This is how to fly the plane that killed Yamamoto

We know the key facts of what happened on April 18, 1943. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was killed when his Mitsubishi G4M Betty attack bomber was shot down by a Lockheed P-38 Lightning flown by Capt. Thomas G. Lanphier Jr., marking the “Zero Dark Thirty” moment of World War II.

It was the moment of triumph for the plane, which had its own troubled development, and which was further hampered due to a friendly fire incident.

But it took a bit more training to get the most out of the P-38.

P-38_Lightning-twin-heavy-fighter

The P-38 Lightning was the premiere twin-engine American fighter in World War II. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Museum)

Lockheed helped out in this regard by making a training film, using expertise from their production pilots. The takeoff procedure was different, mostly in not using flaps. The plane also was very hard to stall.

The plane did have limitations: A pilot needed to have a lot of air under him, due to both the compressibility that early models suffered, and the speed the P-38 could pick up in a dive. The pilot couldn’t stay inverted for more than 10 seconds, either.

Lockheed_P-38J_Lightning-World War II fighter bomber

The J model of the P-38 carried the same .50-cal machine guns and 20mm cannons of its predecessors, but could also carry bombs. (Photo: U.S. Army Air Force)

The film also showed some P-38s modified as trainers. The film shows one trainee being shown how to deal with propellers running wild. The pilots were also trained to feather props.

The P-38 was surprising easy to fly as a single-engine plane. The film shows Tony LeVier, a noted test pilot, simulating an engine failure during takeoff.

The P-38 was a superb fighter, even if the Mustang, Hellfire, and Thunderbolt got most of the press. Put it this way, America’s top two aces of all time, Maj. Richard Bong and Maj. Thomas McGuire, flew the P-38 plane in World War II and combined for 78 confirmed kills.

Maj. Thomas B. McGuire Jr. with Richard I. Bong (Majs. Bong and McGuire were the top two scoring U.S. aces in World War II with 40 and 38 victories, respectively; taken Nov. 15, 1944 in the Philippines). (U.S. Air Force photo)

The training film is below. Now you have a sense of what it was like to fly the plane that killed Yamamoto.

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