USAAF squadron/group orgsanisation 1943-45

This forum contains affiliate links to products on Amazon and eBay. More information in Terms and rules


Tech Sergeant
Oct 15, 2006
Does anyone have good source where I can read about the standard/theoretical organization of USAAF air units from 43-45?
I have only found this: USAAF - Organization and Equipment - Tactical Organization | but that's with an unknown number of reserve aircraft and not broken-down into squadrons.

At some time in 43/44 there may have been changes from 3x16 to 4x16 squadrons and at some time in 44 at least fighters seem to have grown even further by more or enlarged squadrons. Bomber squadrons seem to have used 21 a/c for operational missions with some in operational reserve (taking-off with operational a/c to act as spares in case of failures). Fighter standard was obviously 16 a/c for a long time but don't know how this became the 100+ group in 45.

I have seen multiple different numbers used in several games. Have troubles to find this info for USAAF, RAF/LW is easier to find, at least not deeply buried in some big fat books.
Last edited:
Hi Denniss,

You probably know it already, but Squadrons were organized into Groups,and Groups were organized into wings. So a Fighter Squadron was part of both a Fighter Group and a Fighter Wing, and a Fighter Group was part of a Fighter Wing. Wings were organized into Commands and Commands into numbered Air Forces.

The Eigth Air Force, for instance, was the overall command structure for the 8th Bomber Command (Bombers), the 8th Fighter Command (Fighters), and the 8th Air Support Command (reconnaissance, troop transport, and tactical bombardment using 2-engine medium bombers).

An Air Force had a Fighter Command, Bomber Command, and an Air Support Command.

Here is an interesting link:

The structure was somewhat fluid. That is, we started the war with the structure carried over from the interwar peacetime US Army Air Corps, transitioned into the US Army Air Forces as the war dictated and, after the war in Europe ended, we reorganized into a different structure in the Pacific to fight Japan (for instance, the eight Air Force was sent from Europe to Pacific). So there were three distinct different structures and might be more if you are interested enough to dig into it.

One member that can tell all about the Eighth Air Force is Drgondog, and he may have the rest of the structures, too, in more detail than almost anyone else.

I myself am very curious about the organization of the German Luftwaffe, but I don't read German.

Like the Luftwaffe, the US had an authorized number of aircraft for a squadron, wing, Group. etc., an authorized number of personnel, and an authorized equipment list. The units may or may not have had full authorized strength. If they were short planes, we rotated pilots and they flew less. If they were short pilots, then we rotated planes to equalize the usage until such time as more pilots could be assigned. If we were short equipment and spare, maintenance suffered a bit.

The only thing we were not usually short of were people who thought they knew best. I bet it was very similar in the Luftwaffe.
Thanks for the links, lots of text to read. A quick look shows vry valuable information but not really broken down into paper strength and operational strength. Searching the wb points out to fighter groups of three squadrons having a paper strength of 60 aircraft, later in 43 increased to 75. Operational strength was sought to be 48 (16 per squadron). Intention was to have some spares operational and taking-off with main group to act as replacements in case of other having mechanical trouble while other aircraft are in maintenance or crews at rest.
I have not really found indication of what happened in 44 to rech the 45 figure from above, I can only assume a move to four squadrons (does not seem the case according to Gregs link) or doubling flights from 4 a/c to 8 a/c.

Heavy bomber groups (4-sqn) seemed to send 21 a/c per mission in early 43 while later (in 45?) this increased some something in the 35 range. Indications of 12 a/c per Sqn with increase to 16 in early 45; they most likely operated with lots of spare a/c and even more spare crews to ensure daily bombing ability (one part on operation while other part resting).

Comments above for ETO, PTO may differ.
Found something for PTO 45


  • USAAF authorized strength.jpg
    USAAF authorized strength.jpg
    105.8 KB · Views: 2,141
Last edited:
Denniss - Greg covered the USAAF evolution pretty well and Dr. Maurer work is the single best source for individual Groups and Squadrons. If you don't have Freeman's works, particularly the Mighty Eighth, Mighty Eighth War Diary and Mighty Eighth War Manual, they will be excellent in cross reference, particularly as a function of time.

Briefly, the standard BG(H) for the 8th was composed of 4 squadrons of 12 aircraft per TO&E - which varied as a function of delivery from the US with aircraft and crews and combat losses and damage. The evolution (and confusion) arises over time for two reasons. First, the typical Bomb Group through 1943 sent three squadrons of six each with the fourth squadron standing down due to lack of crews and/or bombers or four squadrons of 6 depending on the mission. The deployment increased to nine per squadron and a typical additional one or two squadrons from another bomb group in the same wing to compose a combat 'box' of approximately 50 B-17s or B-24s - this practice evolved during 1944 into standard operating procedure in summer 1944 as attrition from LW diminished greatly.

Fighter tactics evolved also based on increased flow of aircraft and pilots in late 1943 to the extent that pilots per squadron moved from generally ~25 divided into four 'Flights' of six or seven in early 1943 to 8+ in early 1944 to 10+ in fall of 1944. By the same token the number of aircraft available was less than the pilot strength, usually less than 20-22 per squadron, including those flown by HQ staff which resided in the squadrons. In almost every case the squadrons would take off with 16 fighters each plus spares if available - but the number of "effectives" due to mechanical issues, pilot illness, etc. would take the squadron down to six or seven per squadron. This was typical with the introduction of the Mustang and into mid 1944.

In 1944 the 8th FC introduced the concept of A and B Group deployments as the number of aircraft approached 28-30 fighters per squadron. As an aside, this is a period where you began to see a "Bar" underneath a squadron code to reflect using A-Z for the other fighters in the squadron. E.G. my father had the first Bin the 354th squadron in early summer 1944 when the P-51Ds entered service to add to the P-51B/Cs.

The A and B Groups did not imply two forces of 48 each (3x16) but often increased strength to five or (rarely) six flights of four in one group and perhaps an equal number in the other by splitting up one squadron and deploying to the other two. A reason for doing this might be to send one group off to one side of their assigned bomber force 15 to 50 miles away to block an anticipated LW reaction.

In 1945 the typical 8th AF FG had 90+ aircraft and 100 pilots.

Hope this helps on the 8th AF.

Users who are viewing this thread