P-38 Lightning In Action

Published: August 7th, 2017     
Product Image
Book cover
Author: David Doyle
Reviewed by: 
Frank Landrus, IPMS# 35035
Company: David Doyle books
ISBN #: 978-0-89747-849-6
Price: $19.95
Product / Stock #: 10222

David Doyle's latest book continues to expand on Squadron Signal's long standing In Action series that initiated back in 1971.This is a completely updated and expanded edition over Squadron's earlier Aircraft In Action number 25, a 50-pager on the Lightning by Gene B. Stafford that was published in 1976. That first release was followed by Squadron's In Action number 109, a 58-pager on the Lightning by Larry Davis that was published in 1990. A third release came in 2011 from David Doyle with 72 pages as Squadron In Action number 1222. This 2017 release adds an additional eight pages and includes many new photographs.

After many years of being published in enthusiast publications focused on military vehicle restorations, David Doyle 'graduated' to full-fledged books in 2003. His first book was a hefty 512 page history of US military vehicles. He has now had more than 100 books published in military vehicles, aviation and naval topics. David and his wife Denise have amassed a collection of ten Vietnam era military vehicles that still displays at shows. In June 2015, was honored with the Military Vehicle Preservation Association's Bart Vanderveen Award, given in recognition of "...the individual who has contributed the most to the historic preservation of military vehicles worldwide." Be sure to check out David's website at www.DavidDoyleBooks.com where you can see and buy at a discounted price off of MSRP all his books that are still available.

This book follows the normal format of the In Action series, detailing the development and service history of the Lockheed Lightning. This is expanded from Squadron's standard 60 page version of their In Action format and it runs 80 pages packed with large, clear photographs. The front cover features a color photograph of a P-38J Lightning flying in the mountains with '64' hand painted on the tail fin and nacelle. The rear cover features a F-5E Lightning based out of USAAF Station 234, Mount Farm, Oxfordshire, England at the end of World War II. I counted 174 well captioned photographs; 64 in color and 110 in black and white. There were 24 black and white drawings depicting the variants by Melinda Turnage. Don Greer also contributes four color profiles along with three additional color illustrations.

The Lockheed P-38 achieved its first flight on January 27, 1939, with over ten thousand aircraft being built before the end of World War II. As a long range escort fighter, the Lightning saw action in all theaters and extensive use in the Pacific and China-Burma-India theaters. US aircraft began to be released in the civilian market in 1946 with the last USAF flight occurring in 1948. Those entering the civilian market were primarily the photo reconnaissance models that lived on performing aerial mapping duties. A few were purchased for air races, but many entered service with South American air forces where they were active into the 1960s. Currently ten Lightnings remain airworthy with all but one residing in the United States. The sole Lightning outside of the US is operated by Red Bull in Austria, a P-38L formerly owned by Lefty Gardner.

David Doyle starts off with the Army Air Corps Specification X-608 that was issued in 1937 to the manufacturers. Some of the requirements were a top speed of 360 mph and the ability to fly full throttle for at least one hour. An aggressive target for climb rate was requested for the designs to be able to get to 20,000 feet in under six minutes. David Doyle addresses each variant in its own chapter from the XP-38 to the P-38M as depicted in the following Table of Contents:

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Development
  • XP-38
  • YP-38 [Page 5]
  • P-38 Lightning Development [Side View Line Drawings]
  • P-38
  • RP-322
  • P-38D [Page 16]
  • P-38E
  • F-4
  • P-38F
  • P-38 Lightning Specifications [Page 28]
  • P-38G
  • F-5A
  • P-38H [Page 41]
  • P-38J [Page 53]
  • F-5B [Page 66]
  • P-38L
  • P-38M [Page 78]

The development of each version is addressed with text, vintage photographs, and scrap drawings. A specification table helps to compare all the models as well as listing the number built / converted for each sub-designation. I found some very interesting photographs of the Lightning in various test modes. One was to evaluate the Lightning with floats. In this case a P-38E was modified with upswept tail booms to clear the water on takeoff. Another P-38E was modified to evaluate laminar flow wings and utilized an extended cockpit to seat an engineer for the evaluation. A P-38G was modified to use skis for operations in the Artic at Ladd Field. A bomber modification involved placing the bombardier in the nose which became known as the 'Droop Snoots'. I can't imagine what a thrill ride the bombardier had being so forward in the nose of the Lightning. Landings must have been fun!

This is a gorgeous soft-bound book and is well worth the money. David Doyle provides lots of detailed photographs with detailed captions. I've always enjoyed Squadron's In Action format as their line drawings focus on the differences from variant to variant, making it easy to spot the different versions in the period black and white or color photographs. You can find a video highlight of the books contents at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUr8n5NXxdI .

Highly recommended!

My thanks to David Doyle Books at (www.DavidDoyleBooks.com ) and IPMS/USA for the chance to review this great book.

  • Front cover
    Front cover
  • Page 05: Color picture of a YP-38
    Page 05: Color picture of a YP-38
  • Page 16: Color and b+w photos of P-38Ds
    Page 16: Color and b+w photos of P-38Ds
  • Page 28: P-38 Lightning specifications chart for 10 different versions of the P-38
    Page 28: P-38 Lightning specifications chart for 10 different versions of the P-38
  • Page 41: Color and b+w photos of P-38Hs
    Page 41: Color and b+w photos of P-38Hs
  • Page 53: Color art work and b+w photos of P-38Js
    Page 53: Color art work and b+w photos of P-38Js
  • Page 66: Photo-recon versions of the P-38, the F-4A-1,  F-5A-1 F-5A-10, and F-5B
    Page 66: Photo-recon versions of the P-38, the F-4A-1, F-5A-1 F-5A-10, and F-5B
  • Page 78: P-38M dual cockpit and radome
    Page 78: P-38M dual cockpit and radome