To honor the anniversary of the first flight of the P-38 Lightning on January 27, 1939 we present to you some great footage in this new edition of Warbirds. This iconic aircraft emerged from United States Army Air Corps specifications drawn up in 1937. It was designated an “interceptor” to bypass the bureaucratic restriction of less than 500lbs of armament in pursuit aircraft. USAAF ordered an initial 55 aircraft in 1939 with the initial lightnings deployed with the 1st Fighter Group’s 27th Pursuit Squadron in July 1941. The first Lightnings to see service in WWII were unarmed F-4 photo reconnaissance version with the 8th Photographic Squadron in Australia. Armed P-38’s began operating in the Aleutian Islands in Alaska in May 1942. At the end of a 1000 mile patrol in August, a pair of Lightnings of the 343rd Fighter Group, 11th Air Force encountered and downed a pair of Japanese H6K “Mavis” flying boats. These were the 1st kills recorded for the aircraft nicknamed by the Japanese “two planes, one pilot”. In the European theater, P-38 Lightnings earned a fearsome reputation among Axis aircrews. After 26 P-38’s destroyed 31 aircraft near Tunis in April 1943, it earned the nickname “fork-tailed devil” from German aircrews.
Over the course of its operational life, over 10,000 P-38’s were built. It was the only American aircraft to serve continuously from start to finish of World War II. Over 100 pilots became aces piloting this plane with several earning the Medal of Honor. Her most famous mission is considered to be the interception of the transport and escorts of Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto; resulting in his death. Over a dozen working examples of this famous Warbird remain airworthy today and can often be seen at air shows. If you get the chance to see one in action, you wont be disappointed.
Without further ado, here is some great video.