Only the P-38s were allowed in the Philippines

Wednesday, April 24th, 2019

Dunlap was north of Tacloban when the first typhoon hit:

I had managed to build myself a sort of pup tent, and it stayed up for the first half of the big wind, while regular tents were blowing down. No one had bothered to remember that the blamed wind blew one direction for a few hours, then calmed down awhile and finished by blowing the opposite way. My open-ended shelter lasted about two minutes of the second half. Everything was down in the in the morning and between the rain, mud, and wind the war was stalled for everything except the foot soldiers out ahead.


At about the time of the typhoon, a couple of days either way, the first American army planes appeared — Lockheed P-38 “Lightnings.” We were childishly pleased to see them and expected great things. I think there were eight planes at first, but am not sure; more came in almost daily as the engineers ironed out the airstrips. By this time we held two fields, the one at Tacloban and the one at Dulag. I saw a few dog-fights, but never saw a P-38 knocked down. They always flew in pairs, in the system originated by Chennault, one plane always protecting the other which did the actual fighting, or at least made the initial pass or attack. It was our firm belief that only the P-38s were allowed in the Philippines because they were the only American plane that the anti-aircraft gunners could positively recognize as not being Japanese and therefore not shoot them down accidentally on purpose. I don’t know how much truth there was to the rumor, but we never saw a single-engined fighter such as the P-51 or P-47 until the Jap air force was almost driven out of the southern Philippines, and either of the ships was better at dog-fighting than the Lockheed.


  1. Bruce says:

    P-38s were in production before P-47s or P-51s, and they straddled the gap between ‘early WW II fighter’ and ‘later WW II fighter’ in range and oomph. So they’d be sent to the secondary front in the Pacific without the Brits getting too riled.

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