Lockheed P-38J Lightning, 44-23590 ‘Scrapiron IV’ Capt. L E Blumer, 393rd FS/367th FG, France 1944
The 367th Fighter Group arrived in England in April 1944, and having trained on single engine fighters, they were expecting to find Mustangs waiting for them at RAF Stoney Cross – the twin engine P-38 Lightning proved to be something of a surprise. Following a period of re-training, the 367th were sent into battle and immediately began to make their mark. Laurence ‘Scrappy’ Blumer and his P-38 Lightning ‘Scrapiron IV’ earned the title ‘the fastest ace in a day’ and the award of a Distinguished Service Cross, for combat actions he was involved in, on 25th August 1944. Joining an already savage dogfight, Blumer shot down two FW190 fighters on his first pass and a further three within the next fifteen minutes, before the enemy fighters ran for cover. During this engagement, the Luftwaffe lost 25 aircraft destroyed, one probably destroyed and a further 17 suffering damage – by any standards, a mauling by pilots of the Fork-tailed devil.
Until the arrival of the P-51 Mustang, the Lockheed P-38 Lightning was the primary long-range fighter of the USAAF and despite its size and unique appearance, it proved to be an exceptional fighting aircraft. For any fighter pilot embarking on a long-range patrol over enemy occupied territory, the two engines of the P-38 must have afforded them a high degree of reassurance, as opposed to the pilot of a single engine fighter. The Lightning could fly quite comfortably on one engine, which effectively doubled your chances of coming home safely. Luftwaffe pilots described the Lightning as the ‘Fork tailed devil’ and quickly learned to respect this extremely effective fighter, classing it as an adversary to be respected. The Lightning was distinctive for its very quiet operation, resulting from the engine exhausts being muffled by the twin turbo superchargers.