10 things you didn't know about the P-38 Lightning - We Are The Mighty
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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.

1. 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.

 

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

 

2. The pilot’s wardrobe.

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

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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

10. Tail fins.

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

 

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

(World War Wings | YouTube)

MIGHTY MOVIES

We Are The Mighty screens ‘Kilo Two Bravo’ for enthusiastic crowd

“[Kilo Two Bravo is] less about the flag for which these men may die but the weary bravery they must summon to survive.”

Miami Herald, 4/5 stars


 

We Are The Mighty hosted a screening of the war film “Kilo Two Bravo” at the Lido theater in Newport, CA on November 10. Described as “the most honest and unflinching look at the reality and brutality of war”, the film was well received by the 200-some people in attendance.

“Kilo Two Bravo” tells the true story of a platoon on a mission to neutralize a Taliban roadblock in the Kajaki region of Afghanistan. While closing in on the insurgents, the unit find themselves marooned in the middle of a minefield, setting in motion a desperate rescue mission. This taut thriller tells the story of heroism, courage and survival and captures what war is like for those fighting it in the 21st Century.

“Kilo Two Bravo” is now in theaters and available on iTunes.

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This Medal of Honor recipient blocked out being paralyzed to finish the mission

Drafted into the Army in March of 1968, George Lang graduated boot camp and went right into advanced infantry training before heading off to the jungles of Vietnam.


In February of 1969, Lang was scheduled to go on leave when an intelligence officer got word of enemy movement closing in.

Lang had just spit-shined his boots when the company first sergeant updated him on his new mission. Lang put his leave on hold and geared up without hesitation. He and his squad loaded up on “tangos” (boats) and proceeded down the river toward their objective.

Related: 6 questions you asked yourself after your first firefight

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

Lang and his men maneuvered down the canal toward Kien Hoa Province in South Vietnam, where they eventually dismounted the “tangos” and proceeded inland on foot.

After only 50-meters of patrolling, the anxious squad came in contact with a series of bunkers, linked together by communication wires.

Taking point, Lang was first to spot five armed men guarding the area — he quickly engaged. After expelling a full magazine and getting hit by enemy artillery, the squad came under attack by an additional, but unexpected force — red ants.

10 things you didn’t know about the P-38 Lightning
The red ant. (Image by Wikipedia Commons)

The squad dashed toward a shallow pond while under fire to wash off the six-legged attackers. Cleaned off and ready to go, the soldiers located a blood trail and followed it to find the bodies of the VC troops they previously engaged.

Suddenly, another barrage of incoming fire opened up from a nearby bunker, killing a handful of Americans. Lang sprinted toward the dug-in position and took it out with his rifle and a few hand grenades.

Also Read: 3 key differences between Recon Marines and Marine Raiders

Lang destroyed a total of three enemy bunkers, which were also full of weapons. Upon returning to his squad, a deadly rocket detonated nearby, shooting hot shrapnel into Lang’s back, damaging his spinal cord.

Unable to move his legs and suffering unbelievable pain, Lang continued to direct his men. After several hours of coordinating troop movement and medical evacuations, Lang was finally removed from the battlefield and brought to safety for treatment.

On March 2, 1971, George Lang was awarded the Medal of Honor from former President Richard Nixon.

Check out the Medal of Honor Book‘s video below to hear this incredible story from the legend himself.

(Medal of Honor Book | YouTube)
MIGHTY MOVIES

Director of ‘A War’: “I wanted to try to humanize men in uniform”

‘A War,’ directed by Tobias Lindholm, is a Danish film nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film this year. The movie follows Danish Army infantry commander Claus Pedersen, played by Pilou Asbæk, as he leads his men in Afghanistan. Claus struggles with the complexities of rules of engagement during a firefight, and has to deal with the consequences of his decisions in a murky military trial back home.


This time, WATM’s Blake Stilwell was invited to meet with Lindholm to discuss the inspiration behind the film, the goals he hoped to accomplish with it, and the decisions he made for the filming process.

Lindholm and Asbæk previously visited the WATM offices to talk about their experiences working on the film.

Check out the trailer and be sure to keep an eye on your local theaters – ‘A War’ will begin limited theatrical release on Feb. 12.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Marine went from flutes to Fallujah

Mike Ergo enlisted with the Marine Corps Band but then decided to go Infantry and wound up engaged in heavy urban fighting in the Second Battle of Fallujah in 2004.


One of Ergo’s defining tattoos from the war is an image on his left forearm of St. Michael holding a scale of justice and a foot on the face of a dead Iraqi he came across in a combat.

“For a long time I was seeing this person’s face every single day, sometimes every single hour of the day,” said Ergo. “My thinking was if I had to see his face, everyone else had to see it as well. It was a tattoo I got out of anger.”

“Vietnam vets talk about their experiences coming back and the big gulf that happened between the veterans and civilians,” continues Ergo. “This is an opportunity for our generation to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

Ergo’s story is part of War Ink: 11 for 11, a video series presented by We Are The Mighty.  The series features 11 combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan using tattoos to tell their stories on and off the battlefield. Each week for the next 11 weeks, a different tattooed veteran will share his or her story.

Do you have a tattoo that tells the story of your war experiences? Post a photo of it at We Are The Mighty’s Facebook page with the hashtag #WeAreTheMightyInk. WATM will be teeing up the coolest and most intense ones through Veteran’s Day.

Video Credit: Rebecca Murga and Karen Kraft

Articles

Watch this Marine describe his personal battle at Tarawa

Louis Mamula was one of the Marines assigned to take Betio Island of the Tarawa Atoll in the Pacific.


What was supposed to be a tough but short battle where the Marines would quickly win became some of the bloodiest 76 hours in American history as obstacles on the approach and determined Japanese defenders made the Marines bleed for every bit of sand.

The idea behind capturing Betio Island in the Tarawa Atoll was that it would serve as the opening blow in a new front across the Japanese and give the Navy and Marine Corps a corridor through the Central Pacific to Japan.

10 things you didn’t know about the P-38 Lightning
Casualties and destruction after the battle for the Tarawa Atoll. (U.S. Navy)

But the landings ran into trouble as coral reefs and man-made obstacles in the water proved more troublesome than originally expected. Troops headed to the beaches sometimes had to get out of their amphibious vehicles and wade through chest-deep water to the beaches under fire.

On land, the situation wasn’t much better. The relatively flat island gave defensive machine gun positions wide fields of fire and favored the defender.

Mamula landed in this chaos and pushed forward with the other Marines of the 2nd Marine Division. In the video below, he discusses what it took to capture the island so well defended that the Japanese boasted, “a million Americans could not take Tarawa in 100 years!”

WATCH

WATCH: The Army might be changing, but it’s still marching in cadence

Marching in cadence is one of the most recognizable facets of Army training. Every soldier that’s come through the ranks, no matter how old they are, remembers a cadence or two. It’s good to see that while the Army is adapting to new challenges on the battlefield, some things haven’t changed.

Hooah, Drill Sergeant. Hooah.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

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This is what it felt like to be the ‘FNG’ in Vietnam

Intense humidity, leeches, and snakes were just a few of the dangers our Vietnam Veterans faced while in the jungle — besides getting shot by bad guys. In all, 2.7 million Americans suited up for The Nam, and the average age of an infantryman was just 19-years-old.


And every single one of them at one time or another claimed the title of “f*cking new guy,” or “FNG.”

Patton, Schwarzkopf, and Mattis didn’t start out on day one of their military careers by making all the right decisions, they had to learn from their mistakes time and time again, adapting to them before ultimately succeeding.

Like every story, every man whose served has a beginning — a seed.

“I didn’t know squat, I wasn’t prepared for this,” Larry “Doc” Speed, a Combat Medic from 173rd Delta Company, explains in an interview about his first few days in the bush.

10 things you didn’t know about the P-38 Lightning
Doc Speed takes a moment for a photo op during his time in Vietnam. (Source: Mark Joyner/YouTube/ Screenshot)

Entering the grunt world as an “FNG” is a stressful time in every new infantryman’s life.

Having to prove your worth from the moment you step onto the battlefield was just as difficult as shaking off those first dramatic moments of being pinned down by accurate enemy gunfire. Until you prove yourself, you’re just another blood bag with a name stenciled on a uniform.

“It’s a different world when you’re brand new, you’re just scared,” Jesse Salcedo, an M60 machine gunner admits. “It took three or four firefights before I could function before I could see the enemy.”

Also Read: That time American POWs refused a CIA rescue mission in Vietnam

Watch Mark Joyner‘s video below to hear the direct words from Vietnam Veterans about their first days in “The Nam.”

(Mark Joyner, YouTube)

Articles

These are the 10 deadliest self-propelled howitzers

A longtime saying in war is that artillery is the king of the battlefield.


But some artillery are better than others, but the best are those that can drive themselves to battle.

10 things you didn’t know about the P-38 Lightning
An ARCHER Artillery System. (Wikimedia Commons)

For a long time, all artillery was towed. First the towing as done by horses, then by trucks or other vehicles. But there was a problem. The artillery took a while to set up, then, when the battery had to move — either because troops advanced or retreated – or the enemy found out where the artillery was located, it took time to do that.

Fighter pilots say, speed is life.” Artillerymen would not disagree. Towed artillery had another minus: It had a hard time keeping up with tanks and other armored fighting vehicles.

10 things you didn’t know about the P-38 Lightning
Night falls at Fort Riley, Kan., as an M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzer with 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery, fires a 155 mm shell during 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division’s combined arms live-fire exercise Oct. 30, 2014. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. John Portela/released)

The way to cut the time down was to find a way a howitzer could propel itself. The advantage was that these guns not only could support tanks and other armored units, but these guns often had an easier time setting up to fire. They could also be ready to move much faster, as well.

This ability to “shoot and scoot” made them much harder to locate.

10 things you didn’t know about the P-38 Lightning
2S19 Msta self-propelled howitzer. (Wikimedia Commons)

Most self-propelled howitzers fire either a 152mm round (usually from Russia and China, but also from former communist countries like Serbia) or a 155mm round (NATO and most other countries). Often these guns are tracked, but some have been mounted on truck chassis, gaining a higher top speed as a result.

10 things you didn’t know about the P-38 Lightning
A PzH 2000 self-propelled howitzer belonging to the Dutch Army fires on the Taliban in 2007. (Wikimedia Commons)

Some of the world’s best self-propelled howitzers include the American-designed M109A6 Paladin, the Russian 2S19, the South Korean K9 Thunder, and the German PzH-2000.

You can see the full list of the ten deadliest self-propelled howitzers in the video below.

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