This section is the music and poems which have been written over the years honoring the P38. It’s pretty amazing when you realize how many there actually are that are dedicated solely to our favorite plane.
The following poem was preserved in a journal kept by former prisoner of war, Corman Bean, during his internment at Stalag Luft 1 in Barth, Germany.
The author remains in dispute, but the best we can find out is that “An Escort of P‑38s” was written in 1943 by a B‑17 gunner in North Africa. This is attributed to George A. Evans because a relative of a friend found this in a journal, written in George’s hand. Although he didn’t sign the poem, other poems in the journal written in his same handwriting are signed by him. So, unless you know otherwise, we’ll give George the attaboy for writing this. (For those of you who don’t know, one of the functions of the P‑38s were to escort and defend bomber aircraft.)
AN ESCORT OF P-38S
Author Unverified: George A. Evans or Robert H. Bryson or Everett ‘Doc’ Price.
Oh, Hedy Lamar is a beautiful gal, Madeline Carroll is too.
But you’ll find if you query a much different theory
amongst any bomber crew
That the loveliest thing of which one can sing
This side of the heavenly gates
Is no blonde or brunette of the Hollywood set
But an escort of P-38s
In all the days past when the tables were massed
with glasses of scotch and champagne
It’s quite true that the sight was a thing to delight
us intent on feeling no pain.
But no longer the same nowadays in this game
as we sail onto the missing state
Take your sparkling wine but always make mine
An escort of P-38s.
Byron, Shelley and Keats ran each other dead heats
describing the views from the hills
Of the valleys in May where the winds gently sway
an army of bright daffodils
Take your daffodils Byron, the wild flowers Shelley,
yours is the myrtle, friend Keats
Just preserve me those cuties, all-American beauties
An escort of P-38s.
Sure we’re braver than hell on the ground all is well,
in the air it’s a much different story.
As we sweat out our track through the fighters and flak
we’re willing to split up the glory.
Well, they wouldn’t reject us so heaven protect us
until all this shootin’ abates
Give us courage to fight ’em and another small item
An escort of P-38s.
This poem is written in tribute to all the “eye in the sky” photographic reconnaissance pilots (known affectionately as “Photo Joes,” who flew into enemy territory to scout the locations for future combat missions…they had no guns to protect themselves, merely cameras!
TO PHOTO RECON JOE
By Tom McGuire
Of all the Air Force pilots that I most deeply admire,
I give my top-notch vote to Photo-Recon Joe
Who goes it alone, unarmed, and braves the enemy’s fire
By taking crucial photos which spell doom to the Axis foe.
Ahead of his Lightning’s sound, his F-5 zips in at tree-top level;
Too late they hear him coming, now he’s already gone past
A flashing form, a blast of wind, the Fork-Tail Devil,
his photos taken, speeds home, no higher than a mast.
On lists of fighter aces, his name is never placed,
And sadly, he’s soon forgotten after the war has ended,
But war historians know that priceless F-5 photos based
The Normandy invasion so air, sea, and land attacks all blended.
“Unescorted, unarmed, and unafraid” Joe wings his gutsy way
Into the lethal Axis Reich, where death waits in that murky air.
But he presses on, he shoots his films, and dearly earns his pay
By these “dicing,” flack-filled missions that only he would dare.
So now I raise a grateful toast to Photo-Recon Joe,
And, Joe, I also bow to you, and believe me, I bow low.
AN ODE TO THE AXIS FROM LOCKHEED WORKERS
Author unknown. Wichita Beacon, circa 1940s
When you hear a whistle in the sky
And see those twin tails streaking by,
You know that you have one less chance
Of ever making an advance.
When you started this war in thirty-nine,
There was no P-38 assembly line.
When you bombed Pearl Harbor in forty-one
That assembly had just begun.
When that line really began to move
You knew that we were in the groove.
When they first hit Africa in forty-two,
You began to think that you were through.
Now we are turning them out faster and faster
The sooner to bring you disaster.
Every one that leaves the assembly line
Helps to shorten your allotted time.
We use them for the camera ship
Because their speed gives you the slip,
And when the photographs they take,
Our bombers follow in their wake.
They escort bombers far and wide,
And on every mission tan your hide.
From the rooftops to the stratosphere,
Of all your planes they are the peer.
The Zero, it was sure well named,
For when the Lightnings’ guns are aimed,
The pilot gives them one quick burst,
There’s nothing there, the Zeros cursed.
Over in Europe it’s just the same,
Focke-Wulfs and Messerschmitts are fair game.
Our pilots chase them from the sky
And make of Goebbels’ boasts a lie.
For every time their five guns roar,
The Axis rats die by the score.
Fork’tailed terrors of the air,
They make our enemies despair.
WALTZING WITH THE CLOUDS
By Tom McGuire
A solo flight in a P-38L on a breezy summer day,
Up out of Santa Rosa, and up over Bodega Bay.
Broken white cumulus cauliflower clouds gently floated by,
And this day I will always remember, until the day I die.
Music, I wanted music, so I turned on commercial radio,
And what a surprise-the station I got, was XEMO, in Mexico.
Instead of the usual Latin fare, to my amazement and delight,
Sounded the thrilling Blue Danube Waltz, crowning my favorite flight.
From my earliest years I loved music, the Victrola in our house
Was sheer magic to me, especially the waltzes of Johan Strauss.
That beautiful city, Vienna, often chided for her naughty faults,
Was the world’s capitol of music, and she gave us the Viennese waltz.
Lured by the mood and the rhythm, the lilting three-quarter time,
I waltzed above and below each cloud, in smooth descent and climb.
I looped and rolled and Immelmanned, wing-overs and chandelles,
Sweet lazy eights and rallentandos lent their soaring spells.
Suddenly the music stopped, and staccato Spanish was spoken,
I turned it off, tuned in on my base, for now the spell was broken.
Coming in to land, I felt a strange bitter-sweet confusion.
Did this fabulous flight really happen, was this just a dreamy illusion?
Feet on the ground, I pondered. Was this ecstasy real or false?
This I know: The Lightning, clouds, and I, all fused into the Viennese waltz.
Few days of my life have been perfect, but this unforgettable day,
I relive the P-38 waltz with the clouds, up over Bodega Bay.
In his poem “Waltzing with the Clouds” Tom McGuire uses the word Immelmanned.
For those of you who may not be familiar with the expression, an Immelmann turn was a dogfighting tactic of World War I named after the German pilot Max Immelmann. It was a maneuver used after an attack on another aircraft to reposition the attacking aircraft for another attack, and looked something like this. (Click to enlarge.)
WE ALSO LOVED THE LADY
by Fred L. Montgomery, S/Sgt-Crew Chief
Those of us who filled her ever-thirsty tanks with “”Fightin’ Blue,”
Who cleaned and oiled her arsenal and hung her deadly bombs,
Who kept her “ears” and “voice” always loud and clear,
Who patched the combat wounds in her sleek skin.
Who checked and tuned her after every flight,
Who guarded her through torrid desert days
and bitter, frigid nights,
Who pulled her preflight before each dawn
to make sure that she was fit
To take you into combat
and bring you safely home again.
Who strapped you into cockpit nest
and squeezed your shoulder for good luck,
And who waited through the endless hours for the thrill of seeing
You and our Lightning lady do the Victory Roll one more time!
Sure, there were times when you took her
But we understood. In fact, we were proud
to think that you trusted us both with your life.
Believe me, we were with you every second,
monitoring her heartbeat,
The steady scream of her superchargers,
the instant response of her controls.
And when you brought her back to us,
weary and sometimes wounded,
We gladly worked into the night to heal and make her fit to thunder
Once again into tomorrow’s dawn with you.
These things we did because we, too, loved
and were proud to share with you
Our incomparable Lady Lightning!
IN MEMORIAM TO CLARENCE L. “KELLY” JOHNSON
by Tom McGuire
“Kelly,” it’s over half a century now since your brilliant brain gave birth to the great Lockheed Lightning P-38 fighter plane.
Typical of genius, you broke from the single-engine routine, creating the famous twin-engine, twin-boom, single-seat Queen of fighters. Her speed, climb, range, guns, andunmatched versatility Lured pilots to a new unknown, deadly danger-compressibility
No other plane could duplicate the Lightning’s diving speed. As Ralph Virden-compressibility’s first fatality-forced the frantic need to block this mysterious force, which could tear a plane to pieces.
When powerdives exceeded shock-stall speeds, but no one had a proven thesis of what occurred, ’till you, Milo Burcham, and Tony LeVier succeeded in devising and proving the dive brakes the Lightning so badly needed.
Your reliable P-38L became the workhorse in Europe and the Pacific. She holds the two top fighter ace scores, final proof she was terrific.
You next created our best jet fighter, the amazing P-80 Shooting Star, alas, too late for World War II, but the best jet trainer by far.
Another world champion, the Starfighter 104, shot up into the blue, the first jet fighter to reach speeds in excess of incredible Mach 2.
And now we come to the crowning point of your fertile creative gift. Your masterpiece, the SR-71 Blackbird, the unique titanium, swift incomparable flying machine, supreme for these 30 cold-war years. She still stands alone, as Atlanta, the Queen of speed, no peers.
So “Kelly,” you belong in the highest place in Aviation’s Hall of Fame. You shortened World War II. We sorely needed you, and, thank God, you came.
We are diminished.
TO THE P-38 GROUND CREWS
By Tom McGuire
The fighter pilots got the medals, the acclaim, and the glory,
And nearly everyone agreed that their awards were just,
But the veteran Lightning pilots tell a grateful story
Whenever ground crew capability and dedication are discussed.
Just as a permanent building needs a solid, firm foundation,
A squadron needs the indispensable skilled ground crew:
Crew Chief, armorer, radioman, and their total dedication,
Without them, no plane or pilot zooms into the blue.
The ground crews’ day starts early, long hours before the dawn,
They work in cold, silent darkness, while pilots are asleep
Patiently, painstakingly, their pre-flight work goes on,
Pride in the craftsmanship and lofty standards they keep.
Who are these valiant men who keep the Lightnings flying?
Who worked their amazing wizardry “twixt dusk and dawn?”
Repairing battle damage with speed and skill most edifying,
So what limped in shot-up today, tomorrow was fit and gone.
Of U.S. fighters, the Lightning was biggest and most complex:
Single seater, but everything else was deluxe double:
Twin engines, propellers, turbos and carburetors would vex
The rookie mechanic, as he muttered “dammit, double trouble.”
In every theater they suffered: bitter Aleutian arctic cold,
Burning Tunisian sun and sand, New Guinea mosquitoes, steaming heat
English fog and chilling drizzle, Chinese mud, Burma mold,
Malaria, Dengue fever, malnutrition, the ills they had to meet.
These are the unsung heroes who kept the Lightnings flying
In every single theater of the war-torn seven seas.
They willingly worked in weather and bases most trying,
And they helped so much to bring the Axis to its knees.
So here’s a grateful toast to the gallant P-38 ground crews,
You skillful craftsmen who helped to win the war
Your work was so excellent, how could we lose?
You were the firm foundation of the Army Air Corps!
We’re not sure where this one came from, but if your tastes run to the risqué, this is surely a good one:
By Harry Brown
The world seemed covered with dripping mist
With walls of dismal gray.
Even the plane seemed to resist
When pulled from the hangar that day.
But everything was soon on board
And my walk-around begun.
Then I fired it up and taxied toward
My rendezvous with fun.
The mags were checked, prop in low pitch
My full run-up was done.
Controls were free-the mixture rich.
I began my take-off run.
I lifted the nose and became airborne
Into the overcast.
When that eerie mist was suddenly torn
And I found myself in the past.
And I was flying a P-38
Stacked in an echelon right.
Hades Squadron was tempting fate
And looking for a fight.
We were at angels twenty and my Blue Flight
Was lined-up covering the rear.
So I knew that things would be alright
And I had no sense of fear.
I saw some faces I hadn’t seen
For forty years or so.
Including some that departed this scene
A long, long time ago.
There was old Nick to lead the way
And then Houseworth appeared.
Then Hedrick and Allen and Wenige
With his blonde mustache and red beard.
And then Kirby, Willie Haning and Johnny Hood
Each man a real hero
Who fought with all the strength he could
Against a vicious foe.
Those wondrous warriors that I knew
Like Harris and Tom McGuire
Champlin and Monk-Czarnecki too
Verle Jeff and Gronemeyer.
And those who lead my element
Each one a friend of mine
Red Herman and Mankin and Francis Lent
And Lewis and Pappy Cline.
But the mist soon began to thin
And my friends to fade away
And I found out that I had been
But an instant along the way.
And then I broke completely clear.
In the brilliance of the dawn
All those scenes of yesteryear
And all my friends were gone.
And so I felt a moment’s pain
When returned to reality.
And I hoped I’d see them all again
And that they’d fly with me.
For the bonds of friendship that were wrought
On an anvil of adversity
Were forged forever as we fought
In the skies so valiantly.
Hark! Do you hear it?
The thundering roar of engines in the sky?
Someday I want forevermore
To be where those brave men fly.
ALMOST WHITE LIGHTNIN’S LAST RACE
By Lefty Gardner (Original owner of “White Lightnin’“)
After the airshows are over,
And there are no more races to run,
I trust that the good Lord above me.
Will look favorably on all the flying I’ve done.
You know it’s been like heaven on earth
To fly this magnificent plane,
To pierce the sky and dodge the clouds,
And soar above the rain.
They say you can’t take it with you,
When you pass through the pearly gates,
But I hope and pray that the angels above
Will want a ride in my P-38.
Oh no! Not a P-38!
A bit of humor from a song called “Give me Operations” — where it sounds like this guy doesn’t trust any aircraft, and he wants to be stationed out on some lonely atoll for the duration of the war. Here’s his “take” on the P-38…
Give Me Operations
Don’t give me a P-38,
the props they counter-rotate
She’s smattered and smittin’ from Burma to Britain
Don’t give me a P-38.
You can download the whole song from Amazon for .99 if you’d like to own it.
Give me Operations
I Shoulda Paid Attention in Class!
Guess the guy who wrote this missed the first step — the flight training on how to take off in a P‑38. His cheerful ditty was sent in by P‑38 Association Member, Elwyn Sneed, who tells us he flew with the 49th Fighter Squadron, 14th Fighter Group, of the 15th Air Force, out of Foggia, Italy (the same squadron as Edwin C. Baquet – ). Elwin says: “While there, I heard this P-38 ditty. I can only remember the first two stanzas. Maybe someone else knows more verses to this.”
Oh, why did I join the Air Corps?
Mother, dear Mother, knew best.
For here I lie ‘neath the wreckage
With a P‑38 on my chest.
You take off at 45 inches
The ship fairly leaps in the blue.
When the wheels are about half retracted, an engine quits and you’re through.
From the March Museum Roundtable
This little ditty was written by Oscar Weingart from the March Air Museum as a greeting to those of us who attended the March 22, 2011 presentation on the P‑38. Clever!
When it comes to warbirds,
there’s no plane as great
As the beautiful Lockheed P‑38.
When it came into service
our outlook was brightening.
The bad guys got nervous
when they first saw the Lightning.
Our two top aces flew a hot stick
And Yamamoto’s life ended
Bob, give us the word on this marvelous bird.
(His last remark was in reference to Bob Alvis, who was President of the P‑38 National Association and the featured speaker that night.)
Great Music from WWII
Where would we be without the wonderful songs from the war? Whenever you’re in the mood for some WWII tunes, try these out.
They can be downloaded or ordered the “classic” way with a CD – and some are even available on vinyl!
Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer
Even though they are not talking about the 38, we still like this particular lyric: “Though there’s one motor gone, we can still carry on.”
Coming in on a Wing & a Prayer
More than twenty years after this compilation was first released, it remains in print. That’s a testament to the love of the music of the World War II era.
The album kicks off The Andrews Sisters’ “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” and for the next hour, fans are treated to classics by the likes of both Dorsey brothers, Johnny Mercer, Duke Ellington, and a host of others.