The 309th Pursuit Squadron was first activated at Baer Field, Fort Wayne, Indiana on 30 January 1942. After arriving in England in May 1942 the squadron was designated as the 309th Fighter Squadron, traded their P-39 Aircobras for British Spitfires, and began combat operations, achieving their first kill on only their second day of fighting. From August 1942 to July 1943 the 309th spearheaded air offenses over North Africa and later participated in the invasion of Italy. The 309th patrolled the sky over Italy in support of the ground war until March of 1944. They then acquired P-51 Mustangs and conducted bomber escort missions into Romania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Italy, and Germany. By 7 May 1945, the end of the war in Europe, the 309th claimed 173 victories.
Following World War II, the 309th moved to Langley Field, Virginia, and converted to the F-84 Thunderjet. In 1948 the squadron completed the first jet fighter transpacific deployment and, as part of the 31st Fighter Wing, earned the first Air Force Outstanding Unit Award ever presented. The squadron transitioned to the F-100 Super Sabre in 1957 and was re-designated as the 309th Tactical Fighter Squadron. The unit deployed to Southeast Asia in 1966 and flew combat operations there until 1970.
Returning to Homestead Air Force Base, Florida, and the 309th traded the F-100 for the F-4 and flew the Phantom II until 1986, when they converted to the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The squadron evacuated to Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, in August 1992, narrowly escaping the devastation of Hurricane Andrew, and remained there until its deactivation on 31 December 1993. The Air Force reactivated the squadron on 1 April 1994, as part of the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, where they continue operations today.
The 309th produced 14 aces over the years totaling 161 kills between them. The 309th also received numerous awards, including two Distinguished Unit Citations, one Presidential Unit Citation, two Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards with Combat "V" Device, two Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards, and one Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm. In addition, the squadron earned 25 campaign streamers from World War II through Southeast Asia. The squadron emblem is a 1944 Walt Disney production copyrighted design. It symbolizes the fighter mission celestial navigation pioneered by this squadron, its around-the-clock mission readiness, and its striking power.