P-38 German Name

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by GregP, Feb 2, 2014.

  1. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    Well ... this thread should generate some comments.

    I was at the Planes of Fame today and spent the morning covering the ailerons for our Mitsubishi Zero. It was my first fabric experience other than radio control airplanes ... it is about the same except for no heat gun. After lunch, I was taking a short break and a gentleman and his wife were looking around when I asked them if they had any questios. We sort of "hit it off" and I decided to show them the hanger where we keep our foreign planes myself.

    He had a slight accent and she said nothing, but not much of an accent and not easily identifiable, and I wondered where they were from. We wandered around the hangars until we came to the P-38, and I told them about our plane and said that "the Germans are popularly believed to have called it "the forked tail devil but we now doubt that is true. We think it was a fabrication of Martin Caidin in an early book from the 1960's."

    Well, I got floored.

    He said he was from Germany and his father flew fighters in WWII and they DID call it the "Forked Tail Devil" ... only in German. He pronounced it but I can't spell it.

    That sort of flies in the face of what I've heard in here, but this guy had NO axe to grind, did not say any other things that were unusual, and was merely a tourist from Germany. Perhaps we have been maligning Martin for no real reason in here ... I can't say for sure, but it would seem some investigation other than speculation may be needed before we can rule out the term.

    His wife concurred (with a German accent) that the term was used as she had heard it and she was also from Germany and her father had also flown fighters and had used the term to her later.

    Interesting ... not conclusive, but raises some doubt in MY mind about the so-called facts being stated in here about it. I would not say it is true at this time that the Germans DID call the P-38 "The Forked Tail Devil," but also would not rule it out after talking with these very nice people. Some investigation might be in order ... just from my viewpoint.

    I have NO agenda here. Just passing this along as I heard it in person today. Never expected to hear that from anyone ... and have no real opinion on it as yet.
     
  2. Alte Hase

    Alte Hase Member

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    It's amazing how a chance encounter can lead to something so fascinating! I can't add anything except that the German word for 'devil' is 'Teufel", pronounced "Toy-fill".
     
  3. rank amateur

    rank amateur Member

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    Hi Greg. Could it be Gabel schwanz teufel?
     
  4. cimmex

    cimmex Member

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    Gabelschwanzteufel is right and I believe this term was used by the Germans during WWII. About1975 the grandfather of my wife who stayed as soldier in southern Italy used this term when he talked about his adventures during the war. I cannot imagine that he had this word from a book after the war. It sound more like a
    common word of an infantry solder who was attacked by P-38s
    Regards
    cimmex
     
  5. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    I've posted an excerpt of a late war P-38 manual, where it was explicitly said that Germans called it the Fork-tailed devil. So if M. Caidin wrote it, he was not the 1st to do so.
     
  6. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Interesting but I'll still take it with a grain of salt considering many Luftwaffe expertian didn't have a lot of respect for the P-38. I agree with cimmex's statement on this one.
     
  7. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    I'm sure that the guys on the ground that were on the receiving end of the P-38 (and P-47, P-51, etc) had all sorts of choice names they were calling it! :lol:

    The first time I ever heard it called the "fork-tail devil", was from my great uncle who flew it (PTO), and not from a friend of the family who was Luftwaffe (ETO, N. Africa).
     
  8. Thorlifter

    Thorlifter Well-Known Member

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    So I'm taking this as there may be some truth to the story, but maybe it wasn't a widely used nickname.
     
  9. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    This story may have some credence but I think Cadin made more of the name (and LW fear factor) of the P-38 than actual fact.
     
  10. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    This will be the first time I have ever heard of it being called that in Germany.

    There is actually no documentation of it.
     
  11. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    #11 GregP, Feb 2, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2014
    Until I spoke with this guy at the museum, I gave it little credence, too. Now, I'm not saying it was prevalent, but am wondering a bit. As I said above, I make no claims and am just passing it along for whatever it may be worth.

    I have not "jumped onto the badwagon, so to speak, but have a curiosity that may never be answered. It isn't the first time.
     
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  12. bobbysocks

    bobbysocks Well-Known Member

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    didnt happen to get any info as to which outfit his and his wife's father flew out of did you?
     
  13. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    #13 GregP, Feb 2, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2014
    Actually oiur conversation was interrupted by two warbird flights and we didn't pursue it quite that far. We flew our Douglas SBD Dauntless and then the B-25, which generated a lot of crowd interest, as you'd expect at an aircraft museum. They seemed like very nice people and I hope they had a good time on their visit.
     
  14. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    It might be worth it to pursue this story again, especially if anyone come across German nationals who were around during or shortly after WW2 who could verify this story and also verify the source branch or service, units and time period.

    Despite Cadin's "propaganda" on this name, I do find it funny that it was mentioned in a late model P-38 flight manual (as earlier mentioned) and am wondering if this was the actual source of this story or was it placed in the manual based on word of moth stories from the front.
     
  15. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    That is what I have always thought. There may have been a German pilot who may have said it originally or something like that, but Cadin pretty much took it and ran with it. There is simply no evidence that it was said in wide spread use or even a "semi official" nickname.
     
  16. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    Or for "moral" propaganda purposes.
     
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  17. bobbysocks

    bobbysocks Well-Known Member

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    that was why i was hoping greg got the JG that the fathers of the couple flew in...would have been a good place to start searching.
     
  18. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    Should this seemingly rather unlikely event ever crop up again, you can bet that will be my first question.

    In hindsight, it seems rather stupid of me not to have pursued it, but you DO get preempted when a warbird starts up and gets the attention of the guests.

    Again, I make no claim that the term was widely used.
     
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  19. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    Joe has a point and taking a look at how "Kilroy was here" and other terms went "viral" back then, anything's possible.
     
  20. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    This is very interesting indeed.
     
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