Some reading about P-38

Discussion in 'Flight Test Data' started by seesul, Feb 18, 2009.

  1. seesul

    seesul Active Member

    Jun 3, 2006
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    The P-38 (C.C. Jordan; MakinKid; CDB100620)

    I'm offering the suggestion that the P-38L (and later J models) was the
    best all-around fighter aircraft of World War II, not based on the numbers
    or book references, but on the views of two WWII pilots who flew the
    aircraft--and others--in combat. One was my father-in-law, Elliott Dent
    (who posted once to this group when he was visiting me) and Sidney Woods,
    a WWII buddy of my father-in-law who fought in both Europe and the
    Pacific. I'll refer to them as Elliott and Sidney.

    Elliott flew P-40s in combat with the 49 FG before switching to P-38s.
    He liked the P-40. His only complaint, and it was a major one, was that
    the model he flew mostly, the N, was a pig at altitude.

    The P-38, however, was a vast improvement. Things he cited as making the
    P-38 superior to other WWII fighters:

    First and foremost (although usually overlooked by nonpilots) was its
    tricycle landing gear. WWII fighters had landing speeds too high for
    conventional gear. There was always that critical point in landing when
    speed had dropped such that the rudder was ineffective, yet the tail was
    still in the air and trying to use wheel braking to control direction
    would collapse a gear or lead to a ground loop. Exhausted pilots
    returning from multi-hour combat missions didn't need the final challenge
    of a fast landing in a tail-dragger. The P-38 floated in and planted
    itself. If you came in a little fast, you could use the dive brakes to
    slow down before your wheels touched. I'm sure everyone has seen the film
    of that F4U landing at Guadalcanal that balloons and floats down the
    runway forever. That sort of thing couldn't happen with a P-38.

    Second, two engine reliability. Especially on long over-water flights,
    the security of having a spare engine in case one quit, simply can't be
    appreciated by a non-combat pilot. As much as he liked the P-40, Elliott
    recalls that the tension of listening intently to the engine--what was
    that noise? Was that a miss? Did it just stutter?--soaked his flight
    suit with sweat. And many a compatriot who reported engine trouble and
    broke out of formation was never heard from again.

    Third, range. The P-38 could go where the action was, or trade range for
    payload and carry a bomber's load. Only the P-51D and P-47N (which came
    along very late in the war) were in its range playground.

    Fourth, let's call steadyness. With engines turning in opposite
    directions, the P-38 was stable in all maneuvers and could roll equally
    well right or left. The big-engined, big-propped singles had torque and
    P-factor problems that became increasingly pronounced as speed dropped, as
    in a dog fight (which you shouldn't get into, of course, but sometimes you
    do anyway). They always rolled faster one way than the other. The P-38
    driver just rolled the way they couldn't to escape, On the ground this
    made them genuinely dangerous to operate.

    Fifth, firepower concentration and range. The P-38's nose gun arrangement
    got rid of all the problems of wing guns, specifically the need to be
    within a specific range for the fire to tell. Anywhere within 1,000 yards
    would give you hits. Given the tendency for unexperienced pilots to open
    fire too far away, the P-38 offered the greatest chance for strikes. Much
    wing-gun fire was wasted, especially by low-combat time pilots who fired
    at twice or three times nominal range. In head-on attacks, where it is
    virtually impossible to hold your fire until you hit the "sweet spot"
    where the wing guns converge, the P-38's advantage of pointing yourself at
    the enemy and holding the trigger down was signficant.

    Sixth, dive brakes. Any aircraft that could reach the vicinity of 400 mph
    at 20,000 feet would have compressibilty problems in a dive. Only the
    P-38J/L offered a solution.

    Elliot was credited with six kills and five probables. Among other
    medals, he was awarded the DSC, the DFC, the Air Medal, the Purple Heart.
    He flew 251 combat missions.
    He piloted the P-40 and P-38 in combat, the P-39 and P-51 stateside.

    Sidney flew P-40s and P-38s with the 49FG. He participated in the Battle
    of the Bismark Sea. He flew 112 combat missions with the 49th. After a
    rest stateside, he went to the 4th FG in Europe. He flew 68 combat
    missions in Europe in P-51s. I don't know what he may have flown

    Sidney shot down two Japanese planes with the 49th and 10 with the 4th
    (one of these on the ground, as the USAAF in the ETO counted aircraft
    destroyed on the ground as kills. The USAAF in the PTO did not). Five of
    the air kills were FW-190s. Among the medals awarded him that I know
    about, were the Silver Star, the DFC, the Croix de Guerre and the Air

    Sidney described the Mustang as a super P-40. He did not consider it in
    the same class with the P-38. He often said that the P-40 and P-51
    represented pre-war air combat thinking, and that the P-38 represented the
    future. That's a broad statement, and I can't recall his specific reasons
    for making it, but it does give you a sense of his feeling for the
    Sidney said that were he flying the P-38 in Europe he could have shot down
    more planes than he did. On more than one occasion, for example, he noted
    that while he was closing in to wing-gun range an FW would execute one of
    its fabulous snap-rolls and split-S away. Had he been in a P-38 he could
    have opened fire seconds earlier, gained strikes for certain, possibly
    destroying the aircraft.

    Sidney believed the poor showing of the P-38 in the ETO was the result of
    AAF brass, who, pre-war were wedded to the unescorted heavy bomber
    concept, and didn't dare admit, in the face of terrible bomber losses,
    that they had a perfectly capable figher capable of escorting their
    bombers from day one to the farthest target they ventured to--but they
    chose not to use it. Instead, they mutually, if unconsciously, fixed on
    every reason they could find to discount the P-38 as a capable fighter.
    They could then say they had no choice but to go unescorted until the P-51
    came along. Had they said, Yeah, we had a good escort fighter in the P-38
    but decided not to use it, congressional committees would have been
    demanding to know who screwed the pooch (his phrase).

    As far as a combat type went, I recall Sidney talking about how it was
    impossible to overshoot an aerial target in a dive with the P-38. If you
    saw that you were overtaking faster than you liked, you popped the speed
    brakes. Couldn't do that with any other plane. He also liked the low
    speed maneuvering flaps, the hydraulicly boosted ailerons, and the overall
    ruggedness of the airplane.

    He felt that the AAF made a mistake in not standardizing the P-38 as "the"
    fighter and having Republic and North American build it as well as

  2. seesul

    seesul Active Member

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    The P-38 (C.C. Jordan; MakinKid; CDB100620)

    Thirteen P-38 FGs were deployed in Europe and Med Theaters:
    1, 14, 20, 55, 78, 81, 82, 350, 364, 367, 370, 474, 479.

    Photo recon versions of the P-38 (F-4 and F-5) served in Europe and the
    Med in five PRGs:
    3, 5, 10, 67, 68.

    The 1FG and 14FG were first to receive P-38 in spring, 1941.

    P-38s equipped a total of 27 FG and 10 PRG.

    In Europe, the P-38 flew some 130,000 sorties. That compares with about
    214,000 for the P-51 and 423,000 for the P-47.

    Aside from about 20 F-4/5s given to the Free French air force, only the
    USAAF used P-38s during the war (a handful of non-turbo, non-handed
    versions went to and were rejected by the RAF). One of these proved the
    coffin of Antoine de Saint Exupery, author of "Wind, Sand and Stars" and
    other aviation literature standards, who disappeared on a flight over
    southern France, 31 July, 1944.

    The first German plane shot down by the USAAF in WWII is generally
    credited to a P-38 on 14 Aug., 1942, an FW-200C downed by Elza Shaham of
    342 Composite FG.

    The first allied fighters over Berlin were P-38s of the 55FG on 3 March,

    The 1FG was the only USAAF fighter group during the war to win two
    Presidential Unit Citations in less than a week, for actions in the MTO.

    On two occasions, once in the Pacific and once in the Med, a lone P-38
    escorting a group of bombers succeeded in driving off numbers of enemy
    fighters attempting to attack the bombers, in each case shooting down one
    e/a that got too close. The Pacific incident involved a P-38 from the
    475FG, which shot down a Ki-61 from a gaggle going after B-25s, and the
    Med incident invoved a P-38 from the 1FG that shot down an Me-109 from a
    gaggle going after B-25s. In each case, the lone P-38 had been late off
    the runway, missed the rendevous and proceeded on alone hoping to catch up
    to the rest of the squadron, which was, in each case, turned back by bad
    weather that the late starter missed.

    The leading P-38 aces in the Med were Micheal Brezas who shot down 12
    German planes (2 Me-210, 4 Me-109, 6 FW-190) while serving with the 14FG,
    and William Sloan, who shot down 12 German and Italian a/c (6 Me-109, 2
    Mc-200, 1 Mc-202, 1 Re-2001, 1 Ju-88, 1 Do-217) while serving with the

    The 55FG began operations out of England on 15 Oct., 1943, one day after
    Black Thursday when some 60 B-17s were lost on the second Schweinfurt
    raid. First encounter with Luftwaffe on 3 Nov., shot down 3 Me-109 with
    no loss to selves. On 5 Nov., down five Me-109s with no loss. On 13
    Nov., in a sprawling, large-scale battle, shot down 3 FW-190, 2 Ju-88, 1
    Me-109, 1 Me-210 but lost 5 P-38s shot down. Two more were lost due to
    engine problems. On 29 Nov. 7 P-38s were shot down for the loss of no
    German planes.
    Problems that surfaced with the P-38 in northern European theatre included
    its poor performance above 30,000 ft compared to the Me-109, caused by its
    lack of high activity propellers able to make use of the power the engines
    were delivering at that altitude. The F models used also had insufficient
    intercooler capacity. Some indication that TEL anti-knock compound was
    not being properly mixed into avgas as well (at this time TEL was still
    blended by hand into fuel shortly before use rather than being blended
    when produced. This was because in those days the compound tended to
    precipitate out if left standing too long. This problem later corrected.
    Others believed either too much (leading to plug fouling) or not enough
    (detonation) TEL was being added, causing engine problems.
    Another problem that was revealed by the Nov. actions was that 55FG pilots
    were attempting to dogfight e/a. Their airplane may have been up to the
    job, but the pilots weren't (many had as little of 20 hours total time on
    the P-38, and little or no air to air gunnery training, and were
    especially lacking in deflection shooting skills. Many after-action
    contact reports tell of repeated bursts of fire at deflection angles with
    no results. Most kills were the result of dead-astern shots). An 8th AF
    report examining the failures of the 55FG noted one main problem was that
    the P-38 as an airplane was simply too complicated and too demanding for a
    low-time service pilot to fly skillfully, let alone dogfight in. It noted
    that many pilots were afraid of the P-38. 55FG lost 17 P-38s in combat in
    Nov., while being credited with 23 e/a destroyed in the air.
    Morale in 55FG plummeted, and numerous pilots aborted missions claiming
    mechanical problems--giving the a/c type a bad rep for mechanical
    unreliability, although u/s reports reveal that in most cases the ground
    crew could find nothing wrong with the aircraft. In many instances the
    ground crews hinted that the pilots were merely cowards. In one u/s
    report, the pilot had aborted the mission because he claimed the piss tube
    was too short and he could not use it. The ground crew chief wrote in his
    report: "Piss tube to spec. Problem is pilot's dick is too short."

    20FG entered N. Euro. combat at the end of Dec, '43. Did not appear to
    suffer from the morale and leadership problems of the 55FG. First
    contacted Luftwaffe on 29 Jan. '44. Downed 3 FW-190, 3 Me-110, 3 Me-210,
    1 Me-109. No P-38s lost. 3 FWs downed by Lindol Graham, who used only
    his single 20mm cannon, 12 shots per plane. (Lindol later crashed and was
    killed while attempting to kill the fleeing crew of an Me-110 he had just
    forced down in a low-level fight. The two men were floundering across a
    snow-covered field and it appeared that Lindol attempted to hit them with
    his props. His plane seemed to hit the ground, then bounce back up,
    soaring into a chandelle, then falling off on its nose and diving straight
    into the ground.)
    On 8 Feb. James Morris of 20FG downed 3 FW-190s in a single combat,
    involving tight turns (in which the P-38's maneuvering flap setting [8
    degrees extension] was used) and an Me-109 as returning home, the first
    quadruple kill for an 8AF fighter. All kills were made with dead astern
    shots. Morris missed all his deflection shots. Interestingly, two of the
    FWs were first encountered head-on and Morris was able to reverse and
    maneuver onto their tails while they tried with all their might to get on
    his--and failed. Three days later he downed an Me-109, making him the
    first P-38 ace flying out of England. (He would score a total of 8
    victories before being shot down on 7 July, the highest score of any
    UK-based P-38 pilot.)

    364FG arrived in UK in Feb., '44. Led by Col John Lowell, who had helped
    develop the P-38 at Wright-Pat, on its first mission over Berlin on 6
    March, he downed 2 Me-109s, and two more on 8 March. On 9 March he downed
    an FW-190. He was eventually to tally 11 kills in the P-38, but several
    were downgraded to probables after the war.
    Col Mark Hubbel took over the 20th on 17 March. He believed P-38
    excellent fighter against Luftwaffe and proved it by promptly shooting
    down 2 Me-109 and sharing a third with his wingman. He may have downed a
    fourth Me-109 which he was seen pursuing as it streamed smoke in a dive.
    He was last seen chasing yet another Me-109, this time through the door
    of a church. Neither planes nor church survived the encounter.
    During the late winter of 1944 ocurred the famous dual between a
    Griffon-engined Spitfire XV and a P-38H of the 364FG. Col. Lowell few the
    P-38, engaging the Spitfire at 5,000 ft. in a head-on pass. Lowell was
    able to get on the Spitfire's tail and stay there no matter what the
    Spitfire pilot did. Although the Spitfire could execute a tighter turning
    circle than the P-38, Lowell was able to use the P-38's excellent stall
    characteristics to repeatedly pull inside the Spit's turn radius and ride
    the stall, then back off outside the Spit's turn, pick up speed and cut
    back in again in what he called a "cloverleaf" maneuver. After 20 minutes
    of this, at 1,000 ft. altitude, the Spit tried a Spit-S (at a 30-degree
    angle, not vertically down). Lowell stayed with the Spit through the
    maneuver, although his P-38 almost hit the ground. After that the
    Spitfire pilot broke off the engagement and flew home. This contest was
    witnessed by 75 pilots on the ground.

    Ultimately 7 P-38 FG were operational in northern Europe. The 474th was
    the only one to retain the P-38 till the end of the war. As pilots grew
    used to the plane and developed confidence in it, it successes against the
    Luftwaffe grew. On 7 July, '44, P-38s of the 20FG downed 25 out of 77 e/a
    destroyed that day, the highest of any group.
    The last UK-based P-38 ace was Robin Olds of the 479FG. On 14 Aug., '44,
    while flying alone, he encountered two FW-190s and engaged them in a
    dogfight, shooting both down.
    On 25 Aug, P-38s from 367 encountered FW-190s of JG-6, a top Luftwaffe
    unit. Wild, low-level battle ensued in which 8 P-38s and 20 FW-190s were
    down. Five of the FWs were shot down by Capt. Lawrence Blumer. 367
    received a Presidential Unit Citation as a result of this battle.
    On the same day, P-38s from 474 shot down 21 FW-190s for the loss of 11
    P-38s. The same day Olds' of 479 downed three Me-109s in a running battle
    that saw his canopy shot off.
    On 26 Sept., P-38s of the 479 downed 19 e/a near Munster. Shortly after
    that most P-38s were gradually replaced by P-51s.
    The last long-range bomber escort in northern Europe by P-38s was on 19
    Nov. '44 when 367FG escorted bombers to Merzig, Germany. FW-190s
    attempted to intercept. P-38s downed six with no losses. No bombers were
    lost either. It was a good way to end the P-38s air-superiority role in
    northern Europe
  3. seesul

    seesul Active Member

    Jun 3, 2006
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    The P-38 (C.C. Jordan; MakinKid; CDB100620)

    The cockpit heating problem was taken care of on the P-38L, the definitive
    Lightning, which made up about half the production run. But that didn't
    help pilots in the ETO or MTO in 1943 and early 1944. There were many
    cases of pilots being forced to abort mission because their hands and feet
    were frostbitten.

    One problem the P-38 had in dealing with the Me-109, but not the FW-190
    (which was more of a low and mid-altitude fighter) was the Me's high
    altitude performace superiority. Above 25,000 ft., cooling or
    supercharger impeller or turbine speeds became limiting for the Lockheed,
    and high speed capability started to fall off. At low altitudes, the
    plane could max out at about 330-340 mph. This rose to well above 400 mph
    between 25,000 to 30,000. As the plane approached 30,000 ft, speeds over
    Mach 0.60 could be sustained in level flight. Thus, manuevering could
    quickly give the plane compressibility problems. At Mach 0.65 (290 mph
    IAS, 440 mph TAS at 30,000 ft.; 360 mph IAS, 460 mph TAS at 20,000 ft.)
    drag began to soar as the plane began to encounter compressibility. At
    Mach 0.67 shock waves began forming and buffeting began at Mach 0.675. At
    Mach 0.74 tuck under began. Buffeting developed at a lower Mach number in
    any maneuver exceeding 1 g.
    What this meant to a pilot in combat in say, a P-38H such as that used by
    the 55FG or 20FG circa Jan. '44, was that if, at high altitude such as
    Me-109s preferred approaching bomber formations, he locked on to the e/a
    and it split-S'ed and dove away (typical Luftwaffe evasive maneuver), if
    he attempted to follow, his P-38 would start to vibrate, then start
    bucking like a rodeo bronco, the control column would begin flail back and
    forth so forcefully it would probably be ripped out of his hands and begin
    pounding him to crap. Once the plane dropped down to lower altitude where
    the speed of sound was higher, the buffeting declined and the trim tab
    could be used to haul the airplane out of what seemed to be a death dive.
    Recovery with trim tab resulted in 5 g pull-out. Many a low-time service
    pilot would be so shaken by this experience that he would never dive the
    P-38 again, and might be so afraid of the airplane that his usefullness as
    a fighter pilot was over.
    The late J and L models solved this problem with the installation of a
    dive flap. Extend the flaps at the beginning of a dive and all problems
    were eliminated. Again, these models weren't available in the critical
    period between fall 1943 and spring 1944 when the most desperate battles
    against the Luftwaffe took place, and when the P-38s rep in Europe was
    The reason P-38s were as successful as they were in Europe (and it should
    be kept in mind they performed their escort role before it was decided to
    free the fighters from the bombers to seek out e/a on favorable terms so
    they were always forced to engage on unfavorable terms) was at least in
    part because they were wonderful aerobatic airplanes with absolutely no
    maneuvers restricted except the dive. Loops, Immelmans, slow and snap
    rolls, Cuban could perform them all with perfection. It had a
    wonderful ability to perform in the vertical, with an excellent rate of
    climb, splendid zoom climb. It could easily change direction while
    executing vertical maneuvers. It was also a very stable gun platform,
    being stable and very smooth while executing maneuvers.

    In contrast, the P-51, had far fewer compressibility problems at speeds
    normally encountered in combat, including dives from high altitude. The D
    model was placarded at 300 mph IAS (539 mph TAS, Mach 0.81) at 35,000 ft.
    In a dive, the P-51 was such an aerodynamically clean design that it could
    quickly enter compressibility if the dive was continued (in reality, a
    pilot could, as a rule, catch any German plane before compressibility
    became a problem). But, say, in an evasive dive to escape, as the P-51's
    speed in the dive increased, it started skidding beyond what the pilot
    could control (this could be a problem in a dive onto a much lower-flying
    plane or ground target--couldn't keep the plane tracking on the target if
    speed was too high). As compressibility was entered, it would start
    rolling and pitching and the whole plane would begin to vibrate. This
    began about Mach 0.72. The pilot could maintain control to above Mach
    0.80 (stateside tests said 0.83 (605 mph) was max safe speed--but
    structural damage to the aircraft would result).
    The P-51's quirk that could catch the uprepared service pilot by surprise
    was that as airspeed built up over 450 mph, the plane would start to get
    very nose heavy. It needed to be trimmed tail heavy before the dive if
    speeds over 400 mph were anticipated. However, in high speed dives, the
    plane's skidding changed to unintended snap rolls so violent that the
    pilot's head was slammed against the canopy. Depending on how much fuel
    was in the fuselage tank, on pull-out stick force reversal could occur, a
    real thrill that could totally flummox a low-time service pilot diving
    earthward at close to 1,000 ft per second trying to escape a pursuer.
    The P-51 was a good dogfighter, positively stable under all flight
    routines. A pilot didn't have to work hard to get it to the limits of its
    flight envelope (that is, he wasn't sweating heaving and pushing and
    pulling and kicking to get it to move its ass.) It was important to burn
    down fuel in the fuselage tank to avoid longitudenal instabillity.
    Cranking into a tight turn with too much go-juice in the tank would mean
    instant stick force reversal and the pilot had to brace himself to oppose
    the stick slamming backward into his solar plexus, and shove hard to
    prevent the turn from tightening till, if he was lucky, he entered a high
    speed stall, or, if unlucky, the wing ripped off.
    Turns above 250 mph IAS were the killers, because they resulted in g
    forces high enough to black out the pilot so that he couldn't oppose the
    stick reversal and the Mustang would, unattended, wind itself up into a

    So, which plane would rather go into combat against the Luftwaffe in?
  4. seesul

    seesul Active Member

    Jun 3, 2006
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    The P-38 (C.C. Jordan; MakinKid; CDB100620)

    The P-38... had two heavy engines set
    >out on the wings, way out from the center of gravity for rolling, with the
    >result that it had a poor roll rate.

    The P-38 did not want to roll at all when aileron force was first applied
    (inertial resistance), so there was a heartbeat of hesitation, then the
    plane would very sluggishly begin to roll. This sluggishness persisted
    through about 10 degrees of roll, after which the rate of roll became very
    good; in fact, with the aileron boost of the later J and L models, the
    faster the plane was going, the faster the rate of roll, giving the plane a
    terrific advantage in high-speed maneuver combat.
    The initial reluctance of the P-38 to enter a roll was easily
    counteracted: throttle back the inside engine briefly as as you turn the
    wheel, then bring power back up. The plane would snap into a roll so fast
    it might knock your head against the canopy. The trick was not to let the
    plane get away from you when doing this. It took praciice to get it right
    and make it an automatic action, especially during the heat of combat.
    The P-38 was splendidly maneuverable and had an excellent rate of climb
    and rapid rate of acceleration. And, of course, its concentrated nose
    armament was a distinct advantage. A good case could be made for the later
    versions being not only the best American fighter of the war, but the best
    piston-engine fighter, period. It flew the longest escort missions of the
    war (2200 miles round trip to the Borneo oil fields from bases in New
    Guinea), successfully battling such very capable fighters as the Ki-44 over
    the target. A P-38 fighter group (the 1FG in the MTO) was the only USAAF
    fighter unit to win two Presidential Unit Citations within the space of 5
    days (one PUC was for a long-range low level attack against Axis airfields
    at Foggia, Italy flown from bases in North Africa, the other was for a
    bomber escort mission during which some 30 P-38s fought off about 125
    German fighters, not letting a single bomber be shot down).
    The P-38's Achilles Heel was its high cost: the Army could buy two P-51s
    for the price of one P-38. Lockheed had never expected to mass-produce the
    design and did not engineer it for easy assembly, unlike the P-51, one of
    the chief unsung virtues of which was its ease of manufacture. The P-38
    was also more expensive and time-consuming to maintain than single-engine
    Here's an excerpt of a Luftwaffe experte's (Heinz Knoke, 52 kills, all in
    the West) description of a duel with a P-38 (from "I Flew for the Fuhrer"):
    "...At once I peel off and dive into the Lightnings below. They spot us
    and swing round towards us to meet the attack.... Then we are in a madly
    milling is a case of every man for himself. I remain on the
    tail of a Lightning for several minutes. It flies like the devil himself,
    turning, diving, and climbing almost like a rocket. I am never able to
    fire more than a few pot-shots...."

    >Dick Bong flew against zekes and oscars. The P-38 had a good record
    >against the second division opponents in the east. In the west, where up
    >to 1943 the luftwaffe was the yardstick, P-38s were not very good. P-38
    >units occasionally suffered severe defeats at the hands of the Luftwaffe
    >in Italy in a way that P-47 or P-51 never did.

    Greatest single loss of P-51s on a combat mission in the ETO for P-51s =
    11(363FG); for the P-38 = 8 (55FG).

    The first quadruple kill by the USAAF in the ETO was acomplished by a P-38,
    which downed 3 FW-190s and 1 Me-109. The three FWs were downed in a classic,
    turning dogfight.

    Re the P-47, Gen. Frank Hunter, commander of VIII Fighter Command, told Gen Ira
    Eaker that the P-47 was not an effective escort fighter and did not want to
    send his fighters on maximum-range missions until he had enough aircraft to
    crush the Luftwaffe by sheer numbers.

    USAAF boss Hap Arnold, discussing the P-38 vs. the P-47 in a letter to Eaker in
    June, 1943, wrote: "I can't help but compare the excellent results
    accomplished with the P-38...and the meager results accomplished by your
    Fighter Command equipped with [the P-47].
    Hunter himself described the P-38 as "a wonderful ship." (This is similar to
    the comment on the P-38 made by George Preddy, the leading Mustang ace. In his
    diary he notes of the P-38: "This is a wonderful flying ship." About the P-47
    he wrote, "This is a nice flying ship." Later he wrote, "Sure getting
    disappointed in the P-47." About the P-51 he wrote, "It's a good flying
    Demand was so great for the P-38 in North Africa and the Pacific, however,
    that there was an insufficient supply and so, by default, the P-47 stayed in
    the ETO.
    Sid Woods flew against the Japanese with the 49FG (one confirmed kill). He
    flew against the Germans with the 479FG and as CO of the 4FG (nine confirmed
    kills). He considered the Japanese tougher foes than the Germans, the pilots
    more skillful, aggressive and determined, the airplanes they flew formidable

    A PTO ditty ran:

    "Don't give me a P-51.
    It was all right for fighting the Hun,
    But if fighting the Jap you try,
    You'll run out of sky.
    Don't give me a P-51."

    The success of SWPA army pilots against the Japanese was a result of good
    tactics. From the get-go, they flew free bomber escort, and ran fighter sweeps
    ahead of bomber formations to break up intercepting fighter formations. In
    combat areas, they flew "loose goose" formations with 1,000 ft. between planes,
    the element leader and wingman free to exchange positions as the tactical
    situation warranted.
    In Europe, tactics were much poorer. In the MTO, throughout the war, pilots
    were required to "beehive" around bombers, and were required to fly in units no
    smaller than the four-ship flight, which did not break up into two-ship
    elements. This meant one shooter and three wingmen, the No 4 man being like
    the last kid in a crack-the-whip game. Once maneuvering began he could not
    possibly maintain station and thus was frequently shot down.
    In the ETO, while the two-ship element was allowed, the formation was very
    tight, thus limiting ACM options. And, especially in the early days of
    long-range fighter escort, they were forced to stick very close to the
    bomers--75 ft. at one time.
    It's astonishing army pilots had any success in Europe at all employing such
    poor tactics. Had army pilots fighting the Japanese used such poor tactics, the
    Japanese would have mopped the floor with them.

    despite the presence of the P-38, the
    >Germans appeared to be relatively undeturred in their attacks on bomber

    On 3 Nov. 1943 P-38s escorted bombers to Wilhemshaven. While the German
    fighters were, as a result of the efforts of the P-38 drivers, only able to
    shoot down three bombers, German fighter losses were sufficiently heavy, II/JGS
    suffering particularly badly (curiously, the 55FG pilots only claimed three
    e/a destroyed), that Gen. Galland held a special meeting with I Jagdkorps'
    division commanders the next day. One of the key decisions made at this
    meeting was to have the "wild sow" single-engine night fighter force
    transferred to day jobs to counter the P-38s. (Here we have what could be
    called "escort-once-removed"--P-38s were, in a way, performing "escort duties"
    for RAF's Bomber Command--drawing fighters away from them.) And it was
    acknowledged that the era of the twin-engined interceptor as an significant
    factor, was ended.
    On Nov. 13, 45 P-38 escorted bombers to Bremen. Only two bombers were lost to
    fighter interception. Throughout Nov and Dec, although the 8AF was sending
    double the no. of bombers against German targets it had in the fall, losses
    were never more than about 5 percent of the attacking force, and were often
    only a mere handful--on the Dec. 13, 1943 mission against Hamburg, for
    example, out of a force of 648 bombers, only 5 were lost. Many German fighter
    formations approached the bombers on this day, but when they saw the fighter
    escorts, refused to engage.
    At the end of Dec. Galland and the staff of Jagdkorp I admitted that their
    tactics against escorted bomber formations had failed.
    So before the P-51 became a significant factor in the air war over Europe, the
    Luftwaffe was stymied. It should be noted, of course, that this was not due
    to the P-38 being some sort of a "superfighter" as much as that it was good
    enough to get the job done (just how good being a subject for debate), which
    was all that was required.
  5. seesul

    seesul Active Member

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    Imagine youself in a
    >fighter, flying towards a life and death combat situation knowing you
    >couldn't dive vertically or exceed a certain speed limit or you might
    >never recover from the dive?

    That's pretty much true of any fighter of the era, and not unique to the P-38.
    It's well documented that P-38 pilots in the ETO were afraid to dive after
    German fighters, who quickly realized that fact, and took advantage of it. The
    problem was not so much the P-38 as the familiarization of the pilots with the
    characteristics of the P-38 and how to handle them. In the case of a dive from
    high altitude in a P-38, the procedures was throttles to idle--let gravity do
    the work--when buffeting begins, bank right and left to slow the descent (doing
    this also helps you keep an eye on what's going on around you). Pretty
    straight forward. Why this wasn't practiced in the ETO is a question, but much
    the USAAF did, fighter-wise, in the ETO is questionable.
    Note also that if a pilot is intent on following an e/a all the way down in a
    dive, he doesn't necessarily have to have a superior dive speed to his foe (in
    fact, if he does, he will very likely overshoot), but he does need to be able
    to keep him in sight until his foe pulls out of his dive. Actually, being some
    distance behind your foe in a dive rather than being right on his tail is the
    best position to be in, because it means he has most likely lost sight of you
    and presumes himself safe, and, once he levels out or begins to climb, his
    speed bleeds off rapidly while you still have the downhill advantage. More
    than one Lightning pilot in the Pacific was downed by a much slower diving Zero
    that persisted in following him down and then reeled him in once he leveled
    off. That's why the veteran P-38 driver in the Pacific would immediately go
    into a corkscrew climb at the completion of a dive in order to clear his tail
    of any trailing e/a.
    If the Me-109, for example, were able to outdive a P-38, the P-38 driver could
    have reeled him in when he leveled out, or, if he were so far ahead as
    preclude that, the superior low-level speed of the P-38 would have brought him
    into gun range. Should the Me pilot have chosen to zoom climb, the P-38's
    superior zoom ability would have come into play.
    The real problem the P-38 pilot faced in the fall of 1943 in theETO was, on an
    equipment basis, the fact that the Me-109, in particular, had very good initial
    acceleration in the dive--even better than a P-40 (which, given time, could
    overhaul a diving Me). This would allow the Me driver to escape the attention
    of the Lightning pilot, who was, in those days, constrained to stay close to
    the bombers and so would not follow a diving Me 109 very far in any case.
    Weather was another major factor. Limiting it to the situation in immediate air
    combat, the superior initial acceleration of the Me over the P-38 would enable
    it to disappear into clouds and escape.
    Then there is the matter of training, with 55FG pilots having as little as 20
    hours time in the P-38 before being sent on long-range missions in the European
    winter, a time when, traditionally, fighter operations wound down.
    The P-38 pilots faced an almost impossible job in the ETO with equipment that
    had not yet been optimized for that job. Merely flying a single-seat fighter
    in the kind of weather they encountered on such a long flight was a major feat.
    To escort bombers and fend off fighters while being forced to employ incorrect
    tactics made their job almost impossible. Yet they acomplished the job they
    were assigned--reduce bomber losses to fighter interception.

    Even during the war, the P-38, P-47 and P-51 each had adherents who argued the
    favorable points of each, sometimes quite vehemently, and, obviously, the
    arguments continue today. Capt. Jim Tapp was training supervisor of the 78FS
    of the 21FG temporarily based at Bellows while it transitioned from P-47s to
    P-51s. One day, he was flying a P-47 in company with two P-51s when they were
    bounced by two P-38s. "They ended up chasing each other in a circle with the
    performance pretty equal. I had the P-47 wide open and was turning inside all
    of them, but they seemed to be making two circles to my one. The P-47 would
    have done better high up, but even at altitude the 47 wasn't a match for the 51
    or 38."
    Later, the P-47 adherents challenged the P-51 buffs to a race. A P-47D-26
    belonging to the group CO, Col. Beckworth, was stripped of bomb racks, gone
    over with extra care by the ground crew and waxed till it shone. Capt. Tapp
    grabbed the first available P-51D he could sign out. The duo met up over Kaena
    Point at 30,000 and headed for Bellows. When the P-47 was at full throttle and
    full rpm, Tapp asked, "Is that all you've got?" When he received an
    affirmative, he opened the Mustang's throttle to "full goose bozo" position and
    simply ran away from the Jug. Tapp was back on the ground sipping a Coke when
    the Col's. P-47 touched down.
    In a mock dogfight between the Mustang and the Lightning, the skilled P-38
    driver would fight in the vertical, taking advantage of his superior climb
    speed and aerobatic ability. The skilled Mustang pilot would attempt to extend
    away and come back unobserved. Once either locked onto the tail of the other,
    it would be very difficult to shake. The P-38 driver in such a situation would
    want to work the speed of the engagement down into the stall area where the
    Mustang couldn't follow him. He could also split-S, dive and zoom, probably
    losing the P-51. The Mustang pilot with a P-38 on his tail had fewer options.
    At high altitude, he could point the nose at the ground and keep it there till
    the the Lightning dwindled, then zoom climb into a fast, shallow climb to
    extend away.
    Interesting that the twin-engine fighter would have the advantage in a slow
    turning contest, or in the vertical--loops, split-Ses.
    What would typically happen if a Mustang bounced a Lightning would be that the
    P-38 would split-S, the Mustang would follow through the roll but keep on
    diving for some distance before pulling out, then circle around for another try
    at a bounce. The Lightning pilot would continue the split-S up into a loop and
    scan the sky for the Mustang. Typically, he would spot him some distance below
    beginning a pull out. The Lightning driver would finish the loop and fall on
    the climbing Mustang, locking onto his tail. The smart Mustang pilot would
    reduce the chance of this by rolling out of h is escape dive into a climb in a
    different direction. He might do a corkscrew climb. The "winner" of the
    dogfight would be the pilot who better kept sight of his foe, who better
    anticipated what his foe would do next, and who knew what to do with his own
    airplane to counter that anticipated move; in other words, the better pilot
    won--not the airplane.
  6. seesul

    seesul Active Member

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    Besides, my point is that the Americans would eventually have developped a
    >> long-range fighter (and the P-38 could have gained air superiority over
    >> Germany if the United States had had to produce it instead of the P-51
    >> P-47).
    > In his book"The First and the Last" Adolf Galland, who fought
    >them said that the P-38 was no better than the ME-110
    >so called fighter.
    > If P-38s with better performance had been built they may
    >have had a better chance.

    We have had some exhausting debates on the merits of the P-38; both
    here and over at rec.military.aviation. Much of the effort in these debates
    has been to overcome the post war myth that the P-51 was best fighter
    to emerge from WWII. Let's establish a few undisputed facts. Undisputed
    by those who have done the research. Frequently disputed by those who have
    not. I'll provide ten reasons why Galland's comments should be dismissed
    as mere piss and wind.

    1) Adolf Galland has never been accused of being the standard of objective
    writing, or public speaking. A fine pilot and tactician, Galland frequent wrote
    and spoke about things, of which, he had minimal firsthand knowledge and
    understanding. About 15 years ago he got into a discussion with several
    former P-38 pilots about his comments in the First and the Last. Pressed,
    he admitted that his comments were not so much his own, but those of
    some of his pilots. He also admitted that a well flown P-38 was a very
    dangerous foe. One of the P-38 pilots involved in this discussion is still alive
    today and a personal friend.

    2) Any P-38 pilot was eager to encounter an Me 110. They were very easy
    kills for the Lightning.

    3) From the P-38J-25-LO on, the Lightning was likely the finest fighter package
    flying in 1944. It offered versatility unmatched by any other fighter in any
    theater, flown by any nation. There was virtually no mission beyond its means.

    4) In terms of range, a properly flown P-38J or L (this means using the correct
    power and propeller settings) out-ranged the P-51D by as much as 200 miles.

    5) The Japanese considered the P-38 to be a far greater adversary than the
    P-47 of the P-51.

    6) The TRUE maximum speed of a P-38L was not the much published 414 mph.
    This reflects Military Power, not War Emergency Power. In WEP, a clean P-38L
    could exceed 440 mph. The P-38J with its lower rated engines could pull speeds
    in the low to mid 420's.

    7) At corner speed, any P-38 model could EASILY out-turn any fighter in the
    Luftwaffe inventory.

    8) The P-38L could out-climb the P-51D and Fw-190D by better than 30%.

    9) Most Luftwaffe pilots felt that it was suicide to make a head-on attack
    against a P-38. The P-38's four .50 caliber MGs and one 20mm cannon
    concentrated in a 30 inch circle was devestating.

    10) The P-38 was the only fighter in the ETO that could be flown into an
    accelerated stall at 1,000 ft. without fear of torque-rolling into an
    unrecoverable attitude. Nothing in the ETO could stay with a P-38 down
    in the tree tops. Absolutely nothing.

    I should give 10 reasons why the P-38 a problematic fighter, to balance the
    scales a bit.

    1) Early models had only one generator. Suffer a failure of the associated
    engine and you were in deep trouble, especially at high altitudes where the
    battery had been cold-soaked and produced inadequate power. Without power,
    it became impossible to control the Curtiss Electric propellers, which would go
    into feather.

    2) Models prior to the P-38L-5-LO had terrible heaters and defrosters.

    3) Models prior to the P-38J-25-LO lacked dive flaps and were dangerous
    to dive at speeds beyond Mach .68. This allowed German pilots to escape
    in a steep dive and P-38 pilots were reluctant to follow.

    4) At high altitudes, P-38s prior to the P-38L-1-LO tended to suffer engine
    failures. This was related to a poorly designed intake manifold, intercooler
    over-efficiency and poorly formulated avgas.

    5) The lack of automatic engine controls in early models.

    6) Poor roll response in early P-38's. Roll rate in later models with
    hydraulically boosted ailerons was outstanding.

    7) The P-38 required nearly twice the man-hours to maintain the fighter.
    It also consumed 80% more fuel than a P-51D for a given distance.

    8) Access to engines and systems was poor due to the tight fitting
    cowling and crowded booms.

    9) Unreliable turbocharger regulators in early models.

    10) Poor rear vision, especially below .

    The P-38 was not without serious problems. However, as a combat
    plane it was among the very best. Galland was wrong, and he knew it.
    Perhaps there was something about a big twin out-flying his 109 that
    caused him to refuse to acknowledge what he KNEW to be true. Of
    course, that is just speculation. Nonetheless, the fact that Galland could
    not stand up to the challange of the P-38 pilots indicates that he was
    being less than honest in his memiors. Another fact, that he himself barely
    escaped with his scalp from a lone P-38L, should settle any arguments.
    That P-38, by the way, had to break off due to fuel limits being exceeded.
    The U.S. pilot was from the 364th FG. Galland was flying a Fw-190D.
    Galland avoided discussing this event unless pressed hard.

    My regards,
    C.C. Jordan
  7. seesul

    seesul Active Member

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    I have yet to see a single poster in the anti-P-38 side of the debate say
    >anything about the fact that the P-38 had the best weapons package and
    >was the best gunnery platform of any of the fighters being debated.

    Most of the folks involved in this discussion would quickly concede these facts.
    Also, most are aware that the P-38 found a very productive vocation as a first
    rate fighter bomber, even in the ETO. There was no better aircraft for dive
    bombing. As a strafing aircraft, the concentration of guns in the nose was
    devestating, assuming you could bring them to bear. The P-47, with its expanding
    cone of fire was more likely to hit the target, if not do as much damage to it
    as the P-38. Against enemy troops, the P-47 tended to be more effective.
    Against harder targets, such as trains, the P-38 was more effective.

    >'Anti-P38' is a bit strong, most posters are simply disagreeing with the
    >contention that the P-38's weak record in the ETO (compared to its record
    >in SWPA) was because of official ineptitude rather than the plane's
    >weaknesses. As far as armament, 6 or
    >8 .50 cal machine guns was adequate, 4 .50s and 1 20mm in the nose was
    >indeed more than adequate. I don't think the US military was ever
    >dissatisfied with the .50 cal wing-mounted configuration, later fighters
    >designed to go up against Japanese fighters went back to 4 .50 cal (F8F,
    >> <snip>
    >> Or even the ability to limp home on one engine, which none of the
    >> single engined fighters could do.
    >There are probably no stats to answer this question, but I wonder how
    >many pilots were killed by the twin-engined configuration.

    Quite a few pilots died in P-38 accidents. Indeed, it was a handful when losing
    an engine shortly after lift off. Nonetheless, as Milo Burcham and Tony LeVier
    proved, proper training could eliminate virtually all of these accidents.

    >It is well known that early in its
    >deployment the P-38 killed many pilots when an engine failed on take-off
    >and control was lost. More training solved this problem, but even a well
    >trained pilot could conceivably spin in if an assymetrical thrust
    >situation occurred suddenly at low altitude. A pilot losing his engine
    >in a single-engine fighter at low altitude may have a chance to bail
    >safely without having to fight for control first.

    The first thing the P-38 pilot must do when losing an engine/prop was to pull
    off power to the healthy engine. If very near stall speed, one had to push the
    nose over to maintain airspeed while **slowly** adding power to the remaining
    engine. Do it any other way and you **will** make a big hole. Do not attempt
    to feather the prop until you have enough altitude to make the field in a glide.
    Do not lower the landing gear until you are certain to make the field. Lower
    the flaps in increments.

    >In other words, I wonder if the twin configuration was a life saver for
    >some and a killer for others. Obviously, those pilots who were saved by
    >the 2nd Allison would swear by the twin configuration, but those who were
    >killed by it never got a chance to give their opinion. Does anyone have
    >stats to compare the loss rates of ground attack units flying the P-38
    >with those flying the P-47? This might be a better way to compare the
    >real value of two engines in combat, as actual rather than hypothetical
    >survivability is the issue.

    I don't have such data, and I suspect that it was likely never to have been
    compiled. But, I would offer this theory: I suppose survivability was very close
    with these two types. The P-38 with redundant systems and the P-47 with its
    remarkably durable R-2800 radial, both could suck up a fair amout of abuse and
    still wobble on home. The Mustang certainly suffered more from triple A than the
    other two.

    My regards,
    C.C. Jordan
  8. seesul

    seesul Active Member

    Jun 3, 2006
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  9. MikeGazdik

    MikeGazdik Member

    Dec 13, 2008
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    I have read that before and find it very very interesting.

    And speaking of the Lightning's roll rate, I will post a video of one at an Airshow . The video starts off somewhat poor but be patient, it gets better. But check out the P-38 as he rolls her while climbing near vertical, doesn't look slow to me. The very last roll at the end of the film is the fastest. Here is the video:

  10. seesul

    seesul Active Member

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    THX for posting this video Mike!
    Think they improved its roll rate since J (?) version with hydraulic controled ailerons...
    Although I love P-51D, P-38 is my favourite fighter...

    Staff Member Moderator

    Apr 9, 2005
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    Flight Instructor/ Aircraft Inspector
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    I mentioned on here several times that I had a former neighbor who was a WW2 vet, he flew P-38s and P-51s and although he said the -51 was way more maneuverable, he preferred the P-38.
  12. Timppa

    Timppa Active Member

    Apr 3, 2007
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    1. Doolittle considered the P-38 as "a second rate fighter when compared to the P-47 and P-51."

    2. Of the three major USAAF late war fighters, the P-38 had the worst kill/loss -ratio and loss/sortie -ratio ( in ETO).

    3. Galland considered the P-38 as a failure.

    4. The P-38 was expensive, it cost twice as much as P-51.

    PS. The Lowell-Galland -story is most likely total baloney.

    Edit: The thread is OK, but don't really belong to "Flight test data" -forum.
  13. Von Frag

    Von Frag Member

    Sep 16, 2008
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    It has pilot discriptions about flying this aircraft aloung with operating data. I believe its fine where its at.
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