The 56th Fighter Group - Zemke's Wolfpack
Zemke's Wolfpack began life as the 56th Pursuit Group in January, 1941, at Savannah, Georgia. In June of 1942, the 56th became the first to transition to the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt.
56th FG personnel arrived in Kingscliff England on 12 January, 1943, with maintenance crews and brand new P-47C's arriving at the end of the month. After training with veteran British pilots, the group moved to Horsham St. Faith on April 4th and flew it's first operational mission on April 8th: four 56th pilots flew with the 4th FG on a Circus to St. Omer. Twelve P-47's joined a large force of RAF Spitfires on a Rodeo to the Calais area on 13 April, marking the group's first official combat mission.
Captain Walt Cook scored the 56th Group's first kill on 12 June, 1943 during a Rodeo to the Calais area. From there, it was all down hill. By the time they flew their 447th and last mission on 21 April, 1945, the Wolfpack had claimed 674 air-to-air victories - more than any other 8th AF fighter group. The two top-scoring aces of the European Theater, Francis Gabreski and Robert S. Johnson, were Wolfpack pilots. Indeed, three of the top five were from the 56th, and fully one-third of the fifteen top-scoring aces of the entire AAF were from the 56th.
The 56th was also the only group to fly the P-47 throughout the war.
About The CFS Campaign
The Campaign is designed to present a full spectrum of missions flown by the 56th throughout it's tour. The first missions included were randomly selected and include details as described by Robert S. Johnson. Periodically, new missions, (though not all 447!), will be added to build a comprehensive representation of the Wolfpack's record.
Note that some missions are rather dull, while others are quite exciting and action-filled. This is by design; in real life, not every mission is filled with flak and fighters and this campaign seeks to simulate the experience of being a part of a real group.
The current missions include:
- The first 56th FG combat mission.
- A Circus to The Hague.
- The first 56th FG victory mission.
- A Ramrod to Villacoublay.
- A Ramrod to Bremen.
- A Ramrod to Muenster.
The following references provided information to compile these missions:
Thunderbolt! by Robert S. Johnson.
USAAF Handbook, 1939 - 1945 by Martin W. Bowman
Air War Europa, America's Air War Against Germany In Europe And North Africa, Chronology, 1942-1945 by Eric Hammel.
The Mighty Eighth by Gerald Astor.