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P-38 Lightning Aces 1942–43

P-38 Lightning Aces 1942–43 Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review October 2014 Title P-38 Lightning Aces 1942–43
Author John Stanaway Publisher Osprey Publishing
Published 2014 ISBN 9781782003328
Format 96 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $22.95


"Approximately 100 of an eventual total of some 175 P-38 aces scored the prerequisite five victories to qualify as aces in the early E- to H- models."

Thus begins P-38 Lightning Aces 1942–43 – number 120 in Osprey's "Aircraft of the Aces" series.

USAAF P-38Es nailed the type's first confirmed victories over the Aleutians in August 1942.  Coverage then segues to Guadalcanal and, arguably, the Lightning's single most famous mission: the interception and destruction of IJN Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto's Betty bomber.

The action resumes over New Guinea – and the first appearance of legendary names like Bong, Lynch and Kenney.  New tactics and performance enhancements – coupled with the Lightning's superior firepower and rugged construction – help forge American air superiority at this pivotal point in Pacific combat.

That cemented the P-38's reputation, author John Stanaway observes, as "the most favoured equipment in-theatre until war's end".  The Fifth Air Force, in fact, eventually boasted three Lightning, two P-51 and one P-47 groups.

Pacific operations consume half the book.  And contents thereafter segue to the aircraft's service in the CBI, Mediterranean and European theaters of operation.

From North Africa through Sicily to Italy.  Then northward – over England, France and Germany.  Axis pilots developed a healthy respect for the Lightning's powerful armament, superb maneuverability, impressive range and "zoom climb".

Occasional Gremlins unfortunately haunt this otherwise informative effort.

I simply can't fathom, for instance, how ailerons could be "installed on the wrong wings of a newly assembled P-38 in Port Moresby, New Guinea".  Do those captions on pages 10 and 11 make sense?  In the CBI section, Claire Chennault held "Lt Gen" – not "Lt Col" – rank.  And I wish profile captions explained why several fuselage insignia lack "surrounds" on their bars.

Still, Osprey's little book remains a great survey of early P-38 operations.  Thirty color profiles provide plenty of modeling inspiration.  Period photos season the study.  And extended captions, list of aces and an index admirably augment the account.  But don't, unfortunately, expect a bibliography or annotations.


My sincere thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review sample!