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History Presentation and P-47 Flight Demonstration The 56th Fighter Group in Europe

History Presentation and P-47 Flight Demonstration The 56th Fighter Group in Europe

The 56th Fighter Group was one of the premier fighter groups in all of Europe during World War II.   Initially Flying from Horsham St. Faith and later Halesworth and Boxsted, the 56th flew P-47s throughout the war while other P-47 fighter groups transitioned to P-51 Mustangs.

From its first operational mission on April 13th, 1943, through the end of the war in Europe the 56th scored 677 German aircraft destroyed in air-to-air combat.  This total is the second highest among U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) fighter groups in the European Theater, the highest among all Eighth Air Force groups, and the highest among all P-47 Thunderbolt equipped groups in the USAAF.  Of the air-to-air totals, 4.5 of the aircraft were Me 262 jet fighters and 2 were AR 234 jet bombers.

The first commander of the 56th was Colonel Hubert “Hub” Zemke, a fearless and highly respected leader.  In a search for ways to increase the group’s air-to-air effectiveness, Col. Zemke devised a tactic later dubbed the “Zemke fan” to enhance the flexibility of fighter escorts. Instead of flying close escort with the bombers, his concept called for the group to rendezvous at an easily found landmark in its escort zone.  From this point, the group would break up into squadrons and fan out in a 180° arc, maintaining contact to respond to any attacks on the bomber stream.  Zemke led the group through August 1944 when he took command of the P-51 equipped 479th Fighter Group.  Command of the 56th Fighter Group passed to Lt. Col. David C. Schilling.

On Saturday, June 15th, at 9:00am, former Air Force officer and current museum Docent Mat Ouding will present the story of the 56th Fighter Group and the personal stories of some of its most famous members.  Weather permitting, the presentation will be followed by a flight demonstration of the museum’s own P-47D Thunderbolt.  The “D” model was one of the types flown by the 56th fighter group.

Doors to the museum open at 8am.  The presentation begins at 9am, with the flight demonstration following immediately afterward.

Wednesday - Sunday
10:00am ‒ 5:00pm

Adults: $15-$17
Seniors/Military: $13-$15
Children & Students: $11-$12