Interesting P-38 Comments

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by V-1710, Aug 30, 2006.

  1. V-1710

    V-1710 Member

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    Some interesting P-38 comments from various WWII pilots: First off, concentration of firepower: There seems to be 2 views- one is that the P-38 had an advantage over other fighters in that since the guns were all in the nose, they were aimed straight ahead. No convergence issues. The other view was that since all the guns were in the nose, the concentration of firepower was over a smaller area, making aiming more critical. I think I would tend to believe the former, thinking that if you had the bogie in your sight, you had a good chance no matter the distance (to a point). Stall chracteristics: All argee the P-38 had the best stall of any WWII fighter. 2 reasons for this. First, the airfoil of the P-38 wing was such that it stalled from the center outward, which helped stability leading into the stall. Second, the P-38 was just about the only WWII fighter that had a center of gravity below the airframe's center of lift. Any other fighter would fall off on one wing of the other at the point of stall, as the center of gravity was above the center of lift. Was the P-38 given a fair chance in Europe? Subject of much debate, but the facts are it didn't have a very good heater and when it was in service there the 8th. was still unconvinced escorts were really needed. Probably the best recon. ship in the European theater, though. Was it a coincidence that many of the P-80 test pilots were men with considerable P-38 time? Since they were both products of Lockhead that was a factor, but with no torque due to the contra-rotating props, tricycle gear, and aerodynamically clean enough to go stupid fast in a dive, one would think a P-38 pilot would be more at home in a P-80 than a Mustang driver. The P-38 was the only U.S.A.A.C./U.S.A.A.F. fighter in production the first day of U.S. involvement in WWII and the last. And, least we forget that one of the P-38's principal designers was a man by the name of Kelly Johnson, who went on to distinguish himself by designing a few more airplanes for Lockheed..........
     
  2. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    Fair points but the only one I would disagree with is the PR statement. The Mossie and Spit were in my mind ahead of the game in this area.
    I know that after the 8th Airforce arrived in the UK one of the first things they asked for were Spitfire XI's to replace the P38 in the PR role.
     
  3. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    That never happened. Only the F4 and F5 Lightnings had the performance and range to get deep into Germany. And that big nose could carry the camera's without displacing fuel tanks.

    The 8th AF was always happy with the performace of these recon aircraft although the pilots froze like their fighter counterparts.
     
  4. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    The USAAF’s 14th Photographic Squadron of the 8th Air Force used Spitfire Mark XIs from November 1943 to April 1945
     
  5. V-1710

    V-1710 Member

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    I remember reading that Gen. Doolittle surveyed the D-Day landings personally in a P-38.
     
  6. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Are you referring to company test pilots or people like Richard Bong who was assigned to Lockheed as a government test pilot?
     
  7. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    That was a composite group of one squad of Spits and three additional squads of F4/F5's.

    The 9th AF also had six F4/F5 squads and the 12th/15th AF's had six F4/F5 squads.

    I am glad you mentioned this because I discovered I had some interesting autographs on the cover page of the book I referred to, "The Mighty Eight". I cant remember when it happened (maybe 1990-1991?), but I had Gabby Grabeski, Jerry Johnson, Paul Conger and two others of the 56th FG put their names to the book!
     
  8. redcoat

    redcoat Active Member

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    Sorry, but Col. Homer Sanders, the CO of the 7th PG, who provided reconnaissance for the 8th AF, specifically asked Ira Eaker, the CO of the 8th AF, for Spitfire Mk. XIs, and they began to receive them in November, 1943.
     
  9. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    But they were only operated in one squadron in numbers. The 7th Photo recon Group consisted of 4 squadrons, 13th, 14th, 22nd, and 27th. I show the 13th operating F-5A-Es through 1945 although they did have some Spits. The 14th seemed to have most of the Spits, the 22nd and 27th had F-5A-Es but also used a few Spits. It Seems the 7th PG used these aircraft plus a few P-51s right through the end of the war....
     
  10. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    The question that interests me, is why did he ask for them in the first place? Clearly the Spitfire had something the F4/F5 didn't or they wouldn't have been requested.
     
  11. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    Just found the following

    Operating out of England, the photorecon Lightnings suffered from all the problems faced by their fighter brethren. High-altitude missions were generally limited to a maximum of 25,000 feet, as the Lightning had engine trouble at higher altitude. Even flying at 400mph at this altitude instead of at the expected 35,000 feet meant that the Lightnings were vulnerable to interception by the Luftwaffe. The Germans were well aware of the purpose of a single aircraft at high altitude, and their radar could easily track it. If the intercepting Bf 109s or Fw 190s were in position and given a sufficient altitude advantage, they could overtake the Lightning in a dive more easily than they could the British Mosquito. A photo ship's only real defense was to fly an erratic course to avoid interception by not allowing the German controller to position his fighters successfully. Additionally, the hope was that an erratic flight course would conceal the target objective.

    Because of the continued unreliability of the Allison engines at high altitude, the Lightning was replaced by reverse-LendLease Spitfire P.R.XIs for the most dangerous target-assessment missions. The Lightnings were returned to the job of photographically mapping northwest Europe for the planned invasion. To avoid alerting the Germans to the real invasion site, they flew missions from Blankenberge to Dunkerque, and from Le Touquet to St. Vaast de la Hague-virtually the entire coast of the English Channel-and they flew three missions elsewhere for every one flown over Normandy and the Cherbourg Peninsula.

    It would appear that the Mossie and the Spit had advantages over the F4/F5 in the PR role.
     
  12. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Possibly, or maybe they 7th PRG could get enough birds over to Europe. I would guess the F-5s were used for long range missions. Here's the "Little Friends" site, got some great photos...

    8th Air Force Fighter Group - Littlefriends.co.uk
     
  13. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Great post Glider, that answers it!!!
     
  14. redcoat

    redcoat Active Member

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    Especially in the winter months, the F4/5 had difficulty operating over 30,000ft. making them highly vulnerable to higher flying Me 109's.

    ps, I posted this before I read Gliders excellent reply :)
     
  15. k9kiwi

    k9kiwi Member

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    The following is a description of a PR flight over enemy territory, written by an anonymous New Zealand pilot about the pressurised Spitfire PRU around 40,000 feet.

    "The engine itself, which was practically in one's lap, only made a sort of ticking noise like a clockwork mouse. The cold, the low pressure and the immobilizing effect of the elaborate equipment and bulky clothing in the tiny cockpit had the effect of damping down and subduing all the senses, except the sense of sight. On a clear day one could see an immense distance, whole countries at a time. Around them a scrap was going on, the fighters glinting as they circled in the sun. I felt like a man looking down into a pool watching minnows playing near the bottom.

    Outside the aircraft the temperature might be 60 or 70 degrees below freezing and if, as occasionally happened, the cabin heating failed, the cold was agonizing. Everything in the cockpit became covered with frost and long icicles grew from the pilots mask like Jack Frosts beard. Most alarming of all, the entire wind screen and blister hood was liable to frost over so that it was impossible to see out. At such times the air seemed full of Messerschmitts."
     
  16. Tony Williams

    Tony Williams Member

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    An interesting letter on the Gabelschwanz Teufel site:

    20th Fighter Group Headquarters
    APO 637 U.S. Army
    (E-2)

    3 June 1944

    Subject: P-38 Airplane in Combat.

    To: Commanding General, VIII Fighter Command, APO 637, U.S. Army.

    1. The following observations are being put in writing by the undersigned at the request of the Commanding General, VII FC. They are intended purely as constructive criticism and are intended in any way to "low rate" our present equipment.

    2. After flying the P-38 for a little over one hundred hours on combat missions it is my belief that the airplane, as it stands now, is too complicated for the 'average' pilot. I want to put strong emphasis on the word 'average, taking full consideration just how little combat training our pilots have before going on as operational status.

    3. As a typical case to demonstrate my point, let us assume that we have a pilot fresh out of flying school with about a total of twenty-five hours in a P-38, starting out on a combat mission. He is on a deep ramrod, penetration and target support to maximum endurance. He is cruising along with his power set at maximum economy. He is pulling 31" Hg and 2100 RPM. He is auto lean and running on external tanks. His gun heater is off to relieve the load on his generator, which frequently gives out (under sustained heavy load). His sight is off to save burning out the bulb. His combat switch may or may not be on. Flying along in this condition, he suddenly gets "bounced", what to do flashes through his mind. He must turn, he must increase power and get rid of those external tanks and get on his main. So, he reaches down and turns two stiff, difficult gas switches {valves} to main - turns on his drop tank switches, presses his release button, puts the mixture to auto rich (two separate and clumsy operations), increases his RPM, increases his manifold pressure, turns on his gun heater switch (which he must feel for and cannot possibly see), turns on his combat switch and he is ready to fight. At this point, he has probably been shot down or he has done one of several things wrong. Most common error is to push the throttles wide open before increasing RPM. This causes detonation and subsequent engine failure. Or, he forgets to switch back to auto rich, and gets excessive cylinder head temperature with subsequent engine failure.

    4. In my limited experience with a P-38 group, we have lost as least four (4) pilots, who when bounced, took no immediate evasive action. The logical assumption is that they were so busy in the cockpit, trying to get organized that they were shot down before they could get going.

    5. The question that arises is, what are you going to do about it? It is standard procedure for the group leader to call, five minutes before R/V and tell all the pilots to "prepare for trouble". This is the signal for everyone to get into auto rich, turn drop tank switches on, gun heaters on, combat and sight switches on and to increase RPM and manifold pressure to maximum cruise. This procedure, however, does not help the pilot who is bounced on the way in and who is trying to conserve his gasoline and equipment for the escort job ahead.

    6. What is the answer to these difficulties? During the past several weeks we have been visited at this station time and time again by Lockheed representatives, Allison representatives and high ranking Army personnel connected with these two companies. They all ask about our troubles and then proceed to tell us about the marvelous mechanisms that they have devised to overcome these troubles that the Air Force has turned down as "unnecessary". Chief among these is a unit power control, incorporating an automatic manifold pressure regulator, which will control power, RPM and mixture by use of a single lever. It is obvious that there is a crying need for a device like that in combat.

    7. It is easy to understand why test pilots, who have never been in combat, cannot readily appreciate what each split second means when a "bounce" occurs. Every last motion when you get bounced is just another nail in your coffin. Any device which would eliminate any of the enumerated above, are obviously very necessary to make the P-38 a really effective combat airplane.

    8. It is also felt that that much could done to simplify the gas switching system in this airplane. The switches {valve selector handles} are all in awkward positions and extremely hard to turn. The toggle switches for outboard tanks are almost impossible to operate with gloves on.

    9. My personal feeling about this airplane is that it is a fine piece of equipment, and if properly handled, takes a back seat for nothing that the enemy can produce. But it does need simplifying to bring it within the capabilities of the 'average' pilot. I believe that pilots like Colonel Ben Kelsey and Colonel Cass Huff are among the finest pilots in the world today. But I also believe that it is difficult for men like them to place their thinking and ability on the level of a youngster with a bare 25 hours in the airplane, going into his first combat. That is the sort of thinking that will have to be done, in my opinion, to make the P-38 a first-class all around fighting airplane.

    HAROLD J. RAU
    Colonel, Air Corps,
    Commanding.


    Tony Williams: Military gun and ammunition website and discussion forum
     
  17. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Interesting memo - I have to laugh about this part...

    "3. As a typical case to demonstrate my point, let us assume that we have a pilot fresh out of flying school with about a total of twenty-five hours in a P-38, starting out on a combat mission. He is on a deep ramrod, penetration and target support to maximum endurance. He is cruising along with his power set at maximum economy. He is pulling 31" Hg and 2100 RPM. He is auto lean and running on external tanks. His gun heater is off to relieve the load on his generator, which frequently gives out (under sustained heavy load). His sight is off to save burning out the bulb. His combat switch may or may not be on. Flying along in this condition, he suddenly gets "bounced", what to do flashes through his mind. He must turn, he must increase power and get rid of those external tanks and get on his main. So, he reaches down and turns two stiff, difficult gas switches {valves} to main - turns on his drop tank switches, presses his release button, puts the mixture to auto rich (two separate and clumsy operations), increases his RPM, increases his manifold pressure, turns on his gun heater switch (which he must feel for and cannot possibly see), turns on his combat switch and he is ready to fight. At this point, he has probably been shot down or he has done one of several things wrong. Most common error is to push the throttles wide open before increasing RPM. This causes detonation and subsequent engine failure. Or, he forgets to switch back to auto rich, and gets excessive cylinder head temperature with subsequent engine failure."

    Col. Rau gives a "worse case scenario" not only for flying a P-38, but for flying any twin engine aircraft. The switches he describes are no different on say A P-47 or P-51, the only problem there is 2 of them. See for your self in some of these links and the way the P-38, P-47 and P-51 cockpits are laid out.

    P-38 COCKPIT

    More P-47 Suff

    More P-51 Stuff from real P-51 Mustang pilot and mechanic's manuals

    Everything he describes could be held for the same on any other single engine aircraft - I see bias here but agree with his premise that a low time pilot of that era needed a lot more training to be proficient in the P-38...
     
  18. Jank

    Jank Member

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    Tony,

    The Report of Joint Fighter Conference 1944 had similar criticisms of the P-38. Too complicated. Poor visibility was also criticized.
     
  19. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    Do we know if these changes or at least some of them were made on later versions of the plane?
     
  20. Jank

    Jank Member

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    I don't know. However, The Report of Joint Fighter Conference 1944 used a "J" model in it's testing.
     
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