It never fully overcame it's engine problems until the 'L' model,but it did shoot down more Japanese aircaft than any other allied aircraft.
Klaatu83, e-mail, 23.09.2012 17:00
A turbo-supercharger is a large and heavy piece of machinery that has to be located at a relatively remote distance from the engine in order to function properly. Due to the configuration of the aircraft's tail booms, the P-38 was one of the few single-seat fighters in which a turbo-supercharger could be effectively used (the other was the P-47, another large aircraft in which the turbo-supercharger was installed in the rear of the fuselage).
Unfortunately, the early P-38s (pre-H model) were very complex aircraft that were difficult and labor-intensive to maintain, and which suffered from many engine problems, particularly due to their complex cooling systems, which were somewhat simplified in later models. Another problem stemming from the P-38's peculiar configuration was the fact that the cockpit was remote from the engines, and thus became very cold and uncomfortable for the pilot during long, high-altitude escort missions over Europe. That was among the reasons why the 8th Air Force switched to P-51s for performing it's escort missions. That wasn't so much of an issue over the Pacific, where P-38s usually operated at somewhat lower altitudes.
The P-38 was also one of the first fighters to experience Compressibility problems due to it's ability to approach the speed of sound. That problem was also addressed in later P-38 models by means of the installation of air brakes under the wings, which could slow the plane down enough for the pilot to be able to regain control.
Larry Jozwik, e-mail, 15.05.2012 17:43
Does anyone know where I could get a complete set of engineering drawings for the P-38? I want to build a 2/3 scale aircraft.
James Reed, e-mail, 17.03.2012 18:27
Charles Lindbergh shot down a Japanese Zero in July, 1944 while flying P-38s with the Army Air Corps 475th Fighter Group out of New Guinea. He actually flew about 50 combat missions in P-38s and Corsairs(with the Marines). This was against Washington's orders, but the operational troops liked him so and admired his abilities so, that they helped him bend the rules. His official mission was to help the forces find ways to extend fighter range(which he did). Details can be found in Lindbergh's Wartime Journals.
mike, e-mail, 16.02.2012 05:35
The P-38,P-47, and P-51 were all excellent weapons of war. My comments are for those who don't seem to have the facts about Maj. Thomas B. McGuire's last flight exactly correct. McGuire's flight of 4 P-38's were engaged by 2 Japanese fighters, a Ki-43 flown by WO Akira Sugimoto and a Ki-84 flown by Sgt Mizunori Fukuda. Both Japanese aviators were veterans flying highly manuverable aircraft at low altitude. They were in their element. Why McGuire didn't disengage, drop tanks, gain speed and altitude and re-engage we will never know. Maj. Jack Rittmayer was shot down, McGuire stalled and crashed both were killed. But the Japanese did not escape unscathed. Lt. Douglas Thropp hit Sugimoto's Oscar so heavily he was forced to crash land his fighter only a few miles from where the 2 Americans died. Capt Ed Weaver shot up Fukuda's Frank so badly it crash landed at Manalpa. Sugimoto was killed by Filippino guerillas at his crash site. The aerial battle was not a lopsided victory for the Japanese in fact considering that McGuire was killed accidentally one could almost rationalize that the Americans emerged victorious. Of course the loss of 2 highly experienced USAAF pilots (Note: Maj Rittmayer had 4 aerial victories and had flown numerous missions) for the destruction of 2 JAAF fighters can not be considered a victory especially since Maj McGuire's 38 victories made him the 2nd highest scoring ace in USAAF history. At the time of the tragic events of January 7th 1945 it was not known that 2 Japanese aircraft had also been destroyed. Perhaps this information might have lessened the pain felt by the 475thFG having lost 2 valuable leaders ,including the legendary "Iron Major" but probable not. At least we can now realize that on the evening of 1/7/45 the score was not JAAF 2-0 but 2-2.
Paul Huddart, e-mail, 20.01.2012 12:29
Can anyone help with information about Second Lieutenant Jerome L Foreman, who died when his P-38 crashed on Dartmoor in Devon, England, in 1943. I believe he crashed on January 26, but was not found until March 1. His body was removed from Brookwood Cemetry, England, to LA in 1948. Foreman had left RAF Portreath (Cornwall)to fly possibly to North Africa, but for some reason turned back and crashed on the moor. I'm afraid I don't know the serial number of the aircraft or where it actually crashed on Dartmoor. I live near Dartmoor and am trying to write a story about the crash. I hope someone out there may be able to help. Thank you.
GARY BEDINGER, 16.01.2012 07:46
THIS AIRCRAFT IS WITHOUT A DOUBT MY VERY VERY FAVORITE OF ALL TIME!!!!
PRC, e-mail, 13.12.2011 07:32
My Father's unit initially flew p-38s in England in July 1943 before switching to P-51s in 1944. He reported that the p-38 had supercharger overboost issues in the dense cold air over Europe and suffered numerous engine failures, often at most inopportune times such as advancing the throttles. The plane was a stable firing platform with concentrated firepower, but was cold and uncomfortable and very dangerous with an engine out as are most twins if not handled properly. The early versions were not great dogfighters and were complicated to switch over from cruise flight to instant combat upon being jumped. Reportedly, the pilots loved to fly the p-38, but loved the p-51 for combat as it was a far superior warplane. I have read that the later improved versions of the p-38 excelled in the warm lower altitude combat of the South Pacific against less capable aircraft and pilots than those of the Luftwaffe. Historical statistics seem to bear this out.
Aaron, e-mail, 16.10.2011 17:44
crikey, Lt.William "Bill" A.Lovell transfered from the RCAF to the 94th "Hat-in-the-ring" Squadron in England in September of 1942. On January 11, 1943, while flying with Lt.Jack Ilfrey they were jumped by 12 Me.109 and Fw.190s. Bill was shot down and seen parachuting to the ground. That was the last time he was seen. members.fortunecity.com/ww2airmen/lovell.html
crikey, e-mail, 25.09.2011 00:27
I'd like to know whether anyone has any information on Bill Lovell.An American pilot who in 1942 transferred from 263 squadron R.A.F. and flew the R.A.F s' only twin engined single seater the Westland Whirlwind. Bill then transferred to the A.A.F flying the P 38. J.P Coyne who is a Canadian remained at 263 squadron and met up for some mock dogfighting over the Devon countryside. Gunther Rall the famous Luftwafe Ace flew several captured allied aircraft had a preference for the P-38 since he liked the centrally mounted armament set up......
robert c beckett, e-mail, 24.09.2011 02:40
Charles C Arthaud is my grandfather would love to hear more.
Jon Wagner, e-mail, 23.09.2011 04:56
I saw the P-38 at an airshow at Santa Anita Race track in 1940 or maybe 1941 as a child, a spectacular show as the polished aluminum aircraft came down the homestretch at low altitude and high speed then went vertical 'til nearly out of sight
walt paynre, e-mail, 13.09.2011 03:21
When I was a kid in Ft. Lauderdale I met a Mr. Ashe who had flown p-38 in Europe. I told me he had a broken back from being hit by the elevator while bailing out. I don't remember the particulars.
None, e-mail, 24.08.2011 15:59
Tony LeVier flying a non turbocharged P-38 came in second in the 1946 Thompson Trophy Race in Cleavland. That was ahead of every P-51 Mustang and FG-1 (F4U) Corsair. The aircraft to beat him was a P-39.
None, e-mail, 24.08.2011 15:46
Several P-40 aircraft with a P-36 were the First American planes, piloted by Americans to shoot down several Japaneses planes on 12-7-41. A few days before the P-38 claimed a victory.
Will Sutton, e-mail, 23.08.2011 03:45
First of many benchmark aircraft associated with Kelly Johnson. A true National Treasure, he and his Skunk Works went on to develop the P/F-80, F-104, U-2 and vatiants, A-12/SR-71 program.
Fred Krinke, e-mail, 18.07.2011 20:50
I was in the USAAF in 1946 and 47, and was stationed at KIMPO Air Base just outside Seoul Korea. I was in the 308 Bomb Wing, 40th Air Engineers, attached to the 475th FG. I was an avionics technician, and serviced both P-38, and P-51 radios. The P-38 were there when I arrived, but by January 47, they were reolaced by P-51;s.The radios were SR375, 4 channel VHS transceivers. We would install one in the P-38, and forget about it, it worked forever. The same radio, we would tune it and install it in the P-51, worked great, until the pilot got to the end of the runway for takeoff, and the Damn thing de-tuned, and would not work. The reason, was Vibration of the 51. I loved both planes.
Aaron, e-mail, 03.07.2011 20:20
Hey shoeswang, What do you have in a 14AA high top tennis shoe and what sounds like an interceptor to you? Yes the P-38 was originally designed as an interceptor but you need to seriously take that crap to e-bay. I have clicked on every one of your postings but haven't seen anything that applies to a thing we are discussing......WOW!
, e-mail, 17.06.2011 06:39
Sounds like an interceptor to me.
Klaatu, e-mail, 01.06.2011 20:14
There's always been a lot of speculation about whether or not the P-38 was as effective a long-range escort fighter as was the P-51 Mustang. One little-known factor was the cockpit being in a separate nacelle, away from the engines. That rendered the P-38's cockpit very cold at high altitudes. The pilots were so cold on those long, high-altitude escort missions that, by the time they arrived over German airspace, it was often difficult for them to function effectively. The P-51 Mustang's cockpit was warmer because it had that big engine right in front of it.
However, the real bottom line is the undeniable fact that you could build 2 Mustangs for the price of a single P-38. When trying to build up a huge Air Force, in order to win a major war against another industrialized power, that factor makes a big difference!
WILLIAM W HOLT, e-mail, 18.02.2011 09:24
Although assigned to " Bomber Flight Test " @ Wright Field , I flew the P-38 L for many hours. It was a Fun Airplane. It was "Red Lined " @ 490 mph P- 51 & P-47 were both @ 495 mph . I didn't know why then , but now I know it was due to "Compressibility ". At these Indicated speeds, they all would begin to lose elevator control and tended to "hump over " into a vertical dive.
Ben Beekman, e-mail, 16.02.2011 03:26
How many recall that it was the P-38's that got Japan's Admiral Yamamoto, who lead the Pearl Harbor attack force in 1941 (the "Kido Butai")? The story goes that in 1943 our code-breakers intercepted a Japanese message detailing the Admiral's time-line itinerary on an inspection tour in the Solomons. After calculating the distances involved, the army air force concluded the only airplane with the range necessary to intercept Yamamoto's escorted bomber was the P-38. Twelve were dispatched with orders to make it look like an "accidental" intercept. Flying over water most of the way for secrecy they turned toward Bougainville at just the right time to meet Yamamoto's Betty bomber with its escort of Zeros. Having planned the mission well, most of the P-38's took on the escort while several (the better shots?) went for the Betty. After taking quite a few hits the Betty went down in the jungle with a dead Yamamoto inside, having taken a 50 cal. in the head. A Japanese search team recovered the body still strapped in his seat and returned it to Japan for the proper ceremonies. Credit was given at that time to Lt. Tom Lanphier for shooting down the bomber, but in recent years newer evidence has indicated it might be Lt. Rex Barber who "got" Yamamoto, both having fired at the bomber. The jury is still out on this one. If I remember correctly it was about 400 miles each way on the mission. Quite an achievement for the young men and their P-38's!
Jim Penny, e-mail, 06.02.2011 22:04
During WW II, my uncle was the line chief in New Guinea servicing P 38's. I have photos of Uncle Fred with Maj. Bong, and his plane, which had only 27 Jap flags at that time. Bong was not popular at that field. He lost 19 wingmen while hunting kills.
Ben Beekman, e-mail, 16.01.2011 23:16
It should be mentioned here that the P-38 was originally designed as a high altitude interceptor to shoot down enemy bombers, and not as a dog-fighter. To meet the design specifications, Lockheed had to use two engines. Further, unlike typical fighter planes that used a control stick, the P-38 came equipped with a control wheel since it was thought that the wheel would be all that was necessary to bring down relatively unmaneuverable bombers. In its first cross country flight from California to Mitchell Field, New York, it only needed two stops for fuel to complete the trip in 7 hours and 2 minutes. At times the indicated cruising speed was 420 mph. And this was in February 1939! (Data taken from Wm. Green's book, "Famous Fighters of the Second World War", Hanover House, 1960).
Ron, e-mail, 14.01.2011 01:40
Fred, Even though P-38s had some success in Europe, they were much more at home in the warmer Pacific theater where long legs and twin engine insurance paid off.
Fred Brooks, e-mail, 13.01.2011 05:33
15 yrs ago I traveled to the Air museum in Tucson to see a P38. The museum's two were on loan for the Paris Air Show and were subsequently destroyed in a fire while in France. 5 years ago I drove to an air show in Ann Arbor where one was on display along with P51s, P47s, B17s and a British Lancaster. My question is about the role of the P38 in the European theatre. The P51 due to range and other characteristics became the premier fighter for bomber escort. The P47 due to 8 50 cals, bomb capacity, ruggedness etc became the premier fighter-bomber for use in ground support. I know the P38 was loved in the Pacific but have read that its European pilots were anxious to change to P51s. Can anyone tell me more about its role in Europe or steer me to a definitive book?? Thanks for any help.
STEVE YODICE, e-mail, 31.12.2010 06:43
"The P-38D was the first version of the Lightning to go into service in the war - an aircraft of this mark was the first American fighter to shoot down an enemy aeroplane, flying over Iceland a few minutes after the US declared war on Germany." Even 'tho the P-38 is one of my favorites, I'm pretty sure P-40's and a P-36 scored kills on Dec 7.
Robert Vrilakas, e-mail, 24.11.2010 09:31
I flew 51 combat missions in P-38's with the 94th Ftr. Sqdn.out of N. Africa and Italy. It broght me home on 1 engine 3 times. I instructed in P-38's at Ontario AB. after my combat tour. The Dr. who watched as a kid probably saw us dogfighting with the Marince Corsairs stationed nearby.
Aaron, e-mail, 23.11.2010 19:45
Robert, I don't really have any connections to Dick or Chuck but I have a little information on them both. 1st Lt. Charles C. Arthaud, Chillicothe, MO. 77th Fighter Squadron. He flew two P-38s and a P-51. They were named Gabriel's Horn I, II and III. Richard L. West was with the 8FG and flew P-40s. He had 12 confirmed victories.
Robert Beckett, e-mail, 12.11.2010 01:16
Does anyone have any connections to Richard "Dick" West or Charles "Chuck" Arthaud.. Believe Charles flew out of England and Richard in the pacific... Duck hunted between these two guys in the 70's and 80's and the stories were teriffic. Richard was a double ace and Charles was a single ace according to them. Charles died in the 80's and Richard died about 6 years ago.. The Chillicothe, Mo. airport is named after Richard L. West....Regards..
Dr. Charlie Fox, e-mail, 05.11.2010 21:26
As a young teenager I used to watch practice "dogfights" just East of San Diego, Ca. It was an amazing, almost everyday sight.
Aaron, e-mail, 27.10.2010 19:32
Mitch, God bless you man for protecting our country. You are mostly right about the boosted ailerons. They were not installed on production Lightnings until the P-38J-25-LO which entered service in July of 1944. However Early P-38J-5-LOs were modified at Langford Lodge with replacement kits and some P-38J-10/15-LOs were retrofitted in the field. The modification kits included electrically actuated dive recovery flaps and 3,000psi hydraulically boosted aileron system.
Mitch Cwiek, e-mail, 19.10.2010 05:46
A possible error in your data regarding powered ailerons. The production J model did not have "aileron boost". I believe the L model was the first to use powered ailerons. Some background and a war story: I flew the P322 at Williams Field, was assigned to B-25 transition after graduation, then joined a B-17 crew (as co-pilot) training at Drew Field, Florida. We flew a new B-17G to Italy via Brazil and North Africa and became part of the 352nd Bomb Squadron, 301st Bomb Group. Three days after arriving in Italy we flew our first bomber mission: the first high altitude mission to Ploesti, Rumania. In the following month half my crew (Pilot: Charles Bogar, Navigator: Don Strieby, Radio man: Bernard Klein, Waist Gunner: Cecil Taylor, and Tail Gunner: Tom Hudson, were killed in a mid air collision which took the lives of 19 men while returning from a combat mission. Two months later my request to be transferred to fly P-38s with the 37th Figter Squadron, 14th Fighter Group was approved. I flew six P-38 combat missions, five of them out of Corsica in support of the South France invasion. Two days after returning to our base in Italy I was assigned to fly a P-38J as wing man for the group commander on on an escort mission to Austria. During a dog fight over Hungary I was shot down. I experienced compressiblity during a vertical dive from about 30,000 feet. Pulling back on the control yoke as hard as possible eventually got results. I was on the deck when I finally pulled out. Damaged aircraft made a mission termination necessary. I had only seconds to make up my mind... either pull up and bail out or crash land. I elected to bring it down, wheels up. I still had excess flying speed when I made contact with the selected piece of farm land. It was a very rough crash landing but the plane held together. As soon as I regained consciousness I exeted the cockpit and ran for the nearest patch of woods where I took off my Mae West, burried it under a pile of leaves and then ran deeper into the grove of trees. My evasion attept was unsuccessful as I was captured by a couple Hungarian soldiers a few hours later.
Ben kreilkamp, e-mail, 02.10.2010 17:29
I was a flight surgeon for the 68th Ftr. Sqr. 347th ftr gp 13th air force in the So Pacific. They took out the radio and let me (6ft 2") sqweeze in behind the pilot and gave me the thrill of my life-with three other P38's and took me thru barrel rolls--simulated air combat--great aircraft!!!
Zdenek Kocab, e-mail, 22.08.2010 08:56
Hello Ben, do you know the EXACT DAY of promotion of Harry T. HANNA to 2nd Lt, 1st Lt, Capt and also Maj? I am from the Czech republic and very interested in US aces of the second world war. I was not able to find. This info anywhere were not mentioned even in Stars and Bars by Frank Olynyk. E-mail email@example.com please help me. Regards Zdenek Kocab
Aaron, e-mail, 13.08.2010 08:17
I forgot to mention the P-38L's acceleration. From cruise it could accelerate at (on military power) at 2.8 mph/sec. Perspective: the P-51D accelerated at 2.2 mph/sec. and the F4U-4 accelerated at 2.4 mph/sec. all at 10,000-15,000 ft. I do not know there acceleration at combat power but the P-38 had two engines to pull from.
Aaron, e-mail, 13.08.2010 08:03
Did you know: During the late winter of 1944 occured the famous dual between a Griffin-engined Spitfire XIV and P-38H (before the hydraulic boosted flaps) of the 364 FG. Col. Lowell flew the P-38 engaging the Spitfire at 5,000 ft. in a head-on pass. Lowell was able to get on the Spitfire's tail and stay there no matter what the Spitfire pilot did. Although the Spitfire could execute a tighter turning circle than the P-38 (debatable), Lowell was able to use the excellent characteristics to repeatedly pull inside the turn, Pick up speed and cut back in again in what he called a "cloverleaf" maneuver. After 20 minutes of this, at 1,000 ft. the Spit tried to Split-S (at a 30 degree angle, not vertically down). Lowell stayed with the Spit through the maneuver, although his P-38 almost hit the ground. After that the Spitfire pilot broke off the engagement and flew home. This contest was witness by 75 pilots on the ground.
Aaron, e-mail, 13.08.2010 07:39
414 mph. maximum speed. That was always hard to believe with the power available and that sleek body....Well I finally stumble onto several articles that refered to a Lockheed test that showed the true capabilities of the P-38L. 375 mph/5,000 ft. 390 mph/10,000 ft. 405 mph/15,000 ft. 443 mph/20-23,500 ft. 438 mph/25,000 ft. 422 mph/30,000 ft. 395 mph/35,000 ft. 346 mph/40,000 ft....not to shabby. Those figures I can believe. Oh and by the way, the P-38L could reach 20,000 ft in 4.91 minute. Sounds like an interceptor to me.
Aaron, e-mail, 11.08.2010 22:15
I have found a graph that was marked confidential at one time. It is comparing the P-38J with/without hydraulic ailerons. I am no aeronautical engineer, but if I have read the graph correctly the J could out roll any FW-190 from 275 mph. and up. The P-38L could out roll (depending on model) the FW-190 from 325-360 mph. and up. The faster the P-38 flew the faster it rolled. At 400 mph. the J-25 rolled at 195 degrees/sec. The L-5 rolled at 95 degrees/sec at 400 mph.
Aaron, e-mail, 11.08.2010 21:56
I have read that Mcguire did not jetson his wing tanks in hopes that he could continue to fly longer in order to get the two kills he needed to catch Bong. Extremely wrong move. He was a sitting duck for the Oscar ace at low speeds and height.
Aaron, e-mail, 11.08.2010 19:06
Gary, I'm not sure where the figures 414 mph and 1000 miles came from. I see them published everywhere but I've never seen a military document using them using them for all -J and -L models. A tactical planning chart dated 1944 shows that the P-38J-25 at a take off weight of 21,700 lbs. flying at 10,000 ft. had a maximum range of 2,260 miles, an endurance of 13.4 hrs. carrying 1,024 gallons of fuel. Maximum speed of an aircraft depends on a lot of factors. This same tactical report does list the maximum speed of the P-38J-5 through J-25 as being 414 mph. at 25,000 ft. but it does not state the amount of boost used on the engines. An ENGINEERING DIVISION MEMORANDUM REPORT SERIAL No. 47-17-A dated February 1944 on a P-38J AAF No. 42-67869 stated in tests the aircraft reached 345 mph. at S.L. and 421.5 mph. at 25,800 ft. Initial rate of climb was 4,000 f.p.m. and a Service Ceiling of 40,000 ft. I have seen a flight comparison chart comparing a P-38H to several other fighters of the 43/44 era. It shows an Initial climb of. 4,600 fpm. Speed listed are 365 mph. at S.L. increasing to 435 mph. at 26,000 ft. Climb rate at 37,200 ft. is 1,000 fpm. (combat ceiling) and at 40,000 ft. it is 500 fpm. These figures are from, at one time confidentual, charts. I'll post more information when I have the time. Oh and Dave, Yes my mother was cranky and my new wife does have a child.
Bill B, e-mail, 18.06.2010 00:42
Some of the first productions of the P-38 had a problem due to the rotation of the propellor blades. They rotated in the same direction and once a P-38 went into (I think) left bank, they could not come out of it. It crashed. Therefore, the newer design made opposing rotation engines to offset this problem. Also, side note, my mom, Ruth, was the Lighting Lady pinup girl for this production P-38
dave surville, e-mail, 11.06.2010 10:06
HEY BITCH that plane STINKS SON OF A BITCH MOTHER FUCKER
Zdenek Kocab, e-mail, 03.06.2010 18:36
Hello Ben, do you know the EXACT DAY of promotion of Harry T. HANNA to 2nd Lt, 1st Lt, Capt and also Maj? I am from the Czech republic and very interested in US aces of the second world war. I was not able to find. This info anywhere were not mentioned even in Stars and Bars by Frank Olynyk. Regards Zdenek Kocab
carl wollaston, e-mail, 09.05.2010 00:50
Ithink that the twin tails on this plane make it look very modern, even though it is from 1939.Do you think that might have been the reason it was made that way? to make it look more modern?
GARY BEDINGER, e-mail, 31.03.2010 07:36
THE LOCKHEED P-38"LIGHTNING" WAS TRULY ONE OF AMERICA'S FINEST FIGHTER PLANES THAT WAS EVER BUILT.THE JAPS IN WW2 WERE TERRIFIED OF THE P-38,AND FOR VERY GOOD REASON.THE P-38 WAS FAST,414 MPH,GREAT RANGE,1,000 MILES,AND HAD GOOD ALTITUDE,38,000 FEET.WHAT A PLANE!!!!!
James Penny, e-mail, 21.03.2010 18:19
My uncle Fred M. March, was a line chief in New Guinea for the 482 Service Sqdn., I have numerous photos of him and Maj Bong, and his P 38, with 27 Jap flags on the fuselage. Uncle Fred's comments about Bong were not glorious, because he lost so many wingmen. "Not a good team player".
Lyle Sparkman, e-mail, 19.02.2010 23:20
A number of good period photos of P-38s in the Pacific can be found at www.flyingknights.net, a site focused on the 9th fighter squadron, the very outfit of aces Bong, McGuire, and Johnson.
Ben, e-mail, 02.02.2010 19:01
My good friend and neighbor, Harry T Hanna, became an instant ace while flying his P-38 in North Africa while on a mission with his comander William Leverett. Harry shot down 5 German planes while Leverett up staged him by shooting down 7. I am trying to convince him to go to the Fantasy of Flight event in Lakeland FL on April 14th where they will have other Aces, but he will not commit to giving me the honor of taking him. I believe he's just too humble. He is now 89 y.o. and in great shape.
John Webber, e-mail, 02.02.2010 08:54
My dad started flight training in Stearman biplanes, then A6 Texans, then B25's for multi-engine experience, then the P38/F5 photo recon variant solo, the way most other P-38 pilots learned. He was scheduled to ship out to Japan in August 1945 when the war ended. He never got to fly overseas. He too never sat in another cockpit after the war. In the 1970's a few people he worked with wanted him to go in on the purchase of a Cessna. "Why would I want to drive a Volkswagen after I've driven a Ferrari" he replied. The P-38 initially got a bad rap for no cabin heating in early models (the plane was developed in California where heat was not normally an issue), and it was the first fighter plane capable of flying fast enough in a dive to consistently encounter compressibility, a phenomenon then known but little understood. Today that problem is solved with fully floating horizontal stabilizers and other aeronautical engineering advancements from lessons learned the hard way with the P-38 and some other fighter planes of later WWII vintage. The F5's had dive flaps, cabin heat, an enormous camera in the elongated "droop snoop" nose, and breakable safety stops on the throttles. They had no armament. Their only defense was speed. If the throttles were pushed through the safety stops the plane would go fast, rapidly consume large amounts of fuel, and immediately be rolled into the shop for engines to be changed out if the pilot was able to return from the mission. Emergency bailout procedures NOT inverted were part of pilot training. Actual practice bailouts were not performed during training, but the procedure was successfully proven in combat. Like others, I too have wondered why the P-38's contribution to the war effort in both theaters became a mere footnote in the final history of WWII. The Germans and Japanese were both aware of the plane's vulnerabilities, but P-38 pilots were trained to fight on the P-38's terms, not the enemy's, to exploit the enemy plane's weaknesses, and that's still practiced today in the Air Force and Navy. And yes, Richard Bong's 40 kills were all in a P-38 in the Pacific theater. A celebrated war hero in his time, he returned to the US late in the war, helped sell war bonds, then served as a test pilot in Lockheed's first jet plane, the F-80 Shooting Star. He was killed in an F-80 test flight crash before the end of the war. That may be one reason the P-38 did not receive the credit it was due; its most famous pilot didn't survive to keep its fame alive.
BOB DICKSON, e-mail, 22.01.2010 00:23
MY DAY WENT FROM B-25s TO P-38 PHOTO. HIS PLANE CAUGHT FIRE OVER TEXAS ON A PRACTICE MISSION JUST BEFORE HE SHIPPED OUT. BADLY BROKE HIS ARE WHEN PULLING THE CANOPY RELEASE - THAT ENDED HIS WAR. ARMED WAS NEVER THE SAME BUT HE WAS ALIVE - THUS I AM HERE TODAY! HE LOVED THE PLANE, BUT NEVER SAT IN A PILOT'S SEAT AGIAIN.
Sandford Weiler, e-mail, 05.01.2010 03:34
Leo: You're right about the "little flaps" on the J. Made all the difference in the world I know first hand.
Lori: There is no recorded instance of a bailing-out-pilot getting hooked on the elevator. We were not taught to bail-out upside down. Two of my squadron buddies had to bail, and not upside down. The first one was injured, not by the elevator, but by "friendly" fire from the ground as he descended in his parachute.
Willmatt22: At Williams AFB (advanced training, single engine) we transitioned through (what I recall as) a UC78 (twin-engined troop/supply), then the RP-322, the prototype P-38 ordered by and sent to England (and it was a poor performer). I graduated as P-38 proficient, and went straight to an F-5 (same thing as P-38E, but without guns).
Hang in there, kids.
paul scott, e-mail, 15.10.2009 22:35
The 'forked-tailed devil' reigned supreme!
David Sloan, 16.09.2009 04:54
My grandfather, Herman Sloan, worked on P-38s during WWII here in the US. He carved a model of the Lightning out of a piece of windshield that came off one of the planes. I still have it!!! It is the centerpiece of my office.
patrick kuntz, e-mail, 11.09.2009 19:56
hello i need advice on how to convince a know it idiot that it is 38 not 32
Ronald, e-mail, 24.08.2009 05:18
Though red-lined at 450 mph in a dive for early models (at 15 degrees), late war models were test flown to a terminal dive of 518 mph. The dive flap finally dealt with the compressibility that plagued the P-38 until late in the J model run.
Sam, e-mail, 05.08.2009 01:32
I have two P-38 remote control aircrafts, they look great in the air!! My project is to make these two P-38's as real as possible, I have managed to get alot of info from the web but, the only item I do not have is a birds eye view of the P-38's engine, would anyone have a pic of the engine? It would be greatly appreciated, thanks Sam.
Leo Rudnicki, e-mail, 12.06.2009 00:27
18,000 and change Lightnings gets you a B-2, used. And yet, there are more B-2's than Lightnings flying today!
Leo Rudnicki, e-mail, 11.06.2009 02:53
Lockheed P-38-$115,000 vs NA P51D $54,000. P-40's only $45,000. 6 Lightnings gets you a B-29. Its only money.
Ronald, e-mail, 10.06.2009 09:29
The P-38 was something different! Sometimes I love it after all, the Japanese rated it the best U.S. fighter up high. That's high praise for this 10 ton P-38L fighter judged by the pilots of the lightest, most nimble fighters in the war. But sometimes I don't love it. Look at how Tom McGuire died. 4 P-38s in a scrap with 2 or 3 Nakajima fighters. And at least Tommy was a top notch ace, perhaps most of them were quality Lightning pilots flying the latest P-38s. Only 2 return from their unauthorized flight after getting whipped by a couple of Japanese army pilots late in the war. Granted, one of the Nakajimas was a Frank. Perhaps Tom only saw the Oscar when he chose to engage at low level without jettisoning the drop tanks first, to save a wingman. The borrowed P-38L failed to complete the turn when he went into the ground. The reputation of the Lightning was mainly earned by the earlier models. They were dicey in a dive of over 15 degrees or for any distance. They were slow to roll and turn, and climb was shallow. One 20mm hit on the tailplane where it attaches to the fin could knock it down. But they were fast and hardhitting with no torque stall. Performance was best at medium altitudes and the supercharged Allisons were unreliable. The L was the last model and it was the most produced. It was much improved in all respects mentioned. It could dive down a Bf 109's neck ...and pullout. It could even roll and turn with most fighters. But it still required a steep learning curve for pilot and mechanic, it now excelled up high but it was still difficult to harmonize the twin superchargers up there. Plus you could buy 2 Mustangs for the same price and P-51s had heating.
Lori, e-mail, 28.05.2009 09:55
Hey Gary, I've been watching a documentary on TV and they said that Richard Bong was certainly a big player. When surfing the web his name comes up most of the time. My dad also flew a p38. His plane was shot down over Hungary, he was held captive for a year. You know you can't eject from that plane, you have to turn it over and fall out. My dad is my hero.
Lori, e-mail, 28.05.2009 09:50
Hey Gary, I am now watching a documentary on the p38 and they do say that Richard Bong was indeed a major player. And when surfing the web his name comes up most of the time. It is a super interesting program. My dad also flew a p38 in wwll. He was shot down over Hungary and was captured and held captive for a year. You know they can't really eject from the plane, have to turn it over and fall out.
Willie, e-mail, 11.05.2009 00:36
Can anyone tell me if the pilots trained to fly the P-38 were selected from the advanced twin engine (bomber) or advanced single engine (fighter) schools.
leo rudnicki, e-mail, 07.04.2009 20:33
The big scoops on the booms are coolant radiators,which gave aerodynamicists shivers. Lightning pilots in Europe commonly shot at Mustangs. One advantage of the P38 was that it didn't look like any other plane. One disadvantage of the P38 was that it didn't look like any other plane from a great distance.A big problem in Eupope, the cockpit was unpressurised, drafty and cold. Few people behind providing the a/c,Air Ministries, DoD's manufaturers or designers gave any consideration to pilot comfort, even tho it has a real relationship with efficiency. P38E was pressurised and P49 locked a bit more comfy but didn't happen. The P38 had a learning curve before a pilot was proficient. some great planes are like that. Tommy MacGuire was dog-fighting an Oscar, one of the dog-fightingest airplanes ever, without dropping his tanks, when he lost it. If he hadn't been just above the trees, he probably would have recovered. Just that onetime, he had too much confidence in himself and his plane and stalled into the ground. The airplane suffered from "compressibility" in a dive from great altitude, like Hawker Typhoon. The temporary fix kits sent to Europe on one ship, sunk by U-boat. No replacements were sent. The little under-wing flaps appeared in production only into P38J run. Robin Olds encountered this effect. He survived, some didn't. When I finally perfect my Time Machine, I'll get rid of the outer tailplane stubs and fit an all-moving stabilator, then move the radiators into the cockpit and then...
samp, 23.12.2008 18:23
My grandfather almost got killed by one of these in a friendly fire incident.
Charles Shaw, e-mail, 23.10.2008 23:38
A pilot named Fred A______ wrote a book about his wartime experience training and flying a P-38. I thought the book was named "Doorknob 52" ("Doorknob" being the knickname of his squadron. Does anybody know of this book or author. His last name begins with A. That's all I know.
Dave, e-mail, 21.10.2008 01:38
I am a WW II airplane buff. I have been trying to find out what the intake ducts between the wings and the tail section on the P38 do. If anyone can help me figure this out I would appreciate it. Thank You Dave
Levi Green, e-mail, 10.08.2008 03:17
Do you have blue prints or dimensions for the larger drop tanks on a p-38? Please let me know if you do, i would like to make one. thanks, Levi
Sean Doherty, e-mail, 24.05.2008 23:51
Tommy McGuire americas second highest scoring ace with 38 to Richard Bong's 40 also flew the P-38 also with the fifth airforce and both the P-38 and the fifth airforce's contributions to the war effort are largely overshadowed. I don't know why but it is a travesty. What a great plane.
Gary Guise, e-mail, 09.05.2008 06:14
I'm always amazed that Americas # 1 ACE of WWII who was Richard Bong, and mdae most, if not all of his Kills in P-38's is ignored in the history of WWII. Do you know hwy this is?
Gary W. Dillon, e-mail, 05.05.2008 03:11
My father, Wayne Dillon, ran the motor pool at Fort Wayne in Detroit in the early 1940's. An Italian prisoner of war, under his supervision, made an aluminum model P38 for my father, with material that apparently was melted and then formed into a scale model. Etched on the bottom of the stand base is my name and the artists name.
If you want to send an email just replace '(@)' in the address with '@' !