2nd Tactical Air Force

The 2nd Tactical Air Force (2nd TAF) was formed to support the Allied invasion of, and subsequent ground operations in, Western Europe. The campaign in North Africa had proved the value of highly mobile and responsive air forces acting in direct support of the ground troops. Prior to the operations in Sicily and Italy, the air elements supporting the 1st and 8th Armies were combined to form the 1st Tactical Air Force, popularly known as the Desert Air Force. In preparation for the invasion of Western Europe, the formation of a second tactical air force began in Britain in June 1943 drawing in existing squadrons from Fighter, Bomber, and Army Co-Operation Commands.

Initially, 2nd TAF comprised three groups. There were two close support groups, consisting of fighters, fighter bombers and reconnaissance aircraft to provide intimate support to the two armies that comprised the 21st Army Group, the British Commonwealth contribution to the invasion of western Europe. 83 and 84 Groups would operate with, respectively, the 2nd British and 1st Canadian Armies. The third group was intended for more general support and to fulfil this role 2 Group, consisting of light and medium bombers, was transferred from Bomber Command. In order to provide the flexibility required to support highly mobile ground operations the maintenance components of each squadron were separated to form independent airfield operating units, the role of which was to establish forward landing grounds from which any squadron could operate. In early 1944 85 group - a fourth - was added to 2nd TAF to provide protection for Allied base areas both in southern England, and in Europe once the invasion began.

2nd TAF, alongside its American equivalent the United States 9th Air Force, carried out its intended role throughout the operations in western Europe during 1944 and early 1945. The weight of aerial firepower that the Allied armies had at their disposal proved telling in their victory over the Germans.