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)
GEAR & TECH

The Marines' newly-armed Osprey tests guns, rockets, and missiles

The Marine Corps is now arming its Osprey tiltrotor aircraft with a range of weapons to enable its assault support and escort missions in increasingly high-threat combat environments.

Rockets, guns, and missiles are among the weapons now under consideration, as the Corps examines requirements for an "all-quadrant" weapons application versus other possible configurations such as purely "forward firing" weapons.

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

It's been 10 years since the Air Force retired the Nighthawk

It's been 10 years since the United States Air Force retired the F-117 Nighthawk (an aircraft so secret, Nevada folklore labeled it a UFO).

"The Nighthawk pilots were known by the call sign 'Bandit,' each earning their number with their first solo flight. Some of the maintainers were also given a call sign," said Wayne Paddock, a former F-117 maintainer currently stationed at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.

Keep reading... Show less
Entertainment

4 things you didn't know about the epic film 'Apocalypse Now'

In 1979, film-making legend Francis Ford Coppola released one of the most critically acclaimed films of all time, Apocalypse Now. The story follows Capt. Willard (as played by Martin Sheen), a man tasked with the dangerous mission of traveling deep into the jungles of Cambodia to assassinate a rogue colonel who military intelligence believes has gone insane.

Immediately, the film captivated audiences around the globe. In fact, you can still find screenings of this film in movie theaters throughout the country today. It's a masterclass in stunning scenery and epic metaphor.

Keep reading... Show less
Humor

7 types of people you meet in a deployed 'tent city'

You'll never get a more true-to-life snapshot of the other branches than the one you get when you begin your deployment. Everyone from every branch (and occasionally every allied nation) is crammed in together in a transient barracks — also known as a "tent city."

It doesn't matter what type of unit you're in, everyone gets put in the same tents and the results are hilarious. Here's who you'll meet in these temporary towns.

Keep reading... Show less

A Navy warship just rescued a sinking luxury yacht

The Harpers Ferry-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) assisted a distressed vessel in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Southern California April 20, 2018.

The civilian vessel, Mahana, reported it was taking on water at approximately 10:33a.m.

Pearl Harbor, approximately nine nautical miles away from the vessel at the time, coordinated with Coast Guard Sector San Diego and Mission Bay lifeguards during the rescue.

Keep reading... Show less
NEWS

NASA just discovered what Uranus smells like

Even after decades of observations and a visit by NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft, Uranus held on to one critical secret — the composition of its clouds. Now, one of the key components of the planet's clouds has finally been verified.

A global research team that includes Glenn Orton of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has spectroscopically dissected the infrared light from Uranus captured by the 26.25-foot (8-meter) Gemini North telescope on Hawaii's Mauna Kea. They found hydrogen sulfide, the odiferous gas that most people avoid, in Uranus' cloud tops. The long-sought evidence was published in the April 23, 2018, issue of the journal Nature Astronomy.

Keep reading... Show less
GEAR & TECH

This new guided-missile frigate packs a lot of punch

USS Freedom (LCS-1), the lead of the Freedom-class of littoral combat ships, brought some much-needed positive attention to the LCS in 2010 when it carried out a deployment in Southern Command's area of operations. In just seven weeks, it made four drug busts while accomplishing a host of other missions.

It's no secret that the development and deployment of the Littoral Combat Ship has been rife with problems. This big success was exactly what the class needed to secure an export order. Well, to be more specific, a modified version of the Freedom has found an international buyer.

Keep reading... Show less