The Group was constituted as 86th Bombardment Group (Light) on 13-Jan 1942, and activated on 10 Feb 1942. It was redesignated 86th Bombardment Group (Dive) in Sep 1942, 86th Fighter-Bomber Group in Aug 1943, and 86th Fighter Group in May 1944.
In March through May of 1943, they moved to North Africa and trained until July, then began combat with Twelfth Air Force. They were engaged primarily in close support of ground forces, with the group moving forward to bases in Sicily, Italy, Corsica, France, and Germany as the battle line changed. Patrol and interdictory missions were also flown. A-36, P-40, and P-47 aircraft were used to attack convoys, trains, ammunition dumps, troop and supply columns, shipping, bridges, rail lines, and other objectives.
They participated in the softening up of Sicily and supported the invasion by Seventh Army in July of 1943, and provided cover for the landings at Salerno in September of that year. The Group assisted the Allied advance toward Rome during Jan-Jun 1944. They supported the invasion of Southern France in Aug 1944, and worked to take out enemy communications in northern Italy from Sep 1944 to April 1945. They attacked enemy transportation in Germany during April and May 1945.
The 86th received two DUC's: one for action on 25 May 1944 when the group repeatedly dived through intense flak to destroy enemy vehicles and troops as German forces tried to stop the Allies short of Rome; the other for activity against convoys and airfield installations in northern Germany on 20 April 1945 to disorganize the enemy's withdrawal from that area.
The Fighter Bomber Group remained in Germany after the war as part of United States Air Forces in Europe. They were transferred, without personnel and equipment, to the US in Feb 1946, and inactivated on March 31, 1946.
In August of 46, the Group was activated in Germany, and assigned to the United States Air Forces in Europe. They were redesignated 86th Composite Group in May 1947, 86th Fighter Group in Jan 1948, 86th Fighter-Bomber in Jan 1950, and the 86th Fighter-Interceptor Group in Aug 1954. Equipped successively with F-47, F-84, and F-86 aircraft.