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49th Pursuit Group returns

Founding members of the 9th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Group, stand in front of a P-38 Lightning in the Philippines on Oct. 26, 1944. They were the first Army Air Force pilots to land there in support of the Liberation of the Philippines.

Founding members of the 9th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Group, stand in front of a P-38 Lightning in the Philippines on Oct. 26, 1944. They were the first Army Air Force pilots to land there in support of the Liberation of the Philippines.

HOLLOMAN AFB, N.M. -- The 49th Fighter Wing has a long and storied history filled with accomplishments in almost every conflict the United States has entered since the early 1940s. With its modest beginning as the 49th Pursuit Group on November 20, 1940, to the present day, Airmen who refer to themselves as "Fightin' 49ers" continue the greatness established in those conflicts. 

In October 1942, following the group's 500th confirmed kill, Supreme Commander of Allied forces in the Southwest Pacific General Douglas MacArthur said, "The 49th in air battles in the Southwest Pacific has set a record for the destruction of enemy planes which I believe is unsurpassed by any group of fighters in the war. Before coming to the Philippines as our first land-based air unit, they were crowding the 500 mark. In seven days in the Philippines, they have well passed 500 and are now shooting for the 600th. They are unsurpassed in the air." 

With this pride in mind, a group of 49ers united 60 years ago in the backyard of First Sgt. Arthur Bishop's house and formed the 49th Fighter Group Association. Originally, this group was made up of former 49ers who were assigned to the 7th, 8th, 9th, fighter control and headquarters squadrons. At a later date Airmen assigned to the 475th during the Korean War and 417th during the Vietnam War joined the group. However in 1998, the members changed their bylaws to allow anyone who has ever been, or is currently, assigned to the 49th Fighter Wing to join the association. 

Today the 49 FGA has a membership of more than 500 former and current 49ers. Members from the association will be visiting Holloman for their annual reunion and to take part in the Air Force Ball, Saturday in Hangar 301. 

Anyone interested in joining the 49 FGA is encouraged to get in touch with a member at the Air Force Ball or via mail at 49 FGA Reunion Association, PO Box 52407, Mesa, Arizona, 85208, dues are $15 a year or $100 for a life-time membership.