It's an addiction. Admitting you have it is the first step.
- By Rebecca Maksel
- AirSpaceMag.com, December 03, 2008
John M. Dibbs / The Plane Picture Co.
The French writer-aviator Antoine De Saint-Exupéry considered the P-38 “a flying torpedo that has nothing whatever to do with flying and, with all its dials and buttons, makes its pilot a sort of chief accountant.” The sturdy Lightning, however, is considered the most successful twin-engine fighter ever flown—by any nation. The first P-38s reached the Pacific Theater on April 4, 1942, joining the 8th Photographic Squadron (based in Australia), and flying combat missions over New Guinea and New Britain later that month. Meanwhile, back in the United States, the Army Air Forces was trying to dispel reports that Lightnings were death traps. “[There’s a] common rumor out there that the whole West Coast was filled with headless bodies of men who jumped out of P-38s and had their heads cut off by the propellers,” Col. Arthur Ennis, chief of public relations, told a fellow officer. (Read more about the P-38's history.) More than 10,000 P-38s were built before production ended in 1945. The P-38J pictured here, Joltin’ Jose, is from the Planes of Fame Museum based in Chino, California.