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479th Fighter Group at Wattisham

History

The 479th was the final fighter group assigned to the Second Air Division during the war and began operations at Wattisham Airfield in May 1944.

The group was led by Lt Col Kyle L Riddle and were known as Riddle’s Raiders.

Its primary mission was to escort daylight bomber formations to and from targets in Europe. The secondary mission was to “seek and destroy”.

These missions were flown at very low altitudes against targets such as trains, goods yards, enemy troop concentrations, ammo dumps and enemy airfields.

Initially flying P-38 Lightning aircraft, the group were re-equipped with the P-51 Mustang in September 1944.

On 25 April 1945 the 479th flew their last mission, escorting bombers from the Eighth Air Force which was also flying its last mission.

During the 11 months of combat the 479th Fighter Group flew 355 combat missions. In the air, they destroyed 155 enemy aircraft and damaged 39.

Its ground attacks saw 279 aircraft destroyed with 168 damaged.

It had four fighter aces:

  • Arthur F Jeffrey (434th FS) with 14 aerial victories
  • Robin Olds (434th FS) with 13 aerial victories
  • George W Gleason (434th FS) with 12 aerial victories
  • Richard G Candelaria (435th FS) with six aerial victories

The group also earned two Distinguished Unit Citations. One was for attacks on French airfields in August 1944 and the other for combat during a raid on Munster the following month.

The 479th Fighter Group left Wattisham in November 1945 and was deactivated at Kilmar New Jersey in December 1945.

If you wish to view various records relating to the 479th, you can visit our digital archive.

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