P-38 Lightning: First Victories Over Japanese Aircraft

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by FinishForty, Aug 9, 2011.

  1. FinishForty

    FinishForty New Member

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    August 9, 1942: Two P-38 Lightnings of the 343rd Fighter Group were near the end of a long patrol when they intercepted and shot down two Japanese "Mavis" flying boats. These were the first combat victories for P-38s, which went on to shoot down more than 1800 Japanese aircraft during the war, more than any other aircraft type. From the point of view of Japanese pilots, maybe the P-38 was the best - or most feared - aircraft of the war!
     
  2. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    The Hellcat downed over 5200 aircraft, the Corsair over 2100. Even the Wildcat over 1300.

    Even the P40 may have surpassed 1800, but it was flown by so many different nations in so many parts of the world it's hard to add up the totals.
     
  3. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    P-38 had about 1,800 kills (claims) in the PTO, about 700 in the ETO (from memory). It was creditied as having the most kills for an AAF fighter in the PTO, but even with overclaims by the USN, The Helcat and Corsair had more kills (claims).
     
  4. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    A little off topic maybe, but has anyone ever totaled up all P40 claims by all it's user in every theater of war?
     
  5. FinishForty

    FinishForty New Member

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    Thanks for clarifying, guys- most credits for a USAAF aircraft type.
     
  6. Rivet

    Rivet Member

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    We sent a skyful of P-40's to the VVS, along with other major warbird types. The figures on kills losses and reasons why are located at :

    Lend-Lease on airforce.ru

    Regards
     
  7. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    finish forty, the P38 was credited with 1700 kills in the PTO and 157 kills in the CBI. Those would be all against Japanese AC. Even the lowly Wildcat was credited with 1408 kills in the PTO. In the whole war the P38 was credited with 3785 kills. That puts it in third place, well behind the P51 and F6F.

    The P40 was credited with a total of 1994 E/A shot down in all theaters during the war.
     
  8. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    IMO that's eight months too late.

    US Warplanes
    We produced about 450 P-38s during 1941.

    http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/australia/oceania_pol01.jpg
    They should have been providing fighter cover for supply convoys traveling between Darwin, Australia and the Philippines. The P-38 was our only fighter aircraft with endurance sufficient for that mission.
     
  9. Vincenzo

    Vincenzo Active Member

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    i've a doubt, looking on 343rd i find was actived in september.. so in august the P-38 were not of 343rd FG
     
  10. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    It's 1800 miles from Darwin to Manila, early model P-38's had a range of 1200 miles, that wouldn't even get them to the southernmost Phillippine island. So at the most they could fly 600 miles from Darwin, and turn back. There's plenty of islands between Darwin and the Philippines, but it would take time to set up temporary airfields, with gas, etc.
     
  11. vanir

    vanir Banned

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    Escort/patrol range is closer to 480 miles. About the extent of long distance fighter range in 43 was one end of the Solomons to the other and back, on fumes.

    No way a Lightning flies from Darwin any near the Phillipines. It's a crazy zig zag, passing through entire weather regions and trekking a whole section of the globe. It looks rational only on a map, standing on a Darwinian airport in a twin engine with under 5 tons of fuel on board it's humour. Crazy american humour.
     
  12. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    Aside from the range issues that site is at odds with the Figures from AHT. Of course it may be measuring different things. There is a difference between produced and accepted, small but there. AHT claims 207 P-38s produced by the end of the year. There is also the difference between starting production and when the plane rolls out the door (which is before the acceptance flights). On something like a P-38 it could be several weeks before an air-frame makes it from start of assembly (start of production) till it is rolled out the door. On Dec 7 1941 the USAAF had a total of 69 P-38s in active service. The only fully equipped unit is the 1st pursuit group at Selfridge Field Michigan. On Dec 8 they start to move to San Diego to defend the West Coast. It takes until the 22nd to complete the move. Over seas deployment could take weeks or even several months at that point in the war.
    April 7 1942 the First Lightnings arrive in Australia, they are F-4 recon versions.
    April 15 1942, The First fighter group is is to be sent to England by air. 100 new P-38Fs are prepped by Lockheed for the trip.
    May 29th 1942, the First P-38E are sent to Alaska.
    June 11th the !st fighter group is returned from the east coast to the west coast because of the Midway threat but stopped in Charlotte NC.

    The US believed in equipping and training units in the US before sending them overseas as much as possible. You not only had to train the pilots but the mechanics and maintenance people without whom the planes would soon be useless. At this point in the war they were using the early models of the air craft (for the most part) as these training aircraft and then re-equipping the units with factory fresh aircraft before deployment.

    With P-38Fs (with combat flaps) coming of the line in March of 1942 sending handfulls of less than the newest planes with inadequate support thousands of miles across the ocean doesn't sound like it really would have accomplished anything except changing a date in the record book.
     
  13. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Why wouldn't the P-38s take advantage of numerous island airfields just like our B-17s and P-40s did at the beginning of WWII?
     
  14. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    There were no P-38's in the Philippines or Australia, it takes more than just a plane and a pilot for a new aircraft to be deployed in a new theater of war.
    This is all pie in the sky nonsense, by the time they could have shipped P-38's to Australia and got them operational the Philippines would have already fell.
     
  15. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    Quite true.
    3 weeks or so to assemble even a squadron or two of p-38s at a west coast port (end of December). A few days (or week?) to load the ship. 7500 miles from Los Angeles to Sydney (even at 20kts, a very fast ship) 326 hours or 13.6 days. a 12 kt ship is 544hrs (22.6 days) un-load the ship (end of January). Re-assemble the planes (1-2 per day), test fly, and when squadron strength is reached deploy first squadron to North Coast. 2nd week of February? 3rd week? This may be after ALL p-40 operations have ceased in the Philippines. One squadron of P-38s (or two by early March) are going to make little difference to the outcome. Darwin is also hundreds of miles from any other Australian city and at the time had no paved road connections and the only rail line was from Adelaide in the south, Which connected to the east and west coasts. However the Australian railways were not all the same gauge. Supplies and support personnel to Darwin would be long and difficult.

    That is the basic problem with any idea of fast reinforcement of the Philippines or even Australia, One month at absolute best and more likely two months from when an item reaches the loading docks (not leaves the factory door, that could add 1-4 weeks more) to when it is usable in an assembly area in Australia let alone redeployed into a combat zone.
     
  16. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Also many of the 450 P-38s produced in 1941 were not combat ready. Many were retrofitted out in the field and there was still a lot of training going on as the aircraft was being introduced into the AAF. It wasn't until late 1942 where the P-38 started flying serious combat missions and even then there were great logistic challenges that needed to be overcome.
     
  17. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    That sounds like the real reason.

    If the P-38 had entered operational service 6 months earlier it had the potential to make a significant difference at the (U.S.A) beginning of WWII. But if it wasn't ready then it's a moot point.
     
  18. MikeGazdik

    MikeGazdik Member

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    On top of all of the above reasons, from what I recall, the F-4 photo recon verson of the Lightning was also a big reason for operational fighters not getting to the front. A decent amount of production was set aside for this important facet.
     
  19. JoeB

    JoeB Member

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    #19 JoeB, Nov 6, 2011
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2011
    The two Type 97 Flying Boats (later, but not at that time, codenamed 'Mavis' by the Allies) claimed by 54th FS P-38E's August 4 1942 were from the Toko Air Group. The Toko group’s combat report says one of the two was slightly damaged in the tail by fire from a single ‘B-38’ (as miswritten on the original report) which they spotted, but both returned safely. They expended 90 rounds of 7.7mm in return w/o making any claim. Even the original report by the P-38 pilots admitted the target a/c disappeared into cloud or fog. Later telling, paintings etc. made it look clearer cut.

    August 14, 1942 a 33rd FS P-40C and 27th FS P-38F in Iceland shared credit for an FW-200. This was a/c code F8+BB of I./KG 40 which failed to return to its base in Norway, whole crew missing, first certain enemy loss in which a P-38 participated.

    On September 28 1942, a 54th FS P-38E was credited with one ‘float Zero’ and 57th FS P-39’s were credited with two on a mission over Kiska. One Type 2 Float Fighter was actually lost and 2 others damaged (in return one P-39 was downed by a Type 2) so this is the first possible actual victory of a P-38 over Japanese a/c.

    The max demonstrated radius of P-38E’s (54th’s were modified for extra internal fuel and drop tanks as became standard from ‘F’ model) was 630 statute miles, Umnak to Kiska, though this was soon viewed as too risky in Aleutian conditions and intense P-38 ops over Kiska awaited establishment of the field on Adak, much closer to Kiska. It took quite awhile for any P-38 missions to exceed that radius, though by 1944 P-38J’s with pilots trained in cruise control eventually exceeded 1000 statute mile radius missions in the approach to the Philippines. The max radius flown by Model 21 Zeroes in 1942 was over 650 miles, Vunakanau to Henderson Field.

    And as mentioned, the P-38 had lots of bugs early on, so-so availability even when committed to combat on a somewhat larger scale from late '42. The few units operating P-38's in combat in mid '42 (in the Aleutians and Iceland) were dealing with an immature a/c in challenging flying conditions. It was an achievement to just fly the airplanes safely. The P-38 existed in December 1941 but was just not a real operational type at that time, or for months afterward.

    Joe
     
  20. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    You sure about that? Did you mean 1942?

    I see only 36 P38D's were built in all of 1941, and the initial batch of 210 P38E's were begun to be built in Sept 1941 (with this batch in production until April 1942, so only a fraction were ready by Jan 1942).
     
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