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Something about the P-38…

The P-38 will always be a special airplane for me. I grew up in San Gabriel, CA from 1939 to 1947, all during WWII. Ages 1 to 8, a very formative time in a young person’s life and mind.

We had all kinds of warplanes flying over every day, on their way out to the San Gabriel mountains, for test flights. The P-38 became one of my favorites, if not my most favorite. Years later (1974, when the SR-71 set the New York to London record), at Farnborough in England, being able to meet Kelly Johnson was incredible. My brain turned to mush, and I never got to say and ask the things I should have. I did tell him I had enjoyed his aircraft designs for many years, and he laughed, and said “they either have too much wing or not enough!”

Then a few years later, in 1979, I attended the 40th Anniversary Symposium on the P-38, in Burbank, and got to meet Kelly again, still in awe! My previous employer, Chet Patterson, who flew the P-38 in combat in Europe, was also in attendance, and it was a far out evening, lasting until 1 AM at least. The next day famous Lockheed test pilot Tony LeVier flew a restored P-38 for us attendees at the Burbank airport, quite a treat.

Anyway, the P-38 has remained a favorite over all the years, though my interest in the RAF, and British aircraft, has taken up more of my attention as the years have gone by, and I learned more about what was going on outside of San Gabriel during those years of WWII. Somewhere I have a photo of me holding a card (paper) model of a P-38, in what looks like 1/18 scale (very big anyway), that my dad made for me, all those years ago in San Gabriel.

This is the old Revell 1/32 P-38J, done in the markings of Major Thomas McGuire, the second ranking fighter ace for the US in WWII (after Dick Bong, who also flew the P-38). He flew in the 475th Fighter Group in the Pacific Theatre of operations, and was killed in action there. McGuire AFB in New Jersey is named in his honor. I built this model quite a few years ago. This is not the easiest kit to build, and I guess part of the problem is the twin booms, and trying to get everything to line up right. This seems to be a problem with twin boom aircraft models. I seem to also remember the engine nacelles being a bit of a problem, getting the covers to fit properly. And of course it has many other deficiencies as well, as do all the Revell 1/32 kits of that era. However, they can still offer something to those that like a little challenge. And a little nostalgia.

7 additional images. Click to enlarge.

13 responses to Something about the P-38…

  1. Stunning build and equally stunning photographic work, sir.

  2. Hi Robert, it must be a great experience, to meet these persons. Your
    P-38 looks great, i like it very much, i have this kit too in my stash, as a
    bomber with a glas nose, your build is a good inspiration, to lay my hands
    on it, may be with some aftermarked goodies, primed in a iron shade, with
    a layer of silver above and some polish, to bring out the rivets and panel lines
    All the Best Bernd

  3. Yes Robert, an iconic aircraft indeed. Nice job on the ‘J’.

  4. Very nice example of the P-38.

  5. Love it, Robert ! It must have taken a lot of work to get that old bird looking that good !

  6. Lovely job done there on a big piece of plastic.
    Nice paint work too.
    Well done Robert.

  7. Very nice model, Robert. Tony LeVier was a real kick. it was 1979 that i got to go flying with him for the first time in his Monocoupe (he restored the airplane he learned to fly in – if you know anything about a Monocoupe, having that for your first airplane would definitely turn you into a good pilot). He was definitely “the Huckleberry Finn of aviation.” Always the kid who was just happy to be there.

    • Tom,
      Wow, you not only knew, but got to fly with, the great Tony LeVier! What an experience that must have been. He always seemed to me a super person, as well as a great pilot. The Monocoupe is a very attractive airplane. Thanks for sharing this bit of history.

  8. Beautiful model of a plane that’s obviously been a big part of your life, Robert. Your love of the real thing really shows through. I’m sure your posting is just the thing that iModeler is for.

    • George,
      You really understand what I was trying to say, that the P-38 goes way back for me. Many thanks! I do think that I should take a new set of digital photos, and maybe a few more, as I believe these were taken some time ago, with a 35mm film camera.

  9. Very nice build Robert and very interesting story/history! Those old Revell kits do seem to turn out so much better than the sum of their faults. I still say the surface engraving on the 1/32 109G and the Spitfire Mk1 was years ahead of its time. Their Hurricane wasn’t half bad either.

  10. Thank you all for your comments. I’m glad I posted this old model of the P-38!

  11. Bob,
    Seeing this model in person makes it impressive enough. Reading your story attached to this post make it even more impressive. Tom’s comment was very interesting particularly flying in the Monocoupe. One of my favorite airplanes. I will have to read up on it further.
    Again, great job……… For an old guy. I still have four days to go. Burgers and two fingers to you.

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