011033 - A MANIFEST SPIRIT: The 359th Fighter Group 1943 to 1945
By Charlotte Baldridge, Janet Fogg and Richard Fogg
Before Allied forces could set boots on the shores of Normandy, it was imperative that Germany's capacity to wage war be dealt a crippling blow. This was the mission of the U.S. Eighth Air Force: to fly deep into the heartland of Germany and the countries it occupied, targeting factories, infrastructure, air bases and more. The Germans fought back savagely, and were it not for the "little friends," the Eighth Air Force fighter escorts, it is doubtful our bombers could have prevailed. But prevail they did, thanks to the dedication and sacrifice of fifteen fighter groups scattered throughout England. This is the story of one such group. The three fighter squadrons of the 359th Fighter Group, based at Station F-133 northeast of London, flew 346 missions over continental Europe between 13 December 1943 and 25 April 1945. Flying in broad daylight over enemy-held territory, their green-nosed Thunderbolts and Mustangs not only protected the bombers but often embraced an even more dangerous tactical role engaging targets on the ground. In the deadly dance that ensued many a brave young pilot lost his life in the skies over western Europe, but our bombers got through and the GIs landed at Normandy. Relying not on recollections rendered imprecise by the passage of time, or secondhand reports which inevitably lose context, A Manifest Spirit instead presents observations from the group historian, base chaplain, and the fighter pilots themselves, recorded as they occurred during the conflict. The complex operation of a wartime fighter base, the deep satisfaction of a successful mission, and the heartbreak of waiting for pilots that never returned, are presented with the clarity that can only come from contemporaneous reports. A Manifest Spirit is a tribute to the officers that gave the 359th Fighter Group its organization and direction, the enlisted men who made it work, and above all the pilots, 121 of whom made the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of freedom.
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