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Original U.S. WWII 426th Night Fighter Squadron AN-6550 Flight Suit

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. This is an excellent condition size large AN-6550 flight suite constructed of dark green wool gabardine. It features a hand painted circular leather patch which is 5 1/2 inches in diameter. The patch is the insignia for the 426th Night Fighter Squadron.

The 426th Night Fighter Squadron was formed at Hammer Field, California in January 1944. It was the first night fighter squadron formed in California and was the first programmed for deployment to the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations. It and the 427th Night Fighter Squadron were also the first squadrons fully trained on the Northrup P-61 Black Widow night fighter. The two squadrons remained close to each other through their training cycles, flying training missions in the Bakersfield area. With its training as a unit completed, the members of 426th NFS packed their bags and left California's sunny San Joaquin Valley in mid-June 1944.

The squadron took a long route getting to India, traveling across the United States to Newport News, Virginia, where they boarded the USS General A. E. Anderson for India. Arriving on 8 August, they boarded a train that took them to their next stop, Calcutta. Their destination, for a while at least, was Camp Kanchapara, about forty miles from Calcutta. They would have quite a bit of time on their hands, because it wasn't until late September that their P-61 Black Widows arrived by ship in Calcutta.

During this period, some of the ground echelon was sent to Sylhet (now part of Bangladesh), on temporary duty with a combat cargo unit. When P-61s were unloaded on the Calcutta docks on 25 September, these partially disassembled craft were transported to Barrackpore where they were reassembled by the Air Service Command. Once checked out, the 426th NFS took possession of the planes and flew them to Madhaiganj Air Base. During the next couple of weeks, the planes would be rotated to Ondal, where Air Service Command modified them (one of the modifications being additional radio equipment).

5 October marked the start of the 426th's combat deployment; four aircraft were sent to Chengtu Airfield, China, Upon their arrival the mission of the 426th NFS was night defense for the Twentieth Air Force B-29 Superfortresses based there. The 426th replaced the P-51B Mustangs of the 311th Fighter Group that had escorted the B-29s. However, as the 426th was several aircraft short of its full complement, the 311th transferred eight of its Mustangs to the squadron. By the end of October, the 426th was up-to-strength with P-61s at Chengtu. On 27 October, a detachment of the 426th initiated operations out of Kunming, China, where Fourteenth Air Force was headquartered.

The Japanese were well aware of the P-61s effectiveness, however many bomber crews were aware that there were too few of them to cover the entire Chinese front. Another issue faced by the Americans was the fact that the terrain in China was very rugged and it caused permanent echoes on radar. This made picking out enemy aircraft very difficult, and because of this, the Japanese flew many of their aircraft low to the ground. It was impossible for the P-61s airborne radar to pick up the enemy aircraft without the help of ground-based interceptor radar, so in many areas, the freelance interceptions by the P-61s was almost impossible.

Bomber escort missions continued until February 1945, when Japanese night fighter flying against the B-29s nearly ceased. More and more, the squadron flew night intruder missions. The 426th started staging out of Ankang, Liangshan, and Sian (now known as Xi'an), China, from which they attacked communication, motor transport and railway lines until the end of the war.

With the war finally ending in August, in September 1945, the 426th returned to India, where some of the squadron left from Karachi (now part of Pakistan) and others from Calcutta, India for their return voyage home. The squadron was inactivated on 8 November 1945.
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