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23d Fighter Group Air Combat Command.png
23d Wing.jpg
23d Wing emblem
Active 1942–1946, 1946-1949, 1951-1952, 1955-1959, 1991-1997. 2006-present
Country  United States
Branch  United States Air Force
Type Fighter
Role Close Air Support
Size 900 personnel
48 A-10C aircraft
Garrison/HQ Moody Air Force Base, Georgia
Nickname(s) Flying Tigers
Engagements China Offensive
Western Pacific
China Defensive
Decorations Distinguished Unit Citation
Colonel Elwood P. "Buster" Hinman IV
Col. Robert L. Scott
General Bruce K. Holloway
Brig, Gen. David Lee "Tex" Hill

Ground crews servicing a P-40 of the 23d FG in 1942.

The 23d Fighter Group (23 FG) is a United States Air Force unit. It is assigned to the 23d Wing and stationed at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. For the 23d Fighter Group that existed from 1997 to 2006, see the Article on the 23d Wing.

The 23d Fighter Group was established in World War II as the 23d Pursuit Group of the United States Army Air Forces (AAF).[1] Redesignated the 23d Fighter Group before its activation, the group was formed in China on 4 July 1942,[1] as a component of the China Air Task Force and received a small cadre of volunteer personnel from the simultaneously disbanded 1st American Volunteer Group (AVG) – the "Flying Tigers"[1] of the Chinese Air Force. To carry on the traditions and commemorate the history of the AVG, aircraft of the USAF 23d Fighter Group carry the same "Shark Teeth" nose art of the AVG's Curtiss P-40 Warhawks, along with the "FT" (Flying Tiger) tail code. The 23d Fighter Group's aircraft are the only United States Air Force aircraft currently authorized to carry this distinctive and historical aircraft marking.


Currently based at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, the group is assigned as one of two operations groups of the 23d Wing at Moody. Both organizations serve as part of the Ninth Air Force and Air Combat Command. The 23d Fighter Group's primary missions are forward air control, close air support, air interdiction and combat search and rescue operations. The group has two operational squadron assigned: the 74th and the 75th Fighter Squadrons both flying A-10 Thunderbolt II light attack aircraft.


World War II

By 15 June 1942, under orders from Tenth Air Force, an advance cadre of pilots and aircraft had proceeded over the "Hump" route to Kunming, China, for combat familiarization. Without ceremony, the 23d Fighter Group was activated 4 July 1942, marking the first such activation of a fighter group on a field of battle.[2] Claire L. Chennault, meanwhile, had been recalled to active duty with the rank of Brigadier General and placed at the head of the China Air Task Force (later to become Fourteenth Air Force). The 23d Fighter Group, a component of the CATF, was assigned three squadrons – the 74th, 75th, and 76th Fighter Squadrons. The group inherited the mission of the 1st American Volunteer Group "Flying Tigers". Five of Chennault’s staff officers, five pilots[2] and 19 ground crewmen entered the AAF and became members of the 23d Fighter Group. Approximately 25 AVG pilots, still in civilian status, volunteered to extend their contracts for two weeks to train the new group following the disbanding of their organization. The original aircraft of the group were a mixture of P-40s from a batch of 50 sent to China for the AVG between January and June 1942, and a follow-up shipment of 68 P-40Es sent to India and then flown over the Hump by the squadrons to be assigned to the 23d.

Others from the ranks of the original Flying Tigers left China when their contracts expired,[2] although some returned to duty later with the Army Air Forces in the China-Burma-India Theater. In addition to inheriting operational responsibilities from the AVG, the 23d Fighter Group also benefited from the knowledge and experience of the AVG pilots, and took on the nickname of the disbanded unit. Col. Robert L. Scott Jr., already in India as a commander of the Hump operation, became the first commander of the 23d Fighter Group.[2] He would later author the military classic, "God Is My Co-Pilot." On the very first day of its activation, the 23d Fighter Group engaged three successive waves of enemy aircraft and promptly recorded the destruction of five enemy aircraft with no losses to itself. The next three years saw the 23d Fighter Group involved in much of the action over southeast and southwest Asia. It provided air defense for the Chinese terminus of the Hump route,[1] but its operations extended beyond China to Burma, French Indochina and as far as Taiwan.[1] The unit helped pioneer a number of innovative fighter and fighter-bomber tactics. The Group used its so-called "B-40" (P-40's carrying 1,000-pound bombs) to destroy Japanese bridges and kill bridge repair crews, sometimes demolishing their target with a single bomb.[3] The unit gained another increase in capability with its conversion to the North American P-51 "Mustang" aircraft in November 1943.


General Claire Chennault with a P-51 Mustang and pilots of the 23d FG

Representative of the encounters undertaken by this small and often ill-equipped group was the defense against a major Japanese push down the Hsiang Valley in Hunan Province 17–25 June 1944.[1] Ignoring inhibiting weather conditions and heavy ground fire, the 23d Fighter Group provided air support for Chinese land forces and repeatedly struck at enemy troops and transportation. Its efforts in this instance earned it the Distinguished Unit Citation[1] for "outstanding performance of duty in action against the enemy." In 1945 it help turn the Japanese spring offensive and harassed the retreating Japanese by strafing and bombing their columns.[1]

Before the 23d Fighter Group returned to the United States in December 1945, it was credited with destroying 621 enemy planes in air combat, plus 320 more on the ground; with sinking more than 131,000 tons of enemy shipping and damaging another 250,000 tons; and with causing an estimated enemy troop loss of more than 20,000.[2] These statistics were compiled through a total of more than 24,000 combat sorties, requiring more than 53,000 flying hours, and at a cost of 110 aircraft lost in aerial combat, 90 shot down by surface defenses, and 28 bombed while on the ground.[2] Thirty-two pilots of the group achieved ace status by shooting down five or more enemy aircraft.[2] The 23d Fighter Group was inactivated 5 January 1946, at Fort Lewis, Washington.

Postwar Era

The 23d Fighter Group was reactivated 10 October 1946, in Guam and assigned to the Twentieth Air Force, equipped with the long-range Republic P-47N Thunderbolt, replacing the 21st Fighter Group and assuming its equipment, personnel, and mission.[1][4] While stationed in Guam, the 23 FG became a part of the United States Air Force (USAF) when it became a separate military service on 18 September 1947. In 1948 it was assigned to the 23rd Fighter Wing[5] as part of the USAF Wing/Base Reorganization (Hobson Plan),[6][7] which was intended to unify command and control on air bases by assigning operational and support groups to a single base.[8] In April 1949, the group moved with the wing to Howard AB[1] in the Panama Canal Zone, where it assumed the air defense mission of the Panama Canal.[6] It was inactivated along with the wing a few months later.[1][6]

Air Defense Command

The group was redesignated as the 23d Fighter-Interceptor Group (FIG) and activated once again[1] and assigned to the 23d Fighter-Interceptor Wing (FIW) at Presque Isle AFB, Maine as part of the Air Defense Command (ADC), with the 74th and 75th Fighter-Interceptor Squadrons (FIS) assigned, flying F-86E Sabre aircraft.[9] Before the year was over, both squadrons had converted to F-86As.[9] In February 1952, the 23d FIW and 23d FIG were inactivated,[1] in a major reorganization of Air Defense Command (ADC) responding to ADC's difficulty under the existing wing base organizational structure in deploying fighter squadrons to best advantage.[10]

In August 1955, ADC implemented Project Arrow, which was designed to bring back on the active list the fighter units which had compiled memorable records in the two world wars.[11] As a result of this project, the group, now designated the 23d Fighter Group (Air Defense), replaced the 528th Air Defense Group at Presque Isle and once again assumed command of the 75th FIS and 76 FIS,[1][12] which also returned to Presque Isle to replace the 82d FIS[13] and 318th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron,[14] because Project Arrow was also designed to reunite wartime squadrons with their traditional headquarters.[11] However, the two squadrons were now operating F-89 Scorpions[9] In addition, the group assumed USAF host responsibility for Presque Isle AFB and was assigned the 23rd USAF Infirmary[15] (later USAF Dispensary), 23rd Air Base Squadron,[16] 23rd Materiel Squadron,[17] and in 1957, the 23rd Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron[18] to carry out these duties. In 1957, the group converted from the F-89D to the nuclear capable F-89H[9] armed with AIR-2 Genie rockets. In 1958, the 76th FIS moved to McCoy AFB, Florida and was assigned away from the group. The 75th FIS was in the process of converting to F-101 VooDoos, when the group was inactivated in 1959[19] as Presque Isle was being transferred to Strategic Air Command as host base for the SM-62 Snark Missile and the 702d Strategic Missile Wing.

Modern era

23d Operations Group

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23d Fighter Group A-10 Thunderbolt IIs on alert

An A-10 Thunderbolt II from the 23d Fighter Group attached to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing takes off for a mission into Iraq, 29 March 2003, from a forward-deployed location in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

On 1 June 1992, the 23d Tactical Fighter Group was redesignated the 23d Operations Group and activated at Pope AFB, North Carolina under the redesignated 23d Wing[7] under the USAF Objective Wing plan. It was given the mission of controlling the flying components of the parent 23d Wing.

In December 1992, C-130s from the group's 2d Airlift Squadron deployed to Mombasa, Kenya, to participate in Operation Provide Relief. The aircraft and crews delivered tons of food and other relief supplies to small airstrips throughout Somalia. 23d Wing C-130s were also tasked to assist in other humanitarian relief efforts, to include Hurricane Andrew in Florida. They also airdropped relief supplies into Bosnia and Herzegovina and flew relief missions into Sarajevo for more than 28 months.

In September 1994, its C-130s participated in what was to be the largest combat personnel drop since World War II, Operation Uphold Democracy. They were to assist in dropping more than 3,000 paratroopers from the 82d Airborne Division onto Port au Prince Airport, Haiti. The invasion force was recalled at the last minute after word that the Haitian president had resigned upon hearing that the aircraft were on their way. The 75th Fighter Squadron's A-10s were deployed their aircraft to Shaw AFB, South Carolina, where they were scheduled to launch close air support operations for the invasion force before recovering in Puerto Rico.

The first operational deployment of a composite wing happened in October 1994, when Iraqi troops began massing near the Kuwaiti Border. Within 72 hours, 56 aircraft and 1,500 personnel deployed to the Persian Gulf region for Operation Vigilant Warrior. Eventually, the 75th Fighter Squadron redeployed to Al Jaber AB, Kuwait, becoming the first U.S. fixed-wing aircraft to be stationed in that country since the end of the Gulf War.

On 1 July 1996, the 74th Fighter Squadron's F-16C/D Fighting Falcons were transferred to the 27th Fighter Wing's 524th Fighter Squadron at Cannon AFB, New Mexico, and the squadron transitioned to A/OA-10 Thunderbolt IIs received from the 20th Fighter Wing's 55th Fighter Squadron at Shaw AFB, South Carolina. This gave the 23d Group a 2d A-10 squadron.

23d Fighter Group

On 1 April 1997, the 23d Operations Group was inactivated and replaced by the downsized 23rd Wing, which was redesignated as the 23d Fighter Group.[7] The 23d Fighter Group was assigned to the 347th Wing of Air Combat Command at Moody AFB, Georgia but physically remained at Pope as a Geographically Separated Unit (GSU). Its C-130s and Pope Air Force Base were realigned to Air Mobility Command and assigned to the 43d Airlift Wing.

Moody Air Force Base

On 1 October 2006, the 347th Rescue Wing at Moody AFB redesignated as the 347th Rescue Group, while the 23 FG was expanded and redesignated the 23d Wing. Along with the 347th Rescue Group, the original 23d Fighter Group was reactivated, this time at Moody Air Force Base,[7] for only the second time in over fifty years. The 23d Fighter Group was then assigned as one of the 23d Wing's operations groups, although retaining the designation of "Fighter Group".

Both the 23 WG and 23 FG are charged with carrying on the historic Flying Tiger's heritage.[20]


  • Constituted as 23d Pursuit Group (Interceptor) on 17 December 1941
Redesignated 23d Fighter Group on 15 May 1942
Activated on 4 July 1942
Inactivated on 5 January 1946
  • Redesignated 23d Fighter Group, Single Engine in 1946
Activated on 10 October 1946
  • Redesignated 23d Fighter Group, Jet on 3 May 1949
Inactivated on 24 September 1949
  • Redesignated 23d Fighter-Interceptor Group on 19 December 1950
Activated on 12 January 1951
Inactivated on 6 February 1952
  • Redesignated 23d Fighter Group (Air Defense) on 20 June 1955
Activated on 18 August 1955
Inactivated on 1 July 1959
Redesignated 23d Tactical Fighter Group on 31 July 1985 (remained inactive)
  • Redesignated 23d Operations Group, and activated, on 1 June 1992
Inactivated on 1 April 1997
  • Redesignated: 23 Fighter Group on 26 September 2006
Activated on 1 October 2006[21]



  • 2d Airlift Squadron: 1 June 1992 – 1 April 1997
  • 16th Fighter Squadron: attached, 4 July 1942 – 19 October 1943
  • 41st Airlift Squadron: 16 July 1993 – 1 April 1997
  • 74th Fighter Squadron: 4 July 1942 – 5 January 1946; 10 October 1946 – 24 September 1949; 12 January 1951 – 6 February 1952; 15 June 1993 – 1 April 1997; 1 October 2006 – present
  • 75th Fighter Squadron (later 75th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, 75th Fighter Squadron): 4 July 1942 – 5 January 1946; 10 October 1946 – 24 September 1949; 12 January 1951 – 6 February 1952; 18 August 1955 – 1 July 1959; 1 June 1992 – 1 April 1997; 1 October 2006 – present
  • 76th Fighter Squadron (later, 76th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron): 4 July 1942 – 5 January 1946; 10 October 1946 – 24 September 1949; 18 August 1955 – 9 November 1957
  • 118th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron: attached, May 1945 – Aug 1945
  • 132d Fighter-Interceptor Squadron: attached, 21 July 1951 – 2 August 1951
  • 134th Fighter Interception Squadron: attached, Jan 1951 -2 August 1951
  • 449th Fighter Squadron: attached, Jul 1943 - 19 October 1943[21]


  • Kunming Airport, China, 4 July 1942
  • Kweilin Airfield, China, c. Sept 1943
  • Liuchow Airfield, China, 8 September 1944
  • Luliang Airfield, China, 14 September 1944
  • Liuchow Airfield, China, Aug 1945
  • Hanchow Airfield, China, c. 10 October – 12 December 1945
  • Fort Lewis, Washington, 3–5 January 1946
  • Northwest Field (later, Northwest Guam AFB), Guam, 10 October 1946 – 3 April 1949
  • Howard AFB, Canal Zone, 25 April – 24 September 1949
  • Presque Isle AFB, Maine, 12 January 1951 – 6 February 1952; 18 August 1955 – 1 July 1959
  • Pope AFB, North Carolina, 1 June 1992 – 30 July 2007
  • Moody AFB, Georgia, 30 July 2007 – present[21]


China Defensive
Western Pacific
China offensive


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 Maurer, Maurer, ed (1983) [1961]. Air Force Combat Units of World War II (reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. p. 72. ISBN 0-912799-02-1. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Molesworth, Carl (2009). 23rd Fighter Group: Chenault's Sharks. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-0-78581-401-6.  (Extracts online at Google Books. Retrieved 2 November 2012
  3. CBI Roundup, Vol. II, No. 32, 20 April 1944
  4. Maurer Combat Units, p. 72
  5. AFHRA Factsheet, 23d Wing. Retrieved 28 July 2012
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings, Lineage & Honors Histories 1947-1977. Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. pp. 43–45. ISBN 0-912799-12-9. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 AFHRA Factsheet, 23d Fighter Group. Retrieved 5 April 2012
  8. Goss, William A (1955). "The Organization and its Responsibilities, Chapter 2 The AAF". In Craven, Wesley F & Cate, James L. The Army Air Forces in World War II. Vol. VI, Men & Planes. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. p. 59. LCCN 48-3657. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Cornett, Lloyd H; Johnson, Mildred W (1980). A Handbook of Aerospace Defense Organization, 1946–1980. Peterson AFB, CO: Office of History, Aerospace Defense Center. p. 118. 
  10. Grant, C.L., The Development of Continental Air Defense to 1 September 1954, (1961), USAF Historical Study No. 126
  11. 11.0 11.1 Buss, Lydus H.(ed), Sturm, Thomas A., Volan, Denys, and McMullen, Richard F., History of Continental Air Defense Command and Air Defense Command July to December 1955, Directorate of Historical Services, Air Defense Command, Ent AFB, CO, (1956), p.6
  12. Maurer, Maurer, ed (1982) [1969]. Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II (reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. pp. 274–275. ISBN 0-405-12194-6. 
  13. Maurer, Combat Squadrons, p. 287
  14. Maurer, Combat Squadrons, p. 389
  15. See Abstract, History of 23d USAF Infirmary Aug-Dec 1955. Retrieved 7 April 2012
  16. Abstract, History of 23d Air Base Squadron Jan 1958-Jun 1959. Retrieved 7 April 2012
  17. Cornett & Johnson, p. 145
  18. Cornett & Johnson, p. 136
  19. Cornett & Johnson, p. 70
  20. USAF Release ref 23d Wing.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 Lineage, Assignment, Components, and Stations are in AFHRA Factsheet, 23d Fighter Group
  22. 22.0 22.1 Air Force Personnel Services Unit Awards. Retrieved 2 November 2012

References & Bibliography

 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website

  • Donald, David (2004) Century Jets: USAF Frontline Fighters of the Cold War. AIRtime ISBN 1-880588-68-4
  • Endicott, Judy G. (1999) Active Air Force wings as of 1 October 1995; USAF active flying, space, and missile squadrons as of 1 October 1995. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. CD-ROM.
  • Lopez, Donald S. (1986). Into the Teeth of the Tiger. New York, NY: Random House. ISBN 978-0-55327-441-7. 
  • Menard, David W. (1993). USAF Plus Fifteen: A Photo History, 1947-1962. Lancaster, PA: Shiffer Publishing, Ltd.. ISBN 0-88740-483-9. 
  • Molesworth, Carl (1994). Sharks Over China: The 23rd Fighter Group in World War II. Washington, DC: Brassey's (US). ISBN 978-0-78581-401-6. 
  • Rogers, Brian. (2005). United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978. Hinkley, UK: Midland Publications. ISBN 1-85780-197-0. 

External links

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