76 Squadron was formed at Archerfield, Queensland, on 14 March 1942, equipped with Kittyhawk P-40E aircraft and under the command of Wing Commander P. Jeffrey. During April the squadron transferred to Weir strip, near Townsville, and during July personnel and equipment were moved by ship to Milne Bay. On 19 July aircraft took off from Townsville for Seven Mile Strip, Port Morseby, via Cairns. On 22 July the commander of the squadron, Squadron Leader Peter Turnbull, led six Kittyhawks on a strike against enemy positions at Gona Mission.
In August 1942 the aircraft moved to Milne Bay, where 76 Squadron operated with 75 Squadron in the defence of Milne Bay. Milne Bay was being developed to protect the left flank of Port Moresby, and to enable the Allies to project air power over the north coast of New Guinea and the Louisiade Islands.
A very intense but difficult period of operations began, as the strip and dispersal areas were not completed. The squadron carried out defensive patrols, strafing of enemy troops and gun positions, and bombing transports and barges. On 27 August Squadron Leader “Bluey” Turnbull was killed while strafing enemy troops.
On 24 August a Japanese force was sighted heading for Milne Bay. On the same day the two squadrons fought Japanese raiders, claiming three enemy aircraft for the loss of three pilots. The Japanese troops landed in the early hours the next day and in the ensuing battle for Milne Bay, from 25 August to 3 September, the squadrons strafed Japanese troops, barges, and stores. Lieutenant General Sydney Rowell, the commander of New Guinea Force, noted in his report that the efforts of the fighter squadrons were “the decisive factor” in the ultimate victory over the invading forces.
76 Squadron aircraft moved to Strauss Field, Northern Territory, via Batchelor on 9 October 1942, and convoy patrols and escort duties were carried out. Personnel disembarked at Darwin on 5 October. On 21st January 1943 four P-40’s made a head-on night attack on three Japanese Betty’s.
In February 1943 operational training and seaward and coastal patrols were conducted from Onslow and a US Naval facility at “Potshot”, Western Australia. On 28 March Truscott, flying a Kittyhawk, struck the water and was killed. Patrols were also flown from WA strips at Carnarvon, Geraldton, Minderoo, and Yanrey.
In late April 1943 the squadron moved to Bankstown and was re-equipped with 24 new P-40M Kittyhawks. In June it was deployed to Goodenough Island and formed a unit of 73 Wing. It was successively based at Kiriwina, Momote, Noemfoor, Morotai, Tawitawi and Labuan, engaged in bombing-and-strafing attacks on enemy troop and gun emplacements, enemy airfields, supply points, shipping (particularly barges and small craft), and as escort for bomber aircraft. In its final mission of the war, on 14 August 1945, four P-40s strafed Japanese aircraft in revetments in the north Keningau area on Borneo.
In September 1945 the squadron re-equipped with Mustang aircraft. The main body left Labuan by sea on 11 February 1946 and disembarked in Japan on 21 February. The Mustangs took off from Labuan for Japan (via Clark Field) on 26 February for its permanent base at Borfu, Japan. In February 1948 the squadron moved from Borfu to Iwakuni, and on 29 October 1948 was officially disbanded at Iwakuni, Japan. It was destined to be reformed in 1949.