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AAF Fighter Escort

AAF fighter escort during World War II. (U.S. Air Force photo)

AAF fighter escort during World War II. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Early in 1943, the 4th Fighter Group, composed of the three former Eagle Squadrons, converted from the Spitfire to the P-47, a newly-developed AAF fighter with greater range. On March 10, the P-47 became operational when several made a fighter sweep over Europe. On April 8, two additional P-47 groups became operational. In May, P-47s began flying escort for AAF heavy bombers.

However, P-47s still did not have sufficient range to fly penetration and withdrawal escort all the way to targets deep in Germany. This often led to disastrous results, such as on June 13, 1943, when 60 B-17s attacked Kiel in Northwest Germany on the Baltic Sea. As soon as the P-47s turned for home, the AAF bombers were attacked by Luftwaffe interceptors and 22 of the 60 B-17s were shot down.

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