This Legendary Aircraft Terrified American Enemies And Helped Win The Pacific

P38

The P38 was crucial in helping the United States win during World War II. The aircraft was incredibly successful in the Pacific, North African, and the Mediterranean and earned the nickname “fork-tailed Devil” by the Germans.

The New Wonder Plane

In 1937, the heads of the Army Air Corps were looking for an aircraft that could pursue enemy planes, but they had a long wants list. They wanted the plane to fly up to 360 mph at heights of 20,000 feet, reach 20,000 feet in six minutes and stay up there for an hour at minimum. Oh, and they wanted the plane to have some serious firepower.

One of the newer defense contractors, Lockheed, threw their name in the ring with the XP-38. It was a revolutionary design that was different than anything else the military used at the time.

The plane was designed with three pods and two tails. The two outer pods were in line with the tails, which had an Allison V-1710 engine boasting 1,000 hp. However, the Army was willing to overlook the different design since it had enough power to go up against the German and British planes.

It didn’t hurt that the plan had four .50-cal machine guns and a 20mm cannon in its nose. The Army tested the plane, making adjustments until it was finally ready for the pilots in 1940.

Post-Production

When it finally made it to the pilots, the plane could fly up to 3,300 feet in a minute, at 400 mph for 1,150 miles. There were 68 P-38s on the front lines, and in 1942, they were able to take out a Luftwaffe plane.

Seven of the P-38 pilots became aces in the Pacific theater. However, the greatest feat for the P-38 occurred on April 18, 1943.

Naval Intelligence gained intel on Japanese Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, who led and designed the Pearl Harbor attacks, would be in the Pacific.

Attacking The Admiral

The military put a plan together to take out the admiral. The pilots would have to fly 600 miles out and 400 miles back with leeway for an intense battle.

They set the P-38’s up with drop tanks and sent a kill team of four with 12 others out to attack Yamamoto’s flight and escort, which had two bombers and six fighters.

The P-38’s had a successful battle, taking out Yamamoto and his escorts, losing only one P-38.

Sources: 1, 2

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