This story takes me back several weeks ago to a memorable sortie that I flew on the Combat Box server in the P-38J Lightning. Famed as a long range escort fighter, in Europe it saw more limited use in the later part of the war but it did develop a reputation as a fearsome ground attacker and in this account I was able to make full use of the P-38 in that role as well as turn it around and make it a potent fighter.
Multi-role forktailed devil
The Germans sometimes called the P-38 the “Forktailed Devil” as its distinctive twin boom shape was unmistakable from the air and the ground. I flew with a friend on a strike mission in the P-38 with the goal of hitting an enemy marshaling yard.
We decided to take two 2000lb bombs on our sortie. The P-38 is the only Allied aircraft capable, in sim, of lugging that level of bomb and while it may not always be the most effective it can be fun to use. We flew the first leg of our sortie without difficulty approaching the target area from about 9,000 feet. Once spotted we spread ourselves out and I lead the attack.
The explosion effect was impressive and the two bombs managed to take out three warehouse buildings and cause substantial damage. My wingman managed the same with his attack just seconds later. With no enemy fighters around and a friendly fighter standing guard (we used SRS to coordinate) we made two strafing runs taking out several flak batteries. Time to head back to base.
On the way back we picked up chatter, once again on SRS, that the latest wave of bombers was under attack. We decided to alter course to intercept. As we closed we could see a bomber falling from the sky trailing thick black smoke. And another and another. The bombers were being wiped out and we weren’t close enough yet.
We finally closed the distance as the last bomber went crashing down. Four Allied fighters and five Axis fighters were now engaged in a battle at 22,000 feet. Bf109’s, Fw190’s and a Me262 were up against our two P-38’s, newly joined in battle, along with a P-51 and a Spitfire. Distracted by the other fighters my wingman and I entered the fight seemingly unseen and I closed rapidly with a Bf109. He saw me and started to turn but I already had him lined up and a short half burst of concentrated .50cal and 20mm fire caused him to explode. His wing ripped off and he went spiraling down.
My wingman warned me of a Me262 and we both broke defensively into the attack evading the 262.
Another Bf109 flashed past and I once again pulled lead on the Bf109. He saw me and went evasive but my first few .50cal rounds hit his wing. He nosed down in an attempt to escape but I fired two more bursts with the final burst causing the aircraft to stop maneuvering and plummet towards the ground. Two down.
Another aircraft entered the fight. A long-nose Fw190D-9 was on my six as we both travelled down towards the ground. Under the cloud layer I lost him and he lost me briefly but we emerged in a rolling scissors. In a lesser P-38 I would have been in trouble but the J-25’s powered ailerons made the difference and that together with a bit of luck and I found myself having spit the Fw190 out in front of me but with him traveling much more quickly. I fired a burst at long range with a few .50cals hitting him with little effect. He broke and dove away and I decided it was time to get out – my wingman was in trouble.
The Me262 was back and my wingman was attempting to force an overshoot. Unfortunately the 262 closed more quickly than he expected and his P-38 caught a full burst of MK108 30mm fire. His P-38 was engulfed in flames and he went down. Time to head home!
The end result was a successful ground attack and air combat but with one P-38 lost. Not too bad at the end of the day however.