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The Fork-Tailed Devil..History of the P-38

Aviation Discuss The Fork-Tailed Devil..History of the P-38 in the World War II - Aviation forums; The Lockheed P-38 Lightning became an important fighter of the Second World War, providing air support, bomber escort and interception ...

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    Senior Member P38 Pilot's Avatar
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    The Fork-Tailed Devil..History of the P-38

    The Lockheed P-38 Lightning became an important fighter of the Second World War, providing air support, bomber escort and interception capabilities. It earned its value through its long-range capabilities. It did not possess the agility of most of the single-engine piston fighters of the time but found its own place in the history of Classic Warbird aviation.

    The Lockheed P-38 Lightning was designed in 1937 as a high-altitude interceptor. The first one built for the U.S. Army Air Corps, the XP-38, made its public debut on Feb. 11, 1939 by flying from California to New York in seven hours.

    The unconventional layout resulted from the high-demand specifications for a high-altitude, high-performance aircraft capable of heavy armament roles, good climbing rate and exceptional range. These requirements thusly eliminated the possibility that any single engine aircraft would be the solution. The design team (led by Clarence 'Kelly' Johnson of Lockheed) opted for a twin-engine design centered around a central cockpit 'tub', or nacelle, sided by two 'booms' on either side housing the engine components. The wide design also added stability in the extra surface features and provided the aircraft with two vertical rudders instead of a traditional single one.

    Because of its unorthodox design, the aircraft evolved for several years before becoming the fighter destined to see combat in all theaters of World War II. The P-38 Lightning introduced a new dimension to American fighters - a second engine. The multi-engine configuration reduced the Lightning loss-rate to anti-aircraft gunfire during ground attack missions.

    Late in 1942, it went into large-scale operations during the North African campaign where the German Luftwaffe named it "Der Gabelschwanz Teufel"--"The Forked-Tail Devil."



    Equipped with droppable fuel tanks under its wings, the P-38 was used extensively as a long-range escort fighter. A very versatile aircraft, the Lightning was also used for dive bombing, level bombing, ground strafing and photo reconnaissance missions.

    As with any long-term production aircraft, the P-38 underwent many modifications. The fastest of the modifications was the P-38J with a top speed of 420 mph, and the version produced in the greatest quantity was the "L," of which 3,735 were built by Lockheed and 113 by Vultee. The P-38J intakes under the engines were enlarged to house core-type intercoolers. The curved windscreen was replaced by a flat panel, and the boom mounted radiators were enlarged. Some were fitted with bombardier type noses, and were used to lead formations of bomb-laden P-38s to their targets. The P-38M was a two-seat radar-equipped Night Fighter, a few of which had become operational before the war ended.

    By the end of production in 1945, 9,923 P-38s had been built. Only 27 of the aircraft exist today. The P-38 Lightnings were used to great success in the European and Pacific Theaters of War, and were gradually resolved to the role of close support bomber craft and nightfighters upon the introduction of sleeker and faster aircraft such as the P-51 Mustangs.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails The Fork-Tailed Devil..History of the P-38-p38_lightning.jpg   The Fork-Tailed Devil..History of the P-38-p38_lightningc.jpg  

    The Fork-Tailed Devil..History of the P-38-p38_lightningb.jpg   The Fork-Tailed Devil..History of the P-38-p38_lightninge.jpg  


    Its better to have an
    Army of deer being led by a lion,
    rather an Army of Lions being led by a deer
    ...

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    Pacific Historian syscom3's Avatar
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    Late in 1942, it went into large-scale operations during the North African campaign where the German Luftwaffe named it "Der Gabelschwanz Teufel"--"The Forked-Tail Devil."
    Did the Germans ever call it that?
    "Pilot to copilot..... what are those mountain goats doing up here in the clouds?"

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    Senior Member P38 Pilot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by syscom3
    Did the Germans ever call it that?
    Yes, but originally Rommel's troops gave it the nickname when P-38s targeted convoys and wreaked havoc of fuel depots and artillery postions

    Its better to have an
    Army of deer being led by a lion,
    rather an Army of Lions being led by a deer
    ...

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    Senior Member Jank's Avatar
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    "Der Gabelschwanz Teufel" aka "Fork Tailed Devil"

    I thought that was a post war myth.

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    Pacific Historian syscom3's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jank
    "Der Gabelschwanz Teufel" aka "Fork Tailed Devil"

    I thought that was a post war myth.
    In the ground attack role in Africa, , its possible it got that nickname.
    "Pilot to copilot..... what are those mountain goats doing up here in the clouds?"

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    Senior Member Aggie08's Avatar
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    I've read that in the Time-Life WW2 books. Sounds pretty darned cool if you ask me.
    "I had ten rockets on board, and as I wasn't particularly fond of head-on attacks, I salvoed the whole lot at him. The rockets didn't hit him but but they must have scared the bejesus out of him, for he did a steep turn to starboard... I let him have the full blast, all eight fifty-calibers. I had never seen an aircraft completely disintegrate in the air the way this Me-110 did..."
    Bill Dunn, 406th Fighter Group



    Matt

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    Senior Member Soundbreaker Welch?'s Avatar
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    Smile

    Nice photo of the invasion marked P-38 flying over sand.
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    Der Crew Chief DerAdlerIstGelandet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by P38 Pilot
    Yes, but originally Rommel's troops gave it the nickname when P-38s targeted convoys and wreaked havoc of fuel depots and artillery postions
    Its a myth only. In N. Africa someone may have called it that, but it was never called that by pilots or anyone else in the Luftwaffe. As jank put it is a misinformed post war myth.


    fly boy:"isnt that the first jet bomber becasue i have flown one in a flight sim before and i know how it handles"

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    Senior Member lesofprimus's Avatar
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    This is a fact, its just an old myth that some PR guys decided to put into play...



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    Senior Member P38 Pilot's Avatar
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    Well, from what I know, the P-38 became known to the Germans as "The Forked Tailed Devil" and put a hurt on the German Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe.

    Its better to have an
    Army of deer being led by a lion,
    rather an Army of Lions being led by a deer
    ...

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    Pacific Historian syscom3's Avatar
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    I pretty sure the Luftwaffe didnt call it that, but what about the ground pounders?
    "Pilot to copilot..... what are those mountain goats doing up here in the clouds?"

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    IP/Mech THE GREAT GAZOO FLYBOYJ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lesofprimus
    This is a fact, its just an old myth that some PR guys decided to put into play...
    Martin Cadin!!!!

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    Senior Member P38 Pilot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by syscom3
    I pretty sure the Luftwaffe didnt call it that, but what about the ground pounders?
    Probably the Forked-Tailed Devil.

    And who's Martin Cadin?

    Its better to have an
    Army of deer being led by a lion,
    rather an Army of Lions being led by a deer
    ...

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    IP/Mech THE GREAT GAZOO FLYBOYJ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by P38 Pilot
    Probably the Forked-Tailed Devil.

    And who's Martin Cadin?
    He's an aviation author who wrote the book "The Fork Tailed Devil." Although his books are entertaining for the novice, I personally find in many occasions he over-exaggerates and putting it simply, full of sh*t, after all he is a writer! I think he's the one who came up with he name The Fork Tailed Devil so he could sell his book but in reality it seems the Germans never really called the P-38 "Der Gabelschwanz Teufel."

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    Senior Member Hunter368's Avatar
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    Here is what I know about the German fliers and P-38. While I have read first hand accounts from German pilots meeting P-38's they never called it a "Fork tailed Devil". Most German pilots thought at most that the P-38 was a average plane at best. Most accounts that I have seen is that they thought it was unfit for flying in Europe. I have never seen any German pilot speak about the P-38 with fear, like the name "Fork Tailed Devil" sort of implies.

    I think that the P-38 fairly or not was over shodowed in Europe by other planes in the allied arsenal like: Spitfire, P-47, P-51

    P-47, P-51, Spitfire all demanded respect and received it from German pilots, admittedly b/c of different reasons. Sometimes b/c of shear numbers (P-51), toughness(P-47), flying ability (Spitfire). I like all of them ( including the P-38 )for different reasons and different roles.

    IMHO


    "Ivan the Terrible or Russian Achilles" Ivan Kozhedub - Hero of the USSR (x3), Order of Lenin (x2), Order of Red Banner (x7), Order of Alexander Nevsky, Order of the Great Patriotic War (x2), Order of the Red Star (x2), 62 kills during 1943-1945

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