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17 Things You Never Knew About The P-38 Lightning

It was controversial, intimidating, and set countless records in WWII. Check out these 17 little known facts about the P-38 Lightning.

1) The P-38 was the first fighter to fly faster than 400 mph.

1 Tony Hisgett

2) And, it was the only American fighter aircraft in production throughout the entire American involvement in WWII.

2 born1945

3) The P-38 was nicknamed the 'fork-tailed devil' by the German Luftwaffe and 'two planes, one pilot' by Japanese fighter pilots.

3 Wikipedia

4) The P-38 was exceptionally quiet for a fighter, due to its exhaust being muffled by turbo-superchargers.

4 Geoff Collins

5) The aircraft used nose-mounted guns, unlike most other US fighters. This meant the P-38 had better useful gun range than other aircraft, whose wing-mounted guns had crisscross trajectories.

5 Wikipedia

6) The P-38s guns were so effective, they could reliably hit targets at up to 1,000 yards. Most other fighters were only effective at 100-250 yards.


7) The P-38 had counter-rotating engines to overcome left-turning tendencies caused by its 1,000-hp engines.

7 Tony Hisgett

8) The P-38 was the primary long-range fighter for the US Army Air Forces until the P-51D entered the war.

8 Roger Smith

9) The engines rotated outward from the cockpit. This made the platform more stable for shooting guns, however, if the pilot lost an engine, the operating engine was so powerful that it could uncontrollably roll the aircraft inverted.

Lens Envy

10) The P-38 was the first American fighter to extensively use stainless steel and flush-mounted rivets.

10 Eric Kilby

11) In 1939, one of the first P-38 prototype aircraft set a speed record from California to New York in 7 hours and 2 minutes, but it crashed short of its intended airport due to carburetor icing.

11 Associated Press

12) The first active service P-38s were used as reconnaissance aircraft in April 1942 by the Australia 8th Photographic Squadron.


13) However, the P-38 quickly saw battle, downing two Japanese flying boats in August 1942 off the Aleutian Island chain.

13 Wikipedia

14) The cockpit windows couldn't be opened in flight, because they caused buffeting on the tailplane. This made the cockpit very hot in the Pacific theater, and pilots often times flew in just shorts, tennis shoes, and a parachute.

14 Martin Wippel

15) Charles Lindbergh was a key figure in improving the performance of the P-38. Working as a civilian contractor in the South Pacific, he developed throttle settings and engine leaning techniques that significantly increased the range of the aircraft.


16) The P-38 flew over 130,000 sorties in the European theater, and downed over 1,800 aircraft in the Pacific theater.


17) In total, over 10,000 P-38s were produced during the war, making it one of the most successful fighters and interceptors of its time.

17 Rober Clemens

Source: Wikipedia

Colin Cutler

Colin is a Boldmethod co-founder, pilot and graphic artist. He's been a flight instructor at the University of North Dakota, an airline pilot on the CRJ-200, and has directed development of numerous commercial and military training systems. You can reach him at

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