How The U.S. Air Force’s Fork-Tailed P-38 Lightning Became Most Feared Aircraft Of World War II

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Senior Airman
Apr 3, 2007
Never heard that one, any references?
Bruce Gamble: Black Sheep One

Their mission was to protect two dozen SBDs and TBFs as they tried to wipe out a heavy AA position at Jakohima, a few miles west of Kahili, while B-24s escorted by army P-38 Lightnings would strike at Kahili aerodrome simultaneously.
Boyington led the F4Us toward Bougainville after they rendezvoused with the dive bombers, but they had not yet reached the target when the B-24s came hustling toward them from the opposite direction, having hit Kahili earlier than they were supposed to. Thirty to forty Zeros were in pursuit, while the P-38s were nowhere in sight,justifying the marines' disdainful nickname for them: "high-altitude fox-holes"

Several times when bombers had engaged Zeros, the P-38's, weaving back and forth up high, didn't see the fighting. That's quite possible! It happened two or three times and was extremely embarrassing. They'd come back and say to the P-38 pilots, "Where the hell were you when the fight was going on? We could have used you!" We'd say, "What fighting?" (As you all know, the radios never work in combat when you need them. The Navy flyers were on the main frequency, and we on another, so we had to switch to the main frequency to call the SBD's or be called by them. Quite often only one or two of our radios would be in operation - and the wrong man would hear the call). Well, two or three times the P-38's went blithely on their way while fighting was going on. They began to call our P-38's "high altitude fox holes"!



Apr 9, 2005
Colorado, USA
Bruce Gamble: Black Sheep One
Hi Timppa - Thanks for posting and now that I read this I recall P-38 escort errors with B-24s being mentioned in several other sources, its just the first time I ever heard the term "High Altitude Foxholes." During this period the AAF did foul up several escort missions where the Marines came in to save the day, but with that I think to imply that there was any cowardice on the part of the P-38 crews is a bit unfair as these guys would have been more than willing to get into any fight (and they eventually did). There were many successful escort missions flown by the various P-38 groups across the SWP, I think these incidences were more the exception than the rule.
This is great document and read this previously. Keep in mind that Mitchel and Lanphier served with the 347th FG 13th AF and had a harder time getting established than the initial units of the 80th FG (39th and 9th FS). I think also shows the way the 13th AF was run when compared to the 5th led by George Kenney. Mitchel and Lanphier were basically dropped off in Guadalcanal which couldn't have been a worse place. By April 43' it was quite obvious that Mitchel (to his credit) was able to pull his unit together and successfully complete the Yamamoto Mission, quite a feat when you read about his early operations with the P-38.


Generalfeldmarschall zur Luftschiff Abteilung
The USN and USMC pilots at Guadacanal worked with the USAAF guys as best as possible and it took a while to get their tactics and equipment into a seamless team effort.

Early on, they worked out a system to incorporate the P-400 into their defense system, since it was limited to 15,000 feet. So with the introduction of the P-38, there would be once again, an adjustment needed.

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