The 325th Operations Group is responsible for directing the flying and support operations for a F-22 Raptor fighter squadron, a training and support squadron, and an operations support squadron. The 43rd Fighter Squadron is the only Air Force unit that provides initial and requalification training for active duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve F-22 pilots. The 325th Training Support Squadron provides academic and simulator training in support of each squadron's syllabi. The 325th Operations Support Squadron trains air traffic control personnel and intelligence officers for worldwide assignment, and supports daily operations of the group. The group staff provides guidance and assistance in successfully executing the training mission and ensures quality performance and standardized procedures for pilots and weapons directors for worldwide assignment to the combat Air Forces.
The 325th Fighter Group was activated Aug. 3, 1942 at Mitchel Field, N.Y., and trained in the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk. The unit entered combat with Twelfth Air Force in North Africa on April 17, 1943. From its bases in Algeria and Tunisia, the group escorted medium bombers, flew strafing missions, and made sweeps over the Mediterranean Sea. The group received its first Distinguished Unit Citation for action over Sardinia on July 30, 1943. Using diversionary tactics, the 325th Fighter Group forced a superior number of enemy airplanes into the air and destroyed more than half of them.
The 325th Fighter Group also played a significant role during the invasion of Italy in September 1943. Invasion plans called for the forces of the United States Fifth Army to be transported from Tunisia to the Italian mainland, but their convoy had to pass within striking distance of Axis aircraft stationed on the island of Sardinia. To protect the convoy, a total of 112 P-40s of the 325th Fighter Group attacked the Pabillonis Airfield on Sardinia on the 5th, 7th, and 8th of September. The group's fighter-bombers dropped fragmen¬tation bombs and strafed aircraft and targets of oppor¬tunity.
From late September to December 1943, the unit flew no combat missions while its pilots retrained in P-47 Thunderbolt fighters and moved to Italy. Its mission now included escorting Fifteenth Air Force's heavy bombers over strategic targets in Italy, France, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Romania, and Yugo¬slavia. The 325th Fighter Group also protected reconnaissance aircraft and strafed trains, vehicles, and air¬fields.
Using one of the cleverest tricks of the air war, the 325th Fighter Group won a second Distinguished Unit Citation for its surprise attack on the German airfields near Villaorba on Jan. 30, 1944. In late 1943, the Germans had moved about 200 bombers into northern Italy, putting them within range of the American beachhead at Anzio. To counter this development, the commanders of Fifteenth Air Force directed small bombing raids on German airfields near Austria. Having conditioned the Germans to expect more raids, the Fifteenth Air Force leaders tricked the Germans. B-17 Flying Fortresses and B-24 Liberators from the 97th, 99th, 301st, 449th, and the 450th Bombardment Groups, well escorted by P-38 Lightnings from the 1st, 14th, and 82nd Fighter Groups, flew at normal altitudes so German radar operators could plot them. Once the bombers were in the air, the 325th Fighter Group's P 47s took off. Flying on the deck over the Adriatic, the faster P-47s overtook the bombers, climbed high, and headed for the target area. They arrived 15 minutes before the bombers, catching the enemy's fighters, warned of the approaching bombers, in the act of taking off and assembling for combat. The tactical surprise being complete, the 325th consummated the attack, destroying 36 aircraft, including fourteen ME-109s, an additional eight probable kills, while losing only two of its P-47s. When the bombers arrived, they met almost no opposition and covered the field with 29,000 fragmenta¬tion bombs. The participation of Fifteenth Air Force's bombers and fighters resulted in the destruc¬tion, in the air and on the ground, of about 140 enemy aircraft. The Allied losses were only six bombers and three fighters. This attack and another the next day effectively ended the aerial threat to Anzio.
In May 1944, the group exchanged its Thunderbolts for P-51 Mustangs, which it flew until the end of the war. By then, the 325th's motto--"Locare et Liquidare" (Locate and Liquidate), had earned the respect of both Allies and Germans alike. Returning to the United States after the war, the group was inactivated on Oct. 28, 1945. This proved to be a temporary arrangement as the group reactivated on May 21, 1947 as the 325th Fighter Group (All Weather), and was equipped with F-61 Black Widows. The group received F-82 Twin Mustangs in 1948 and F-94 Starfires in 1950. Over the next two decades, the unit changed its name and aircraft a number of times.
In August 1957, the 317th Fighter Interceptor Squadron was reassigned to the 10th Air Division Alaskan Air Command, and the 325th Fighter Group was deactivated March 25, 1960.
The 325th reappeared on July 1, 1981 with a new name and a new home. Tactical Air Command designated the wing as the 325th Fighter Weapons Wing and moved it to Tyndall. Five units already assigned to the weapons center were reassigned to the 325th. These included the 2nd Fighter Interceptor Squadron, 82nd Tactical Aerial Target Squadron, 95th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, 475th Air Defense Squadron and 475th Test Squadron. The wing accomplished the operations, test and evaluation and maintenance portions of the complex United States Air Force Air Defense Weapons Center mission, which was directly related to combat readiness training for air defense.
The wing's structure remained relatively stable until the fall of 1991 when a massive reorganization took place, the objective wing concept, under the direction and authority of Headquarters, Tactical Air Command and the U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff. The reorganization, among other things, redesignated the wing as the 325th Fighter Wing and activated its predecessor group, with the designation of the 325th Operations Group. The wing became part of Ninth Air Force under Air Combat Command Oct. 1, 2012.
Col. John R. Echols