Only one year before the establishment of the Air Force, the Army Air Forces transitioned from P-38 Lightnings to P-51 Mustangs. The last official flight of P-38 Lightnings took place over Korea on 22 November 1946.
Based out of Kimpo Air Field, the 475th Fighter Group flew twin-engine P-38 Lightnings. These twin-boom veterans of World War Two were known by the Germans as the Fork-Tailed Devil (Der Gabelschwanz Teufel). Famously put to use in the downing of Admiral Yamamoto’s Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” bomber over Bougainville Island in 1943, the airplane played a crucial role in defeating both the German and Japanese air forces in 1943 and 1944. Although overshadowed by the faster, more maneuverable P-51 Mustang, the Lightning served for the duration of the war.
On occupation duty in Korea, the last overseas Army unit to fly the P-38 was the 475th Fighter Group. The 432nd Squadron were the last to receive replacement P-51 Mustangs. To go out in style, the squadron ordered one last flight to be documented by the Group historian.
Three P-38s from the 432nd took off from Kimpo Air Field, piloted by the Squadron Commander of the 431st, Captain Helms. Major Hanning and Major Thackora had the honor of flying the other two Lightnings. An AT-6 accompanied them to take pictures to document the historic event.
The photographer and official historian of the 432nd was Second Lieutenant Jack Batty. His brother, Second Lieutenant Claude Batty usually flew number 168. The Batty Brothers had a strong connection to the last flight of P-38 Lightnings in the U.S. Army.
Check out my book, Wingtip to Wingtip, or click this link to see more pictures or read more about the Batty Brothers.