A Brief History of the 357th Fighter Group

During World War II years, the U.S. Army Air Forces activated 114 fighter groups for service in the various combat zones. Some of those which were most heavily engaged in combat were the 15 groups assigned to the Mighty 8th Air Force. Of all these 114 groups, the 357th is among only a very few elite units with outstanding combat records. Formed and activated at Hamilton Field, Calif., under orders dated 16 December 1942, the Group began training on the P-39 at Tonopah, Nevada. Except for a very few veterans, all pilots and ground personnel were recently out of Air Force schools. For all it’s vast responsibilities, the training establishment in the U.S., did an outstanding job and seven months later, in October 1943, the 357th Fighter Group was ready for transfer to a combat zone. 14 men had died in aircraft accidents during that time.

The 357th arrived in England at the turn of 1943/44 and was committed to combat on 11 February 1944, the first Group of the 8th AF to fly the mighty mustang. For a young fighter pilot eager to put his training to work, the Group could not have arrived at a better time.

The massive bomber offensive against the German aircraft industry was just beginning and brought the Luftwaffe out in force to protect their source of aircraft supply. There was violent combat almost from the beginning and the 357th pilots began to compile a rapidly increasing number of victory credits. That spring of 1944 is now considered the beginning of the end for the once all powerful Luftwaffe.

Many incidents stand out, but we will only mention a few. The 357th put the first allied fighters over Berlin on the 4th of March 1944 (along with one squadron of thee 4th Group). In August, the Group escorted a fleet of B-17s to Russia, Italy and back home on one of the shuttle missions. During the airborne landing at Arnhem in September, the 357th destroyed 50 enemy aircraft in two days. The 14th of January 1945 brought what will always be "THE BIG DAY". During a massive air battle in the Berlin area, 357th Group pilots shot down 551/2 German fighters. No other fighter group has even come close to this score.

At wars end the Group had the highest number of aces in the 8th AF (43), five of these were triple aces and four were double. The 357th is credited with 695 air victories, 2nd only to the great Hub Zemke’s 56th Group, which was in combat much longer. Considering the time factor, the 357th was thee highest scoring group in 8th Air Force.

Written by Mr. Merle Olmsted, 357th Fighter Group Historian, and author of "The 357th Over Europe" available from Specialty Press at 1-800-895-4585.

357th Fighter Group

Assigned Eighth AF: 31 Jan 44

Wing and Command Assignments

VIII FC, 66FW: 31 Jan 44

3 BD, 66 FW: 15 Sep 44

3 AD, 66 FW: 1 Jan 45

Component Squadrons

362nd Fighter Squadron

363rd Fighter Squadron

364th Fighter Squadron

Combat Aircraft

P-51B (from block 1); P-51C;P-51D;P-51K


Raydon, UK 30 Nov 43 – 31 Jan 44

Leiston, UK 31 Jan 44 – 8 Jul 45

Group COs

Lt Col Loring F. Stetson, Jr:  1 Dec 1942

Lt Col Edward S. Chickering:  7 Jul 1943

Col Henry R. Spicer:  17 Feb 1944

Col Donald W. Graham:  7 Mar 1944 

Lt Col John D. Landers:  11 Oct 1944  

Col Irwin H. Dregne:  2 Dec 1944

Lt Col Andrew J. Evans:  21 Jul 1945

Lt Col Wayne E. Rhynard: Nov 45

Col Barton Russell: Apr 1945

 Squadron COs

362nd Fighter Squadron

Lt Col. Hubert I. Egenes:  1 Dec 1942

Maj Joseph E. Broadhead:  10 Mar 1944

Maj John B. England: 25 Aug 1944

Lt Col Joseph E. Broadhead: Feb 1945

Maj Leonard K. Carson: 8 Apr 1945

Capt Robert D. Brown: Nov 1945

Maj James F. Hackler: Feb 1946

363rd Fighter Squadron

Capt Stuart R. Lauler: 8 Jan 1943

Capt Clay R. Davis: 20 May 1943

1st Lt Wesley S. Mink:  13 Jul 1943

Maj Donald W. Graham: 27 Sep 1943

Maj Montgomery H. Throop, Jr: 25 Jan 1944

Maj Edwin W. Hiro: 20 Sep 1944

Lt Col G. I. Carlisle: 20 Sep 1944

Maj Donald C. McGee: Jan 45

Maj Donald H. Bochkay:  Feb 1945

Unknown: Nov 1945

364th Fighter Squadron

Capt Varian K. White: 1 Dec 1942

Maj Thomas L. Hayes, Jr: 8 Jul 1943

Maj John A. Storch: 14 Aug 1944

Maj Donald C. McGee: May 1945

First Mission: 11 Feb 44. Last Mission: 25 Apr 45. Total Missions: 313

A/C MIA: 128. E/A Claims: 609 ½ air. 106 ½ ground.

357TH FG Mission List  NEW


Major Awards

Two Distinguished Unit Citations: 6 Mar and 29 Jun 44: for defense of bombers on missions to Berlin and Leipzig. 14 Jan 45: action on Derben mission.

Claims to Fame

First P-51 Group in 8th AF

Faster rate of air victories than with any other 8AF group during final year of war.

Highest enemy aircraft air claims for single mission – 14 Jan 45 – 56

Early History

Activated 1 Dec 42 at Hamilton Fld, CA. Moved to Tonopah AAF, NV, 4 Mar 43 and equipped with P-39s. Moved to Santo Rosa AAF, CA, 3 Jun 43, and Orville AAF, CA, 18 Aug 43, and Casper AAF, WY, 7 Oct 43. On 9 Nov 43 commenced overseas movement by leaving from Camp Shanks, NY. Sailed on the Queen Elizabeth 23 Nov 43, arriving Clyde 29 Nov 43. Assigned 9AF, IXFC, 30 Nov 43 and to Raydon. Trained with a few P-51Bs. In Jan 44 8AF exchanged 358FG for 357FG Hq. And 362FS moved 31 Jan 44, 363FS and 364FS moved 1 Feb 44.

Subsequent History

Scheduled for service with occupational forces in Germany. Moved Neubiberg (R-85) early Jul 45. Suffered shortages of aircraft and personnel during the following year. Inactivated at Neubiberg 20 Aug 46.



Aces of the 357th FG

NAME                                   VICTORIES

Carson, Leonard K.                   18 ½

England, John B.                        17 ½

Anderson, Clarence E., Jr.        16 ¼

Peterson, Richard A.                  15 ½              

Foy, Robert W.                            15

Bochkay, Donald H.                    13 ¾

Kirla, John A.                               11 ½

Yeager, Charles E.                     11 ½

Storch, John A.                           10 ½

Adams, Fletcher E.                    9

Hayes, Thomas L., Jr.                8 ½

Jenkins, Otto D.                          8 ½

Broadhead, Joseph E.              8

Shaw, Robert M.                        8

Sublett, John L.                          8

Weaver, Charles, E.                  8

Karger, Dale E.                         7 ½

Davis, Glendon V.                     7 ½

Becker, Robert H.                     7

Browning, James W.                7

Carder, John B.                        7


NAME                                 VICTORIES

O’Brien, Gilbert M.                   7

Pierce, Joesph E.                    7

Tyler, Gerald E.                        7

Evans, Andrew J., Jr.              6

Murphy, Alva C.                       6

O’Brien, William R.                 6

Pugh, John F.                          6

Roberson, Arval J.                  6

Schimanski, Robert G.           6

Gailer, Frank L.                       5 ½

Hatala, Paul R.                        5 ½

Ruder, Leroy A.                       5 ½

Winks, Robert P.                     5 ½

Bank, Raymond M.                 5

Dregne, Irwin H.                      5

Harris, Thomas L.                   5

Hiro, Edwin W.                        5

Maxwell, Chester K.               5

Reese, William C.                  5

Stanley, Morris A.                   5

Warren, Jack R.                      5


Source: Merle Olmsted, 357th FG Association Historian

Note: Major Donald C. McGee was flying a tour with the 357th at the end of the war, and is an ace with six victories. However, we did not include him since he scored five of his victories in the 8th FG, Southwest Pacific.

In this listing of 357th Aces, we have included only those who meet the criteria with five air victories. Ground victories are not included.

Patch Art by Jim Harley