The 55th Fighter Group started life as the 55th Pursuit Group but was renamed
as the 55th Fighter Group in May 1942, as the USAAF began to update the names of
By August 1943 ,the personnel had finished with their stateside training and began the preparations for the trans-Atlantic deployment to England. Three operational squadrons made the move to England: the 38th, 338th, and the 343rd.
On 4 September, the group embarked on the HMS Orion. This ship could normally carry 1,500 persons across the ocean. For this trip, 300 officers and 3,200 enlisted men made the voyage. The Group arrived in England and were posted to Nuthampstead.
The 55th was assigned to the Eighth Air Force's 66th Fighter Wing and received its first P-38 fighters on 21 September 1943. Although it wasn't the first P-38 group to arrive in England, the 55th was the first to go fully operational when, on 15 October, the 55th flew a fighter sweep over Holland.
In early 1944, the Allies had established long-range fighter escort capability. The 55th Group provided protection for the heavy bombers during the famous maximum effort, known as "Big Week" 20-25 February 1944.
Soon thereafter, on 3 March 1944; the Eighth Air Force planners scheduled a large-scale daylight raid on Berlin. Unfortunately, the weather was very poor and most of the planes were recalled. The 55th Fighter Group did not receive a recall order and arrived over Berlin to rendezvous with the bombers which did not materialize. Lieutenant Colonel Jack S. Jenkins was leading the 55th that day and the Group made history by becoming the first American fighter unit to penetrate the Berlin skies during the war.
The 55th introduced a new form of P-38 on 10 April 1944. A specially modified Lightning, with a plexi-glass nose and room for a bombardier in lieu of the fighter's normal nose armament, became known as the "droop snoot". The target for this first mission was to be the airfield 'at St. Dizier, France; but, as the planes approached, it became obvious that the airfield was obscured by a ground haze, Again leading the Group on a historic mission, Colonel Jenkins opted for a secondary target at Coulomiers. After the bombs were released, Colonel Jenkins led the fighters "down on the deck" to strafe the field. On his second pass, Jenkins' P-38 was hit several times by enemy gunners forcing him to crash land and be taken prisoner.
Six days later (16 April 1944), the remainder of the Group moved to Wormingford, near Colchester, in Essex, England.
History still to be completed.....
Clobber College (Source - 55th FG Microfilm Records)
Clobber College, an "institute of higher learning" was founded in the middle of November (1944) at Station F-159 (Wormingford). The purpose of the founding of this institution was simple. The various training units of the Eighth Air Force were closing; pilots fresh from the Zone of the Interior were being sent directly to the combat groups without receiving the ground and flight instructions which were vitally needed. In order to send these pilots into combat it became necessary to train them in combat and operational technique. Thus was Clobber College born - the Pilot-Trainee Unit of the 55th Fighter Group.
Major Tom H. Welch, Jr., Group Intelligence Officer suggested the name. "Honkers High" and "Prangers Prep" were among other names suggested. However, Colonel George T. Crowell, group commander was taken with the name "Clobber College", so, the dedication ceremony was thus completed.
Dean Lewis (Captain William H. Lewis) met his first class. Donned in caps and gowns they were standing at attention, and the training school was under way. Assistant Dean Burns (Captain William H. Burns) director of operations, Flight Instructors 1st Lts. Oliver T. Griswold, Frank L. Tischer, George E. Funk completed the rota of staff professors.