Friday, January 17, 2014

The Friday Flyby - 17 January

Lightning Encounter
Nicolas Trudgian
I was not surprised when I found the painting above and saw that it was another masterpiece from Mr Trudgian. The man can paint!

Wikipedia -
The Lockheed P-38 Lightning was a World War II American fighter aircraft built by Lockheed. Developed to a United States Army Air Corps requirement, the P-38 had distinctive twin booms and a single, central nacelle containing the cockpit and armament. Named "fork-tailed devil" (der Gabelschwanz-Teufel) by the Luftwaffe and "two planes, one pilot" (2 飛行機、1 パイロット Ni hikōki, ippairotto) by the Japanese, the P-38 was used in a number of roles, including dive bombing, level bombing, ground-attack, night fighting, photoreconnaissance missions, and extensively as a long-range escort fighter when equipped with drop tanks under its wings.

The P-38 was used most successfully in the Pacific Theater of Operations and the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations as the mount of America's top aces, Richard Bong (40 victories) and Thomas McGuire (38 victories). In the South West Pacific theater, the P-38 was the primary long-range fighter of United States Army Air Forces until the appearance of large numbers of P-51D Mustangs toward the end of the war.

The P-38 was unusually quiet for a fighter, the exhaust muffled by the turbo-superchargers. It was extremely forgiving, and could be mishandled in many ways, but the rate of roll in the early versions was too slow for it to excel as a dogfighter. The P-38 was the only American fighter aircraft in production throughout American involvement in the war, from Pearl Harbor to Victory over Japan Day.
Sayonara Zeke!

The Lockheed P-38 Lightning

If you love the P-38, how about FIVE P-38s!

Some of you may have seen the next video before (I posted it last year) but I liked it so much, I thought I'd post it again. I mean it does have a P-38 AND a Corsair. Great video!

One of the things I always found surprising about the P-38's cockpit was the control wheel (later a yoke), rather than the more normal "stick" you see in most fighter aircraft.

Cockpit of Glacier Girl
P-38 with Control Yoke

Glacier Girl

On July 15, 1942, a flight of six P-38s and two B-17 bombers, with a total of 25 crew members on board, took off from Presque Isle Air Base in Maine headed for the U.K. What followed was a harrowing and life-threatening landing of the entire squadron on a remote ice cap in Greenland. Miraculously, none of the crew was lost and they were all rescued and returned safely home after spending several days on the desolate ice.

Fifty years later a small group of aviation enthusiasts decided to locate those aircraft, which had come to be known as "The Lost Squadron," and to recover one of the lost P-38s. It turned out to be no easy task, as the planes had been buried under 25 stories of ice and drifted over a mile from their original location. - Wikipedia
Glacier Girl where they found her...

What her cockpit looked like back then (see her cockpit photo above)
Glacier Girl after restoration. She looks good!

Many of you might remember that Brigadier General Robin Olds is one of my favorite pilots. As I'm an old 8th Tac Fighter Wing guy and he commanded the wing in SE Asia, it seems natural.

Robin Olds
Here's something I didn't know -
Robin Olds was the last P-38 ace in the Eighth Air Force and the last in the ETO. Flying a P-38J, he downed five German fighters on two separate missions over France and Germany. He subsequently transitioned to P-51s and scored seven more kills. After World War II, he flew F-4 Phantom IIs in Vietnam, ending his career as brigadier general with 16 kills. - Wikipedia

Another aviation legend met his fate while flying the P-38 -

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, officially Antoine Marie Jean-Baptiste Roger, comte de Saint Exupéry (29 June 1900 – 31 July 1944, Mort pour la France), was a French aristocrat, writer, poet, and pioneering aviator. He became a laureate of several of France's highest literary awards and also won the U.S. National Book Award. He is best remembered for his novella The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince) and for his lyrical aviation writings, including Wind, Sand and Stars and Night Flight.

Saint-Exupéry was a successful commercial pilot before World War II, working airmail routes in Europe, Africa and South America. At the outbreak of war, he joined the French Air Force (Armée de l'Air), flying reconnaissance missions until France's armistice with Germany in 1940. After being demobilised from the French Air Force, he travelled to the United States to persuade its government to enter the war against Nazi Germany. Following a 27-month hiatus in North America, during which he wrote three of his most important works, he joined the Free French Air Force in North Africa, although he was far past the maximum age for such pilots and in declining health. He disappeared over the Mediterranean on his last assigned reconnaissance mission in July 1944, and is believed to have died at that time. - Wikipedia
A fascinating man, you can read more about him here.

One of the legendary accomplishments of the Lightning was the downing of the aircraft carrying the Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet, Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku (山本 五十六). (Note that in Japan, as in Korea, the family name is listed first. A convention I always follow.)

Admiral Yamamoto

To boost morale following the defeat at Guadalcanal, Yamamoto decided to make an inspection tour throughout the South Pacific. On 14 April 1943, the US naval intelligence effort, code-named "Magic", intercepted and decrypted a message containing specific details regarding Yamamoto's tour, including arrival and departure times and locations, as well as the number and types of planes that would transport and accompany him on the journey. Yamamoto, the itinerary revealed, would be flying from Rabaul to Balalae Airfield, on an island near Bougainville in the Solomon Islands, on the morning of 18 April 1943.

On the morning of 18 April, despite urgings by local commanders to cancel the trip for fear of ambush, Yamamoto's two Mitsubishi G4M bombers used as fast transport aircraft without bombs left Rabaul as scheduled for the 315 mi (507 km) trip. Sixteen Lightnings intercepted the flight over Bougainville and a dogfight ensued between them and the six escorting Mitsubishi A6M Zeroes. First Lieutenant Rex T. Barber engaged the first of the two Japanese transports which turned out to be Yamamoto's plane. He targeted the aircraft with gunfire until it began to spew smoke from its left engine. Barber turned away to attack the other transport as Yamamoto's plane crashed into the jungle. - Wikipedia
Operation Vengeance
(Read more here.)
One of the earliest stories I remember my Dad telling me concerned the P-38.

I had just received a toy Lightning (either for my birthday or Christmas, I don't remember which) and my Dad told me the story of a friend of his who became a P-38 pilot back during the Second World War.

Seems his friend had not survived the war, he had been killed bailing out of his crippled P-38. Seems the bird had a bad reputation for killing its pilots if they had to jump. My Dad's buddy had hit the horizontal empennage, which some pilots called the "cheese knife".

As with any machine, there's a right way and a wrong way to do things. Which led me to this video -

This also reminded me of the briefing I received from the crew chief when I went on my aerobatic flight in the SNJ-6: "If the pilot says jump, pull back the canopy, hit that quick release on the harness and dive over the right side of the aircraft head first. Aim for the trailing edge of the wing. Then when you're clear, pull that D-ring. If your chute doesn't open, we'll refund your money."

Then my back-seater (the guy actually flying the plane) chimed in, "And if I say jump, don't ask any questions, because you'll be talking to yourself."

Aviation humor. I love it...

Porky II and Glacier Girl

The Red Bull P-38
My buddy "Spill" likes these cutaway views...
(So do I!)

P-38s out at Chino in 2010

P-38 in fine company...
(Four of my favorites!)
And you thought I wouldn't manage to squeeze in an F-4...


  1. As always, Sarge, most Excellent. Thanks.

    I know the post is on P-38s, but what's the squarish hump on the back of the F-4? I don't recall ever seeing that.

    1. Well, I did some searching regarding that hump. I believe it to be an antenna of some sort, precisely what I'm not sure. At first I thought it was some new-fangled LORAN antenna as it's in more or less the same place as the old "towel rack" LORAN antenna we had on the old D-model. But the deeper I dug, the less that seemed likely. Then I noticed that on the intake of this bird is the squadron insignia for the 82d Aerial Targets Squadron. And they operate QF-4 drones. A little more research and it seems that nearly every QF-4 drone photo I saw had that hump.

      So the bird in the photo is technically a QF-4E drone. It's such a beautiful aircraft, l hope they keep her around.

      As to the hump, it has to be an antenna of some kind for flying the aircraft with no pilot. Precisely what type of antenna, I don't know. But I'll find it, someday!

  2. Because readership varies over time I'll repeat two comments I made at Lex's a few years ago: First the book of Saint-Exupery's that I would most recommend is "Wind, Sand and Stars" about his exploits in WW II and philosophical musings GOT to read it!

    Next, I should comment that when I spent the better part of the summer (age 13) of '56 staying with my first cousin (my Mother's age--she was 20 yrs younger than the rest of her siblings) Lt Gen Carlos M. Talbott (then an O-6) when he was Wing Co of an F-100 Fighter Day Group at Foster AFB, Victoria, Tx, Maurice and his boss, then Maj Gen Henry Viccellio were invited to a Fourth of July BBQ at this Texas Senators ranch and I was in the Maurices' station-wagon (with the General driving) in the backseat with Maruices' kids--the wives following in another car) taking in all the "shop-talk" during the several hour drive. Maj Gen Viccellio (a giant of a Texan, who still had pox-mark scars from the pre-depression era when small-pox vaccinations were not yet wide-spread) ) was the P-38 Wing Commander who planned the mission and hand-picked the pilots who shot Yamamoto down. Talk about being in the presence of history! And to further add to the history tale, the Senator whose ranch we were invited to was LBJ's ranch! Little did I know when I shook his hand as a 13-yr-old that he would be the President ordering me off to war a decade later!

    1. PS: The last time I saw LBJ alive was when AF ONE landed at Laughlin in Del Rio in 1967 to dedicate the Amistad Bridge between the US & Mexico when I was in pilot tng. The BOQ overlooked the flight-line on a small hill and I remember seeing him exit down the stairs wearing a dark grey/black? trench-coat.

    2. Great stories like that merit repeating. As you say, readership does vary over time and repeats of excellence are always welcome.

    3. Meeting LBJ as a young boy and then being sent off to war by him ten years (or so) later. Wow.

      So tell me Virgil, how many other cool historical tidbits do you have stored away?

  3. PS: I have a Robin Olds story "once removed." Robin Olds was Co of the 81st TFW immediately prior to his tour in SEA. When I was first assigned to the 81st TFW@ RAF Bentwaters/Woodbridge the WW II Quonset hut I lived in for 6 mos was the hut Robin's Vice Commander, Chappie James had lived in, lol. It was next to the main road and the local story/"legend?" goes that Robin and Chappie used to sit on the roof drinking beer and throwing the empties at passing cars, lol. OBVIOUSLY it was a different Air Force in the 50s/early 60s!

    1. Yes, things have changed. I'm not sure if they've changed for the better. Olds and James were warriors. I have no doubt that the legend (while perhaps embellished) has a certain amount of truth in it!

  4. I'm not a huge aircraft guy, thus my lack of posting on these, but any post that mentions Saint-Exupery gets a big THUMBS UP from me. The Little Prince is one of my favorites; a great read.

    1. It simply amazes me that I had not made the connection before between the author and the pilot.

      I must go book shopping!

  5. Pix & stories are drool-worthy. I had the good fortune to meet a P-38 pilot, some 30 years ago. He flew with the Flying Tigers during WWII (but not prior, in the Gen. Chenault era). He had some good stories, too. Excellent post!

    1. Thanks Rev. I figured it was about time I got around to featuring the Lightning, a very cool aircraft!

  6. Never forget Richard Bong, America's top-scoring WW2 ace. He scored 40 kills flying a P-38.

    1. I never have. In fact, Major Bong was the first man mentioned in the Flyby back on July 26 of 2013. He was also mentioned in the Flyby on April 5th. How could I neglect the highest scoring American ace? All while flying the Lightning.

  7. Living in the Knoxville, TN area; I had a few opportunitis to visit the Glacier Girl during it's restoration in Middlesboro, KY. I missed it's first flight (didn't find out about it till after the fact) but did make it up, for the weekend when the Planes of Fame Museum flew some of their planes up there for an airshow, which included Porky II. To my understanding that was the first time two P-38s had flown in formation together since the 1950s. What a great experiance that was. Don't know who has her now.

    1. Nice. You actually got to see her being restored.

      According to Wikipedia: In 2007 Glacier Girl was sold to Lewis Energy's CEO, Rodney Lewis. As of September 2011, Lewis is the 512th richest person in the world and the 130th richest in the United States. He is worth $2.8 billion. He collects World War II-era planes, and he owns 30, including Glacier Girl, which he bought for $10 million (other sources say "over 7 million").

  8. Golly!
    It must be train week
    Yeah, yeah... it's a stretch, but there is a train in that first pic

  9. IT got it first.
    I was gonna say P-38s and trains in the same picture ...almost Heaven.

    Funny how a simple post can start a meme.

    1. I searched that painting for an automobile, then we could do the whole "planes, trains and automobiles" thing.

      There aren't any automobiles. But by Jove the train is carrying tanks!

      Which I probably would not have noticed had you and IT not got all excited about the train.

      Don't get me wrong, I like trains. I like movies about trains...

      But I digress.

  10. What is the device between the throttle console and the control yoke on Glacier Girl?

    1. That's actually the gun charging handle. You can see the selector knob for which guns you wish to charge. Now I have one source that indicates that this is only seen on the P-38H yet I have a source which indicates Glacier Girl was a P-38F. But that's definitely a gun charging handle. There's a nice PDF document ( which shows this clearly (Figure 4).

  11. Nice.

    Apropos o' not much... I wish The Powers That Be would bring back the old "meatball" roundel. I think it's much more visually appealing.

    1. After a bit of thought...

      I totally agree. It's more aesthetically pleasing AND it's Red, White and Blue!

  12. My late father was USAAF enlisted in the CBI Theater. He said they were freely bombed by the Japanese until the arrival of P-38s. At that point the bombings became rare. Naturally, he was a fan.

    1. Small world. My Dad's oldest brother was USAAF, saw duty on Okinawa shortly after the island was secured.

  13. Excellent post! I had no idea the P-38 was in production from December of 41 on. I always thought it came later somehow. Every time I read something here I learn.

    1. That actually surprised me as well. One thing I love about doing the Flyby is I learn something new every time I put one together.

      Fun and educational!


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