By Christmas 1943, some 1,550 military personnel were stationed at Estrella and the Navy auxiliary airfield southeast of Paso Robles, Sherwood Field. The Estrella USAAFB was under the jurisdiction of the Santa Maria Army Air Force Base, to be used to train pilots in night flying. The based was used primarily as a "back up" training field for the squadrons stationed at Santa Maria. At the time, the primary airplane being utilized for training was the P-38. Although there were never any great number of P-38's assigned to Estrella,the plane definitely left it's mark on the local area (not to mention various parts deposited in local farm land). The P-38 Lockheed Lightning is a plane that changed the course of flying history. I am pretty sure you will agree that we never would have won WW II without the help of this extraordinary aircraft.
At this time, we do not have any P-38 aircraft on display (other than various models and parts in the museum). However, if you know of one that still exists and needs a good home amongst the company of well restored warbirds, we would be glad to provide excellent care and nourishment in it's twilight years.
In the meantime, in remembrance of this wonderful bird which once graced the skies above Paso Robles, (and was undoubtedly, one of the best aircraft of WWII), it now flies across our web pages as a constant reminder.
Contrary to what some think, the P-38 was not just a fighter, although it was the fighter of choice for many pilots. It was so versatile it could also be a bomber (carrying high explosive and incendiary bomb loads), a reconnaissance plane and an escort. There's very little it could not do. It flew at amazing speed and altitude for its time, faster and higher than any other.
The P-38F was the first one to engage in extensive combat, primarily in North Africa, New Guinea and the Solomons in 1942. The P-38G also entered service in late 1942, and 1,082 of them were produced. The P-38H was the next in line and was the first with fully automatic supercharger controls.
The sight of a P-38 Lockheed Lightning so terrified the enemy that the Luftwaffe dubbed it as "Der Gabelschwanz Teufel" (The Fork-Tailed Devil). The P-38 was light years ahead of its time. Saburo Sakai, a Japanese Ace, said, "On my first confrontation with the P-38, I was astonished to find an American aircraft that could outrun, out climb, and out dive our Zero which we thought was the most superior fighter plane in the world. The Lightning's great speed, its sensational high altitude performance, and especially its ability to dive and climb much faster than the Zero presented insuperable problems for our fliers. The P-38 pilots, flying at great height, chose when and where they wanted to fight with disastrous results for our own men. The P-38 boded ill for the future and destroyed the morale of the Zero fighter Pilot."
The Lightning gained fame in the hands of Army Major Richard I. Bong, whose 40 aerial victories were scored in the P-38, making him the highest-scoring American ace of the war. P-38 pilots were also credited with the downing of Japanese Admiral Yamamoto. In June of 1944, the first P-38J models were produced, and they were the first model that showed the 38's true potential. By that time, the following improvements and/or additions had been made: dive brakes, aileron boost, improved cockpit heating, electrical system circuit breakers, an adequate inter-cooler system, maneuvering flaps, flat bullet-proof windshield, better engines and dependable automatically controlled superchargers. The final model, the P-38L was introduced with a tremendous boost in horsepower and was able to reach altitudes of 28,700 ft., but that benefit was largely negated by the 500 extra pounds of weight it carried. Lockheed did build and test one P-38K, but it was never mass produced because Allison couldn't guarantee delivery of the engines. There was a P-38M, but they were actually P-38L-5s which were modified to P-38Ms (probably in Dallas, TX).
The P-38 Lightning was produced by Lockheed Corporation. The most-built version was the P-38L, of which 3923 were built. (It is a little-known fact that a small number of Lightning's were built under license by the Consolidated-Vultee Corporation. 2,000 airplanes were contracted, but production was halted on VJ-Day after only 113 had been built.)