NORTH CAROLINA - For nearly four years, the 4th Fighter Group, now known as the 4th Fighter Wing, participated in one of the largest wars in American history; World War II. As a key air component in the European campaign, the group was instrumental in the accomplishments of several important strategic victories, including the Normandy Beach invasion and the Berlin air raids.
Although combat operations in Europe concluded May 8, 1945, the war in the Pacific continued for another three months. The 4th FG, along with all other Army Air Forces stationed in Europe, were now tasked to train in preparation for Pacific theater. However, they would never get the opportunity.
On Aug. 15, 1945, prior to the group arriving in the Pacific, Japanese Emperor Hirohito, surrendered to U.S. led forces. This day would later be recognized as Victory in Japan Day and also unofficially marked the end of World War II.
On the 69th anniversary of VJ Day, the 4th Fighter Wing continues to honor the contributions of those who served in the Pacific and the air power, which helped bring the war to an end.
While the Pacific campaign of the war may be known for the dropping of the first two atomic bombs, first on Hiroshima and then on Nagasaki, Japan, U.S. historians have described it as a long arduous campaign.
Many historians noted that service members, who were tasked with conducting operations on a series of islands, were sometimes cut off from food and ammunition. They relied heavily on airpower to deliver much needed supplies and food to their locations. The air forces also provided support for advancing troops.
Dr. Roy Heidicker, 4th Fighter Wing historian also expressed his belief that the 4th FG would have made a significant difference in the Pacific theater.
"The 4th FG helped knock the vaunted Luftwaffe out of the European skies by destroying 1,016 German planes," Heidicker said. They most likely would have been equally adept at destroying Japanese planes to help end the war in the Pacific."
Several Air Force leaders are attributed with helping turn the war to the allied forces favor; one of which was Gen. Henry "Hap" Arnold, future general of the Air Force.
According to Arnold, airpower made the difference in the war. He went on to state that without the decisive and effective use of air power it is possible the war would have lasted much longer.
Following the atomic bomb's usage and the formal surrender by Japanese officials aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay Sept. 2, 1945, the 4th FG and the rest of the Army Air Force stationed in Europe halted their transition to the Pacific.
The war was now over.
More than 80,000 Americans gave their lives in service to their country during the Pacific campaign of World War II. The honoring of VJ Day ensures that none of these selfless individuals are ever forgotten.
Even though the 4th FG never conducted operations in the Pacific during World War II, they would eventually serve there during the Korean War nearly five years later.