. Office of Air Force History, AFHRA, 624, 629, 631, 633. Retrieved 14 October 2006.