WATCH

10 things you didn't know about the P-38 Lightning

Known for its sleek design and for being one of the most feared air escorts in the Pacific Theater during World War II, the P-38 Lightning was considered ahead of its time.


The Lightning had its first flight in 1939 and would help change America's history in ways most people don't know.

Related: This MARSOC recruiting video looks like a Hollywood movie

Check out these ten things you didn't know about the legendary P-38 Lightning.

10. Its long machine-gun range.

The P-38 had four times the range of other fighter planes of its era. Most planes had their guns mounted atop their wings and shot at a slight angle, which eventually causes rounds to intersect.

The Lightning's guns, however, were mounted on the nose of the plane, allowing the pilot to shoot straight up to 1000 yards, approximately 800 yards farther than the average fighter.

An armorer's assistant in a large western aircraft plant works on the installation of one of the machine guns in the nose position of a new Lockheed P-38 pursuit plane. (Photo from U.S. National Archives)

9. The pilot's wardrobe.

Early P-38 pilots flew in shirts, shorts, sneakers, and a parachute. That's all.

8. The nicknames.

Seeing the Lightning coming in hot often scared the sh*t out of the Germans. They once called the plane the fork-tailed devil, while the Japanese dubbed them, two planes, one pilot.

7. The P-38's unique sound.

Have you seen Star Wars? The sound of the film's iconic speeder bikes came from mixing the sounds of a P-38 Lightning and a nose-diving P-51 Mustang.

6. Glacier Girl.

On July 15, 1942, six P-38s and two flying fortresses made an emergency landing on an ice cap in Greenland. The crew members were unharmed, and one of the planes was later recovered underneath 250-feet of ice and renamed Glacier Girl.

Glacier Girl during her historic recovery.

5. Life as an air racer.

Post-World War II, the warplane sales market boomed. Many P-38s were sold to private collectors who competed in air races.

4. Setting a world record.

In 1939, the XP-38, the Lightning's prototype, flew from coast to coast of the U.S. in seven hours and two minutes. Although the flight culminated in a crash landing, the pilot survived and the plane was awarded the record time.

3. Operation Vengeance.

Operation Vengeance called for 16 P-38s to ambush Japanese Admiral Yamamoto's (the mastermind behind the Pearl Harbor attack) transport. The attacks caused Yamamoto's plane to crash in the jungles of New Guinea, killing him.

2. The best of the best flew P-38s.

Army Air Corps aces Richard Bong, Thomas McGuire, and Charles MacDonald all flew this beautiful plane — all kicking major ass while doing so.

Also Read: That time pancakes helped fight the Japanese in WWII

1. Tail fins.

Many cars built in the 1940s had tail fins as part of their design — all were inspired by the P-38.

 

The tail fin was originally created by Harley Earl. We bet you didn't know that.

Check out World War Wings' video below to get the full visual breakdown of this historic warplane for yourself.

(World War Wings | YouTube)
transition

4 ways to strengthen your relationship with a military child

Tough. Adaptable. Resilient. Cultivated. Hardy. Well-rounded.

These are all words that have been used to describe military kids. They've certainly earned these badges of honor, but military kids are still young and in need of strong guidance along the windy road of military life.

And along the way, we parents often hear the chorus of military life echoing in our minds:

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

How R. Lee Ermey's Hollywood break is an inspiration to us all

While there have been many outstanding actors and celebrities who have raised their right hand, there has never been a veteran who could finger point his way to the top of Hollywood stardom quite like the late great Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey.

Keep reading... Show less
History

Check out these amazing uncovered photos of the great Ernie Pyle

On April 18th, 1945, war correspondent Ernie Pyle was killed by enemy fire on Iejima* during the Battle of Okinawa. At the time of his death, Pyle, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, was well-known for his intimate and personal storytelling that highlighted the experiences of the "average" soldier. Pyle was able to tell the stories of enlisted men because he embedded himself in their day-to-day lives; he didn't just observe their work, he lived, traveled, ate, and shared foxholes with them.

In remembrance of Ernie Pyle, the Unwritten Record presents photographs and motion pictures that highlight his work as a roving war correspondent during WWII.

Keep reading... Show less
Entertainment

6 things you didn't know about 'Top Gun' (probably)

In 1986, Paramount Pictures released Top Gun, a story about a hotshot naval aviator, nicknamed "Maverick," who had some extreme daddy issues. When the film landed on the big screen, it was an instant blockbuster, pulling in millions of dollars worldwide.

Filled with adrenaline-packed scenes, Top Gun inspired audience members of all ages to get out there and try to be the next hotshot pilot. After more than 30 years, moviegoers who have memorized all the film's catchphrases probably think they know everything there is to know about this action-packed classic.

Keep reading... Show less
Humor

8 reasons why peacetime training is just advanced LARPing

Live-action roleplaying is popular among nerds the world over. But what they don't realize is that the military hosts their own LARPing events to prepare for war.

While training for real-life combat, it's important that the military runs simulations that get as close to the real thing as possible. But, when you start to really break it down, it becomes clear that the government is spending tons of money on opportunities for advanced LARPing — as they should be.

Keep reading... Show less
History

The sweeping legacy of First Lady Barbara Bush

Former First Lady Barbara Bush, wife of 41st President George H. W. Bush, passed away in Houston, Texas, on April 17, 2018. The mother of 6 and grandmother of 17 was 92.

Only two women in American history have both served as First Lady and raised a son who would become president. The first was Abigail Adams, First Lady to President John Adams and the mother of John Quincy Adams. The second was Mrs. Bush, whose son George W. Bush would serve two terms as Commander in Chief beginning just 8 years after his father left office.

Keep reading... Show less
Entertainment

7 reasons Jack Burton was the warfighter I always wanted to be

Before joining the service, I thought everyone in the military was somehow fighting and killing bad guys. I looked to movies and television to try to put myself into the mindset of who I wanted to be if I had to fight a real battle.

Clearly, I no idea what I was getting into. That's where the similarities between Jack Burton and myself end.

Keep reading... Show less

6 exercises that you should be doing on chest day

Gym-goers the world over have proclaimed that Mondays are International Chest Days. This is because the chest is considered one of the most important parts of the male physique. Why? It's simple. Having a well-trained chest tends to draw wandering eyes while you're at the beach, and who doesn't want that positive attention?

Keep reading... Show less