The American fighter pilot spotted two indistinct shapes cutting diagonally across a road just slightly above and in front of him. They were blemishes in motion. He rechecked his armament switches, rammed his throttles to full power and went down low, as low as he dared, hugging the treetops. The afternoon shadow of his P Lightning raced across French hedgerows and fields as the pilot sought to identify the other two aircraft. He wanted them to be Focke-Wulf Fws, falling nicely into the crosshairs of his nose-mounted 20mm cannon and four. Olds shot down one of the Fws moments later, then followed the second into a violent left break, fired and watched the pilot bail out.
If you are reading this, it is because your browser does not support the 'video' element. Try using the 'object' element listed further down the page. What would become one of the best fighters in World War II was created more by happenstance than by design. The Lockheed P Lightning was originally designed as a bomber-interceptor and was never intended to be a fighter.
Skip to content. This object is not on display at the National Air and Space Museum. It is either on loan or in storage. From to , the thunder of P Lightnings was heard around the world. Measured by success in combat, Lockheed engineer Clarence "Kelly" Johnson and a team of designers created the most successful twin-engine fighter ever flown by any nation.
On August 17, , the 97th Bomb Group began the opening attack of the U. The mission was a strike by 12 Boeing B Flying Fortresses against the railroad marshaling yards at Rouen, 40 miles into France from the English Channel. The first plane off the ground was flown by Major Paul Tibbets , who three years later would pilot the B Superfortress Enola Gay on its historic mission against Hiroshima. Sitting across from Tibbets was Colonel Frank Armstrong, the 97th commander.