Monday, July 27, 2015

A squadron of American Lockheed P-38 Lightning in Flight over an Unidentified Aleutian Island

A squadron of American Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter planes in flight over an unidentified Aleutian Island, Alaska, 1944. The planes are part of the 54th Fighter Sqaudron, 343rd Fighter Group, 11th Air Force. In the foreground is a P-38G, serial number of 42-12908, likely piloted by Bennie H. Stone and behind it is a P-38E, serial number 41-2069, likely piloted by Richard T. Clapper. when the 343rd Fighter Group first went to the Aleutians, the 54th Fighter Squadron had P-38 Lightnings, while 11th Fighter Squadron and 18th Fighter Squadron had P-40s (by the end of the war the whole Group was P-38 equipped). On 29 May 1942, 25 P-38s began operating in the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. The fighter's long range made it well-suited to the campaign over the almost 1,200 mi (2,000 km)–long island chain, and it would be flown there for the rest of the war. The Aleutians were one of the most rugged environments available for testing the new aircraft under combat conditions. More Lightnings were lost due to severe weather and other conditions than enemy action, and there were cases where Lightning pilots, mesmerized by flying for hours over gray seas under gray skies, simply flew into the water. On 9 August 1942, two P-38Es of the 343rd Fighter Group, 11th Air Force, at the end of a 1,000 mi (1,609 km) long-range patrol, happened upon a pair of Japanese Kawanishi H6K "Mavis" flying boats and destroyed them, making them the first Japanese aircraft to be shot down by Lightnings.Photo by Dmitri Kessel from Time & Life Pictures

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