I received a request from a client a few months ago asking to complete "The Strip Polka." Turns out while my grandfather (David Lankford) was flying in the 320th my clients grandfather (another Lankford) was also flying in the 319th. Still verifying family line, but I've lived long enough to know that true coincidences are few and far between. To the greatest generation, and to my new found cousin!
The 343rd Fighter Group was activated on September 11, 1942 and assigned to the XI Fighter Command. The Group was initially composed of three fighter squadrons, the 11th, 18th, and the 54th. The 344th was assigned to the Group in October of 1942. For a short time the 1st Photographic Flight and the 11th Fighter Control Squadron were associated with the Group.
The group operated in Alaska from mid 1942 to fall 1943. Known as the "Aleutian Tigers" it was commanded by John "Jack" Chennault the son of General Claire Chennault who commanded the Flying Tigers in China. The Aleutian Tigers flew along with the U.S. Navy, Royal Canadian Airforce, and other U.S. Army Airforce units throughout the Aleutian Island chain. The distinctive tiger face was a take off from the original Flying Tigers that operated in China.
This may be my favorite part of the whole process. It's like putting the decals on my old G.I. Joe vehicles.