Ordnance P-38 Lightning

Pacific Paratrooper

P-38 in the Pacific

Perhaps Colonel Ben Kelsey, a P-38 test pilot, summed up the war bird’s legacy best of all. “(That) comfortable old cluck,” he said, “would fly like hell, fight like a wasp upstairs, and land like a butterfly.”

The P-38 was the most successful USAAF fighter in the Pacific War. It served with four separate air forces, spread out from Australia to Alaska. The most successful American Ace of the Second World War, Major Richard Bong, scored all 40 of his victories flying the P-38 Lightning over the Pacific.

P-38

The 11th Air Force was allocated the task of defending the Aleutian Islands, in the far north of the Pacific. There the extra reliability provided by the twin engines of the P-38 was essential, with missions being flown over long distances and in poor weather. The first P-38 victories of the war fell to pilots of the…

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