Air Group 4 (AG-4), carrying the numerical designation from its first aircraft carrier, the USS Ranger (CV-4) saw action in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters of War.
The USS Ranger was operating in the Atlantic when the United States entered the war. In this theater, the Ranger Air Group was involved in Operation Torch to support the North African campaign and Operation Leader, attacks on German shipping and port facilities along the Norwegian coast. In addition, a major responsibility of the Ranger Air Group was antisub patrol and convoy escort duty in the North Atlantic.
See "Operation Leader Strike on German Shipping along the Coast of Norway," video interview with LCDR Gerald W. Thomas.
Air Group 4 was aboard the Ranger when German submarine commander Lt. Otto Von Bulow, decorated by Hitler with the Knights Cross, was credited with sinking the ship. The true story of this false report is given here. A Re-enactment by Ron Gottardi of a 15 Feb 1944 CBS Radio news broadcast of Face the Nation in which the Captain of the USS Ranger discusses the false report is here: The Unsinking of the USS Ranger (CV-4).
Air Group 4 was reformed and transferred to the Pacific in July 1944 to fly from the USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) and the USS Essex (CV-9).
The Essex was launching an Air Group 4 strike group on the afternoon of November 25, 1944 when a Japanese kamikaze crashed into the flight deck.
See "Kamikaze Pilot Strikes USS Essex - November 25, 1944," a video interview with LCDR Gerald W. Thomas.
Air Group 4 participated in the first carrier task force strikes on Tokyo and the Japanese mainland.
Combat and carrier operations took the lives of one Air Group 4 commander, two Torpedo 4 skippers, one Fighting 4 skipper, and several other pilots and crewmen. Both Germany and Japan held Air Group 4 personnel as POWs during WWII. A full report on Air Group 4īs Prisoners of War and Missing in Action is given here.
After the War
Air Group 4 reformed after returning to the States in May 1945 with a complete change of personnel. The new Air Group dropped the Marine fighters and brought back the "Top Hat" dive-bombers flying SB2C-5 Helldivers. The Torpedo Squadron continued with new TBM Avengers. Two fighter squadrons with F4U Corsairs completed the Air Group. The new Air Group 4 identifier on the tail of the planes was a large white T running the length of the tail fin.
On V-J Day in August 1945, the new VT-4 Squadron flew a formation of Avengers over Groton and New London, Connecticut forming "VJ" for victory and "4" for VT-4.