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P-38, 2nd best US plane?

Discussion in 'Aircraft' started by chromeboomerang, Aug 29, 2004.

  1. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    nope Mustangs in Defense of the Reich, Spits were nothing due to short range over the north coast

    each Lw vet because of rank and position in his JG would be sent wherever needed those on the Ost front obviously were not used to anything but Soviet crates.

    depends I suppose again on the interview of whom. 9/10ths of the ones I have were defending Germanys skies and did if flew early war did say the Mustang was the top threat. could be because of numbers but we never really conversed on that. the Stang could not be outlfown, climbed or dived besides the speed and altitude the thing possessed
     
  2. ickysdad

    ickysdad Member

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    On complaints on the P-38 and high altitudes in the ETO I never heard the late J and L models having problems the earlier models had but by then the P-51 was taking over .
     
  3. redcoat

    redcoat Ace

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    The P-38L saw almost no service as a high-altitude fighter escort in Northern Europe, as it didn't become available to combat units in the region until August 1944, and the last unit of the 8th Air Force using the P-38, the 479th FG, flew its last mission with the P-38 on the 27th September 1944, and the units replacements in this period were mainly low-hours P-38J's turned in by other units converting to P-51's.

    As for the P-38J in the service of the 8th Air Force, there were still major problems with the aircraft to the end. The cockpit heating remained a problem and it wasn't until heated flying suits became available in small numbers in March 1944 that things improved on this issue, before then the only partial solution was to procure additional clothing, particularly RAF gloves and boots.
    As for engine failures.
    Repositioning the intercoolers on the J model led to too much cooling at high altitude and pre-detonation. Oil temperature also could not be kept high enough above 22,000ft and oil consumption rose at an alarming rate from 2 to 4 pints an hour at below 25,000 ft to 8 to 16 pints an hour at 25,000 to 30,000ft. Also oil throwing was so bad engine life was halved. Moreover with the sudden increases of power necessary in combat, engines seized or threw connecting rods.
    Yet another problem was that common to all turbo-supercharged aircraft with hydraulic actuated regulators, low temperatures caused the oil to thicken, allowing the turbine to go out of control and fail.
    Things got so bad that the two groups operating the P-38J in the 8th Air Force were forced in late February 1944 to make their penetration flights at not more than 22,000ft to avoid the extreme cold.

    A number of fixes to these problems were attempted but none were wholly successful and the P-38J still had difficulty had operating over 25,000ft.

    source: The Mighty Eighth, War Manual, by Roger A. Freeman
     
    Triple C likes this.
  4. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Having watched one flying I would agree that it is a dangerous ground attack aircraft but for a different reason. It is really quiet. None of that roaring exhaust like a P 51 or Spitfire. A P-38 sounds more like a sewing machine. Very quiet. You'd never hear it coming.
     
  5. redcoat

    redcoat Ace

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    Problems with the P-38J in the service of the 8th Air Force in northern Europe continued;

    In July 1944 a further cause of engine trouble was identified. It had been previously established that fuel was not being metered properly at high altitude, the problem varying from aircraft to aircraft. Operational engineering found one cause was vapour lock in the fuel system, they tried to minimise this by simplifying the plumbing to eliminate or reduce sharp bends.

    Although high speed compressibility problems had been investigated in 1942, a device for slowing the aircraft when the critical speed was approached was not forthcoming on production aircraft until the late P-38J's reaching the UK in summer 1944. It took the form of electrically-extended dive flaps under the wings. The 479th FG received two aircraft with such flaps in August 1944 at which time it was the last P-38 group in the 8th. After some hours of flying with them they complained that the flaps continually broke down; one aircraft had needed repair nine times. So the 479FG arranged to exchange these aircraft for two without dive flaps.

    On the 27th September 1944 the 479th flew its last mission with the P-38 terminating its service as a fighter with the 8th Air Force.

    The P-38 remained in service with the 8th after this time only in small numbers for photographic and specialist radar work.

    source: The Mighty Eighth, War Manual, by Roger A. Freeman
     
  6. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    I don't doubt your source exactly, but it does seem to be contradicted by the Joe Baugher site. Perhaps by "almost no", escorts for the 8th, he might be right.

    The P-38 flew the first escorts to Berlin and back in March of 1944 (escorting the 8th), before the P-51s replaced them in that task.

    When they first started escort service; "37 Twelfth Air Force Lightning pilots had made ace, the top scorer being Lieut W. J. Sloan of the 82nd Fighter Group with 12 kills. Lieut H. T. Hanna of the 14th Fighter Group made ace in one day by destroying five Ju 87 dive bombers on October 9, 1943.

    "Following their transfer, the 1st, 14th and 82nd Fighter Groups concentrated on escorting the B-17 and B-24 bombers of the Fifteenth Air Force in their raids on targets in Austria, the Balkans, France, Greece, and Italy. However, on occasion, they escorted the medium bombers of the Twelfth Air Force. (most were high altitude escort duties)

    "The first Lightning-escorted raids on Germany began in February 1944 with raids on aircraft factories in the southern part of that country. In April 1944 the Lightnings escorted bombers in raids on the oil refineries at Ploesti in Rumania. (emphasis mine)

    When the 55th Fighter Group was attached to the 8th Air Force, and it; "began combat operations on October 15, 1943, making its first kill on November 2. The next month, the outfit converted to P-38Js. On March 3, 1944, the 55th flew to Berlin for the first time, a round trip of 1300 miles. The 20th, 364th and 479th Fighter Groups soon became operational in England with P-38s.
     
    Goto:

    P-38 in European Theatre
     
  7. redcoat

    redcoat Ace

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    My source is an excellent account of the aircraft, weapons, tactics, and support services of the Eighth Air Force. It is not an account of P-38's which served with the tactical 9th Air Force, or the 12th Air Force operating from the MTO.
     
  8. JagdtigerI

    JagdtigerI Ace

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    A couple quotes on the P-38's performance in the Pacific Theater:

    Major Jay T. Robbins, one of the many aces in General Kenney's 5th Air Force, discusses flying the p-39 Airacobra and later the P-38 Lighting from airfields in New Guinea

    "Later on they got P-38s, which was a hell of a good airplane. You preferred to operate below 10 or 12,000 feet, certainly no higher than 15,000. It would fly higher than that, but wouldn't operate very well. We had three squadrons: the 35th, 36th, and the 80th."

    P-38 ace Major Robbins discusses the characteristics of the P-38

    "The fact that the P-38 had two engines was a big advantage over there [Southwest Pacific]. Also, it had no torque and he firepower was concentrated in the nose. It was a very good gunnery platform. The Japanese Zero was a single-engine airplane, not quite as fast as a P-38, but it had an extremely good turning capability and highly maneuverable. If we got into combat with the Zero or the Zeke Z-13-they were the different types of Japanese airplanes-the Zero could always out-turn us and we knew that. We tried not to get into a turning combat with them. We could usually break off engagement if we had both engines functioning, either in a high-speed climb or a high speed dive. Then we could out-climb or out-dive them. We could run away from them, break off combat pretty much when we wanted to depending on the situation. The P-38 had one disadvantage. When it went into a a dive, it tended to want to stay in a dive and tuck under. You had to avoid a situation where you were going straight down at high speed. It was pretty rugged. It could take punishment and you always had the advantage of that one engine if something went wrong with the other one. The P-38 had counter-rotating propellers. Therefore, you ad no torque and all your firepower was centered right in the nose of the airplane, rather than being in the wing like it was in a lot of airplanes. There was some point out there at 1,500 feet or so where the fire would converge from the wing guns of a P-47 or P-40, but in the P-38 you had four .50 caliber machine guns and a 20mm cannon. They were all right there in the nose. so that you virtually had a solid cone of fire straight out until dispersion began to take place. I always tried to get in very close before I opened fire. I had seen too many people fail to get hits because they were too eager and fire too soon."

    Eyewitness Pacific Theater by John T. Kuehn and D. M. Giangreco
     
  9. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

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    I remember the book Fire in the Sky cited Japanese naval intelligence as saying that the American P-38s sealed Japan's fate in the Pacific War. They were simply too fast and too long-ranged for the Japanese to counter.
     
  10. ickysdad

    ickysdad Member

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    The P-38's flew in the Aleutions at high alt's and didn't have the problems they did in the ETO and weather there is far worse then in Europe. Has anybody thought that maybe improperly blended fuel caused the P-38's problems in the ETO?
    http://warbirdsforum.com/showthread.php?t=2893

    Redcoat,
    Notice I said "Late J models" when I said later models solved most of the problems. Several other P-38 books seem to say this also and none of them mention problems with dive brakes. Maybe the 8th. airforce had maintenance problems that other airforces didn't? One aircraft having to have it's dive brakes fixed 9 times ? Is that a sympton over the whole 8th AF or maybe just one squadron? Just wanted to ask since you have that book of Freeman's.
     
  11. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    according to the 8th AF pilots it was the P-38's long range and replacement by the P-47 and later the P-51 was approved. sounds lame of course but it is the truth
     
  12. ickysdad

    ickysdad Member

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    Well you know all aircraft had their problems ,the P-47 also suffered from compressibility and the P-51 had problems with it's wings shearing off because of landing gear deploying during pull out from a dive.
    There also seems to be a mis-conception amongst some(not necessarily anybody in this forum though) that the only test for how good a plane was how good it did on the Western Front in Europe while how it performed in the MTO,PTO or Eastern Front is irrelevant.
     
  13. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    just staing what has been told to me many times even on the P-38assn web-site some time ago. 20th fg and 55th fg pilots gave me this info including Jack Ilfrey RIP from the 20th.

    what can I say further but yes every crate in the war had a peculiar prob that needed mending and in most cases was not fully dealt with
     
  14. ickysdad

    ickysdad Member

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    Oh I agree. I wasn't criticising you in my previous post. Certainly didn't mean it that away.
     
  15. ickysdad

    ickysdad Member

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    Different sources I guess give different info,,,,
    About the P-38

    the P-38 assocition which was quoted by a poster says the P-38J entered production in June of 1944 BUT Francis Dean's " America's 100,000" states in went into production in the fall of '43, your link shows that one P-38H group converted to the "J" model around November/December 1943 and Joe Christy's/Jeff Ethel's "P-38 Lightning At War" on page 142 has a very detailed production analysis showing how many of each production run along with time period they were produced with the "J" going into production in fall of '43.

    So who's right?????

    Now on flying those missions Frances Dean quotes as follows..

    " On 1/31/44: "It is decided to have 4 P-38 GRoups in the 8th AF & 3 in the (th AF. The 9th has no P-38s at this time."

    2/4/1944: "nearly half of the 20 th & 55th FG's P-38's on escort need to abort with powerplant problems due to severe cold weather. "P-38's now limit operation to 30,000' because of potential powerplant problems ,leaving enemy aircraft the chance to dive at them from 35,000'".

    Limited to just 30,000' ??????.

    On 3/3/44 it states that P-38's from the 55th FG reach Berlin but the bombers turned back at Hamburg but it does bring up the cold cockpit issue.
     
  16. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    Different sources, etc., well said. The Joe Baugher page has these, among others in the bibliography:

    Lockheed Aircraft Since 1913
    , Rene J. Francillon, Naval Institute Press, 1987

    The P-38J-M Lockheed Lightning, Profile Publications, Le Roy Weber Profile Publications, Ltd, 1965.

    War Planes of the Second World War; Fighters, Volume Four, William Green, Doubleday, 1964.

    Famous Fighters of the Second World War, William Green, Doubleday, 1967.

    The American Fighter, Enzo Anguluci and Peter Bowers, Orion Books, 1987.

    Wings of the Weird and Wonderful, Captain Eric Brown, Airlife, 1985.

    United States Military Aircraft since 1909, Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989.

    See:

    Lockheed P-38 Lightning

    I guess it is a matter of take yer pick as to which to believe or quote.


     
  17. redcoat

    redcoat Ace

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    They were not providing escort to high altitude bomber formations in that theater, so they didn't have to travel long distances at high altitude when fighting the Japanese in the Aleutions. I've also read that Japanese aircraft very rarely flew much above 20,000ft on operations. These factors would explain why the P-38 didn't have the problems there as it had in Northern Europe.
    It possibly caused some of the problems if this fuel was indeed used (which appears to be in doubt), but the repositioning of the intercoolers on the J model which lead to low oil temperatures was a recognised cause of at least some of the engine failures.

    Maybe the 'late' J models were just too late for the 8th Air Force, as the late J model with dive brakes didn't reach the UK until the summer of 1944, and if I am reading Mr Freemans book correctly, only two P-38J's with these dive brakes saw service with the 479th FG from August 1944, which by then was the last FG in the 8th Air Force using the P-38.

    ps; from the web-site which Brdirt1 posted http://home.att.net/~jbaugher1/p38_13.html it appears that only the last 210 of a production run of approximately 2620 standard J model P-38's were fitted with the electrically operated dive brakes.
     
  18. redcoat

    redcoat Ace

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    According to Mr Freeman the first P-38J's arrived in the UK during November 1943, though due to time spent fitting 55 gallon fuel tanks in the wing leading edges, the 20th and 55th FG of the 8th didn't become operational with the type until January 1944.
     
  19. ickysdad

    ickysdad Member

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    COMMENT: Your probably right there.
     
  20. ickysdad

    ickysdad Member

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    Something else on the P-38 is what I alluded to earlier in that other aircraft had operational problems(though maybe not quite as bad) but you don't seem to hear about them. Also the dive flaps were retrofitted to most previous "J" models prior to the J-25 and said flaps could have been fitted much sooner then early '44 ,they were ready in early '43.

    edit..
    According to "P-38 Lightning at War" one group did figure out how to fight with the P-38 at altitude. They basically just moved the inter-cooler door switch up to the control yoke.and ganged that switch with the gun sight.
     

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