When the 82nd Fighter Group was organized in March 1942, most of its initial pilot cadre was comprised of newly graduated staff sergeant pilots of Class 42-C – enlisted men! They learned to fly the P-38 at Muroc, in California's Mojave Desert, and then moved to the Los Angeles area to continue their training and to serve as part of its air defence. In September 1942 the group was transported to the East Coast, from where it shipped out to Ireland on the Queen Mary. By this time all its remaining sergeant pilots had been commissioned. As of VE-Day the 82nd Fighter Group's score of confirmed aerial victories stood at 548 aircraft shot down, plus a huge amount of enemy materiel – including aircraft – destroyed on the ground and the sea. It had been awarded three Distinguished Unit Citations. The cost of this success was high, however, for around 250 of the group's pilots had either been killed in action or captured.
Read an extract of P-38 Lightning Aces of the 82nd Fighter Group