The Lockheed P-38 Lightning was a World War II American fighter aircraft built by Lockheed. Developed to a United States Army Air Corps requirement, the P-38 had distinctive twin booms and a single, central nacelle containing the cockpit and armament. Named "fork-tailed devil" by the Luftwaffe and "two planes, one pilot" by the Japanese, the P-38 was used in a number of roles, including dive bombing, level bombing, ground-attack, photo reconnaissance missions, and extensively as a long-range escort fighter when equipped with drop tanks under its wings.
The P-38 was used most successfully in the Pacific Theater of Operations and the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations as the mount of America's top aces, Richard Bong (40 victories) and Thomas McGuire (38 victories). In the South West Pacific theater, the P-38 was the primary long-range fighter of United States Army Air Forces until the appearance of large numbers of P-51D Mustangs toward the end of the war. The P-38 was unusually quiet for a fighter, the exhaust muffled by the turbo-superchargers. It was extremely forgiving, and could be mishandled in many ways, but the rate of roll was too slow for it to excel as a dogfighter. The P-38 was the only American fighter aircraft in production throughout American involvement in the war, from Pearl Harbor to Victory over Japan Day.
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As Described In
Aces Over Europe: The P-38 was less successful in Europe than in the Pacific theater. Its opponents over France were much more formidable than Zeros. Thus, the P-38 pilots were assigned ground support missions and it excelled at this role.
Aces of the Pacific: The P-38F was the first AAF fighter that outclassed the Zero. While not as maneuverable as the Japanese planes below 20,000 ft., it could outclimb and outdive them. The P-38J introduced a dive flap which eliminated the problem of compressibility on the P-38. The J was also slightly faster than earlier models.