Beware the Thunderbolt! – The 56th Fighter Group in World War II

Title – Beware the Thunderbolt! – The 56th Fighter Group in World War II

Author – David R. McLaren



The “Wolfpack” otherwise known as the 56th Fighter Group was a famous fighting unit component of the 8th Air Force, USAAF based in the UK during WW2. It was a unit from where heroes in the air were created during WW2. This book is a detailed work focusing on this timeframe of the famous 56th Fighter Group.

Laid out in a chronological format covering daily to at times weekly schedules, it shows how the 56th took the war to the Luftwaffe, with initial actions in 1943 evolving into large scale group attacks in 1944-45 which crushed the Germany military both in the air and on land.

Activated in 1941 and utilising various aircraft prior to the P-47 Thunderbolt, the 56th moved to the UK in 1942 and became operational in early 1943. Flying P-47 Thunderbolt out of the UK into a determined enemy who controlled the airspace over Europe, the pilots learnt to devise new tactics to survive. Over the war period many pilots become legends for racking up kills and their aerial art of dog fighting .

Escorting bombers was their core role for a while and the 56th Fighter Group narratives describe the brutal air to air warfare with many injuries, other pilots dying and some becoming POWs. By end of WW2, the Group had destroyed 1,000+ enemy aircraft, with Major Gabreski claimed 28 as the highest ace of them all. During WW2, the 56th Fighter Group achieved more air-to-air kills than any other Eighth Air Force fighter group unit. It was also the top scoring Republic P-47 Thunderbolt group during this war. USAF records show the 56th had the second highest kill rate over Europe. Names like Mahurin, Zemke, Johnson and Gabreski became well known under the leadership of Col. Schilling and other Group leaders.

The book then delves into post WW2 operations as it was deactivated and reactivated. As part of post war reactivation within SAC, they transitioned to P-51Hs. The book go on to cover training into the jet age, as the 56th was amongst the first units in the USAAF to fly the new P-80 Shooting Star from 1947.


Book detail

ISBN13: 9780887406607

Size: 8 1/2″ x 11″ | 0 |

Pages: 208 pages

Binding: hard cover

Available direct from Schifferbooks at for $39.95 US plus postage.