Constituted as 56th Pursuit Group (Interceptor) on 20 Nov 1940. Activated on 15 Jan 1941. Equipped with P-39's and P-40's. Trained, participated in maneuvers, served as an air defense organization, and functioned as an operational training unit. Redesignated 56th Fighter Group in May 1942. Received P-47's in Jun and began training for combat. Moved to England, Dec 1942-Jan 1943. Assigned to Eighth AF. Continued training for several weeks. Entered combat with a fighter sweep in the area of St Omer on 13 Apr 1943, and during the next two years destroyed more enemy aircraft in aerial combat than any other fighter group of Eighth AF. Flew numerous missions over France, the Low Countries, and Germany to escort bombers that attacked industrial establishments, V-weapon sites, submarine pens, and other targets on the Continent. Also strafed and dive-bombed airfields, troops, and supply points; attacked the enemy communications; and flew counter-air patrols. Engaged in counter-air and interdictory missions during the invasion of Normandy in Jun 1944. Supported Allied forces for the breakthrough at St Lo in Jul. Participated in the Battle of the Bulge, Dec 1944-Jan 1945. Helped to defend the Remagen bridgehead against air attacks in Mar 1945. Received a DUC for aggressiveness in seeking out and destroying enemy aircraft and for attacking enemy air bases, 20 Feb-9 Mar 1944. Received another DUC for strikes against antiaircraft positions while supporting the airborne attack on Holland in Sep 1944. Flew last combat mission on 21 Apr 1945. Returned to the US in Oct. Inactivated on 18 Oct 1945.
Activated on 1 May 1946. Equipped with P-47 and P-51 aircraft; converted to F-80's in 1947. Redesignated 56th Fighter Interceptor Group in Jan 1950. Converted to F-86 aircraft. Inactivated on 6 Feb 1952.
Redesignated 56th Fighter Group (Air Defense). Activated on 18 Aug 1955. Assigned to Air Defense Command and equipped with F-86's.
Squadrons. 61st: 1941-1945; 1946-1952. 62d: 1941-1945; 1946-1952; 1955-. 63d: 1941-1945; 1946-1952; 1955-.
Stations. Savannah, Ga, 15 Jan 1941; Charlotte, NC, May 1941; Charleston, SC, Dec 1941; Bendix, NJ, Jan 1942; Bridgeport, Conn, c. 7 Jul-Dec 1942; Kings Cliffe, England, Jan 1943; Horsham St Faith, England, c. 6 Apr 1943; Halesworth, England, c. 9 Jul 1943; Boxted, England, c. 19 Apr 1944-Oct 1945; Camp Kilmer, NJ, c. 16-18 Oct 1945. Selfridge Field, Mich, 1 May 1946-6 Feb 1952. O'Hare Intl Aprt, Ill, 18 Aug 1955-.
Commanders. Unkn, Jan-Jun 1941; Lt Col Davis D Graves, Jun 1941; Col John C Crosthwaite, c. 1 Jul 1942; Col Hubert A Zemke, Sep 1942; Col Robert B Landry, 30 Oct 1943; Col Hubert A Zemke, 19 Jan 1944; Col David C Schilling, 12 Aug 1944; Lt Col Lucian A Dade Jr, 27 Jan 1945; Lt Col Donald D Renwick, Aug 1945-unkn. Col David C Schilling, May 1946; Lt Col Thomas D DeJarnette, Aug 1948; Lt Col Irwin H Dregne, 1949; Lt Col Francis S Gabreski, 1950; Col Earnest White Jr, 1951-unkn. Unkn, 1955-.
Campaigns. American Theater; Air Offensive, Europe; Normandy; Northern France; Rhineland; Ardennes-Alsace; Central Europe.
Decorations. Distinguished Unit Citations: ETO, 20 Feb-9 Mar 1944; Holland, 18 Sep 1944.
Insigne. Shield: Tenne on a chevron azure fimbriated or two lightning flashes chevronwise of the last. Motto: Cave Tonitrum - Beware of the Thunderbolt. (Approved 4 Apr 1942.)
Data from Air Force Combat Units of World War II By Maurer, Maurer, Published 1986