P-38 Lightning South Pacific Combat Veteran Relic Display - NEW

This P-38 Lightning was assigned to the 35th Fighter Group, 39th Fighter Squadron and operated against the Japanese from the Port Moresby area of Papua New Guinea. With various pilots at its controls, this aircraft often flew escort missions against the crack Japanese Navy pilots based at their base at Lae - including the ‘Ace’ Saburo Sakai, during early to mid 1943. In January 1944, this aircraft suffered a mechanical failure and executed an emergency landing in a swamp. There it remained until 1974, when piecemeal salvage began.
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This piece comes in a 10 x 18 inch frame as pictured - ready to hang!
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Further History:
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Built by Lockheed. Constructors Number 222-7081. Delivered to the U. S. Army during June 1942. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled, part of the first batch of P-38 Lightnings shipped overseas.

Assigned to the 35th Fighter Group, 39th Fighter Squadron. No known nickname or nose art. Assigned squadron number 34 painted on the tail.

Assigned to pilot 1st Lt Ralph C. Bills and Lt Wayne Rothgeb. This P-38 was also flown by many other pilots in the squadron including Lt. Richard E. Smith and Lt. Stanley Andrews.

On December 31, 1942 took off piloted by Bills on an escort mission over Lae. Over the target, he claimed his second Zero shot down.

On May 14, 1943 took off from Dobodura Airfield piloted by Lt Wayne Rothgeb on an interception mission. During the flight, the right turbocharger exploded an altitude of 27,000' forcing Rothgeb to return to Schwimmer (14 Mile Drome) on one engine but made a safe landing.

After this flight, the P-38 was written off on May 14, 1943, but was repaired and later reassigned. Assigned to the 8th Fighter Group, 80th Fighter Squadron. Assigned to pilot Lt. Cornelius "Corky" M. Smith who nicknamed the aircraft "Dottie From Brooklyn" in honor of his wife Dot.

On June 21, 1943 took off from 3 Mile Drome (Kila) piloted by Smith at 9:30am with Ray Daly and Jim Ince leading his flight on a mission to escort B-25 Mitchells over Guadalgasal between Lae and Salamaua. Over the target at 15,000', Smith spotted enemy fighters and signaled his flight and they released their drop tanks and dove down to attack and unsuccessfully fired on a Ki-43 Oscar from the 23rd Sentai. When he pulled out of the dog fight, an Oscar was firing at his tail and escaped at full throttle by pulling up.

After clearing his tail, he fired on several other Oscars but did not observe any results, probably firing from too great a range or at the wrong deflection. Fellow pilot Bob Adams flew with Smith and indicated him to take the lead, as his guns were inoperative. Attacking an Oscar that filled his gun sight and saw the enemy's left wing break off and pieces to break off then crashed into the jungle below. This was Smith's first confirmed aerial victory. Immediately, another Oscar attacked Smith and Adams made a run on the enemy and caused it attack him instead but managed to shake it.

Meanwhile, Smith lost Adams and attacked other Oscars flying in a circle. He fired at an enemy plane from 300 yards and caused it to explode between the tail and cockpit, possibly hitting the oxygen tank and crashed into the jungle, his second victory. One of the other Oscars in the circle dove down to attack Smith head on, but he opened fire with a long burst of all his armament that hit the enemy plane in the engine and belly and crashed into the ground, his third victory. Afterwards, he joined up with other P-38s from the squadron over Lae but his engines began to overheat and he returned to base. After the mission, he was credited with three victories and a probable (an Oscars Smith claimed to have fired on that no damage was observed). The enemy aircraft were incorrectly claimed to be "Zeros".

After the mission, he was credited with three victories and a probable (an Oscars Smith claimed to have fired on that no damage was observed). The enemy aircraft were incorrectly claimed to be "Zeros". Both sides over claimed on this mission. The 24th Sentai only lost one pilot shot down and killed, Ki-43 Oscar piloted by W/O Menya. Possibly, other Oscars were lost but their pilots survived and returned to duty. The 24th Sentai claimed eight P-38s shot down, when in fact none were lost. The eight Ki-48 Lily bombers they were escorting escaped without being shot down, aside from several unsuccessful firing passes made on the bombers.

Afterwards, this P-38 was transfered to a service squadron at Port Moresby.

Mission History

During January 1944, this P-38 took off from Port Moresby piloted by an unknown pilot was on a local flight. According to Australian Army soldiers on the ground, the pilot cut both engines, and was unable to restart them and force landed on the salt flats near Lea Lea. The pilot and exact date of the force landing are unknown.

 

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