Lockheed P-38 Lightings, painted in their invasion stripes, fly over France sometime in the spring of 1944 around the time of D-Day. The twin-engine, twin-boom fighter had proven its effectiveness in the Pacific, where its pilots learned to employ diving attacks against Japanese fighters and then zoom back up to altitude.
The airplane’s record in Europe was not as good. In fact, in his book “P-38 Lightning,” aviation historian Jeffrey L. Ethell writes, “While the Lightning was regarded as an effective weapon in other theaters, it failed miserably in the European Theater of Operations until it was given the primary mission of ground support with the US 9th Air Force.”
U.S. Army Air Forces Captain Robin Olds, who scored his first two aerial victories with the Lightning on Aug. 14, 1944, said afterwards, “I loved the P-38 but I got those kills in spite of the airplane, not because of it. The fact is, the P-38 Lightning was too much airplane for a new kid and a full-time job for even a mature and experienced fighter pilot. Our enemies had difficulty defeating the P-38 but, as much as we gloried in it, we were defeating ourselves with this airplane.”
After D-Day, in Europe the Lightnings were gradually replaced by North American P-51 Mustangs. “Since other theaters, particularly the Mediterranean and the Pacific, were continually begging for more P-38s, the solution fit almost everyone,” writes Ethell.
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