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Eighth Air Force

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Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: 19 January 1942map
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History of "The Mighty Eighth"

In the months preceding Pearl Harbor, the United States was studying the occupation of a base in French Northwest Africa for the protection of South America and the South Atlantic, as well as possible operations against the European continent. Meanwhile, the British were considering the possibilities of a port in French North Africa. DUring the Arcadia Conference (December 22, 1941 to January 14, 1942) an attempt was made to mesh these two plants together, forming a single unified operation. On 28 December 1941, a report was presented to the Joint Planners outlining a project for the simultaneous assault on Tunisia and Casablanca. Although the report was not accepted at the time, the project was not abandoned. Providing ground troops to these areas presented a problem, and the difficulty of finding air support without weakening defense areas or previously designated task forces. It was this effort to provide air support that gave birth to the Fifth (Eighth) AIr Force.[1]

General Arnold, in the directive of 2 January 1942, undertook the action for providing a force that was sufficient enough to guarantee success of a mission if it were to be approved and undertaken. Designated the Fifth Air Force, the force was to be organised and prepared for immediate action. The Fifth Air Force was comprised of an air forces headquarters, a bomber command, an interceptor command, and an air service command. To avoid confusion with the Far East Air Force, the designation was immediately changed from the Fifth to the Eighth.[1]

In accordance with the orders of 19 January 1942, the Commanding General, AFCC designated the several headquarters units, and declared them activated:[1]

UnitDate ActivatedStation of Activation
8th AF, Hq & Hq Sq28 January 1942Savannah, Georgia
8th AF Base Command, Hq & Hq Sq28 January 1942Savannah, Georgia
8th Bomber Command, Hq & Hq Sq1 February 1942Langley Field, Virginia
8th Interceptor Command, Hq & Hq Sq1 February 1942Selfridge Field, Virginia

Organizational Components

VIII Bomber Command

Frequently called the First Eighth Air Force, the VIII Bomber Command was the first strategic bombing organization sent to England when the United States joined the war against the axis powers in 1942. Acting as the heavy bombardment arm, the primary missions were to attack and destroy strategic targets which would cripple the Nazi industrial base in Northern Europe which supported their armed forces.
The last assignment of the VIII Bomber Command was when it was renamed as the Eighth Air Force, a result of a reorganization of the Army Air Forces in the European and Mediterranean theaters.

VIII Fighter Command

The VIII Fighter Command was formed at Selfridge Field, Michigan in February 1942 as a United States Army Air Forces unit of command above the Wings and below the Eighth Air Force, the primary mission being command and control of fighter operations. In the World War II European Theater, its primary mission was air superiority. Its last assignment was with the United States Air Forces in Europe, being stationed at RAF Honington.
In May, the headquarters moved to England to conduct combat operations over Occupied Europe. After the end of the European War in May 1945, VIII Fighter Command took part in the occupation of Germany until May 1946 while simultaneously coordinating its own demobilization. The VIII Fighter Command was inactivated in March 1946 at RAF Honington, the last Royal Air Force station used by the USAAF to be returned to the British Air Ministry.
  6th Fighter Wing      (wing and groups reassigned to Twelfth Air Force, 14 September 1942)
1st Fighter Group•RAF Goxhill
•RAF Kirton In Lindsey
•RAF Ibsley
14th Fighter Group•RAF Atcham
31st Fighter Group•RAF Westhampnett
52nd Fighter Group•RAF Eglinton
•RAF Goxhill
  65th Fighter Wing
4th Fighter Group •RAF Debden
56th Fighter Group•RAF Horsham St Faith
•RAF Halesworth
•RAF Boxted
78th Fighter Group •RAF Duxford
355th Fighter Group•RAF Steeple Morden
361st Fighter Group•RAF Bottisham
•RAF Little Walden
479th Fighter Group•RAF Wattisham
  66th Fighter Wing
55th Fighter Group•RAF Nuthampstead
•RAF Wormingford
78th Fighter Group•RAF Goxhill
•RAF Duxford
339th Fighter Group•RAF Fowlmere
353rd Fighter Group•RAF Goxhill
•RAF Metfeld
•RAF Raydon
357th Fighter Group•RAF Raydon
359th Fighter Group•RAF East Wretham
361st Fighter Group•RAF Bottisham
•RAF Little Walden
  67th Fighter Wing
20th Fighter Group•RAF Kings Cliffe
352nd Fighter Group•RAF Bodney
356th Fighter Group•RAF Martlesham Heath
359th Fighter Group•RAF East Wretham
361st Fighter Group•RAF Little Walden
364th Fighter Group•RAF Honington

VIII Air Support Command

The VIII Ground Air Support Command was activated on 24 April 1942 and redesignated VIII Air Support Command in September 1942. engaged in training, with one reconnaissance and one troop carrier group assigned, until July 1943. Afterward, carried out medium bombardment operations against the enemy on the Continent until October 1943 when all components and personnel were withdrawn from the command.
The command was inactivated and its units reassigned to other Eighth and Ninth Air Force units on 1 December 1943.
  3rd (98th) Bombardment Wing      (Reassigned to Ninth Air Force, 16 October 1943)
322nd Bombardment Group•RAF Bury St. Edmunds (USAAF Station 468)
•RAF Andrews Field (USAAF Station 485)
323rd Bombardment Group•RAF Horham (USAAF Station 119)
•RAF Earls Colne (USAAF Station 358)
386th Bombardment Group•RAF Snetterton Heath (USAAF Station 138)
•RAF Boxted (USAAF Station 150)
•RAF Great Dunmow (USAAF Station 164)
387th Bombardment Group•RAF Chipping Ongar (USAAF Station 162)
  51st Troop Carrier Wing      (Reassigned to Twelfth Air Force, 23 November 1942)
60th Troop Carrier Group•RAF Chelveston (USAAF Station 105)
•RAF Aldermaston (USAAF Station 467)
62d Troop Carrier Group•RAF Keevil (USAAF Station 471)
64th Troop Carrier Group (Attached from Twelfth Air Force)•RAF Ramsbury (USAAF Station 469)

VIII Air (Force) Service Command


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Cate, James L. U. S. Air Force Historical Study No. 102 (Formerly Army Air Forces Reference HIstory No. 2) (Short Title - AAFRH-2) Origins of the Eighth Air Force: Plans, Organization, Doctrines to 17 August 1942. 1944. United States Air Force Historical Archives; Maxwell AFB, Alabama.

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