1997 32¢ Lockheed P-38 Lightning
Classic American Aircraft
Issue Date: July 19, 1997
City: Dayton, OH
Printed By: Stamp Venturers
Printing Method: Photogravure
When the US Army Air Corps issued specifications for a high-altitude interceptor in 1937, Lockheed was already aware of the qualities demanded: speed, ceiling, and firepower combined with the ability to carry enough fuel for superior range were essential. Built to meet these requirements, Lockheed’s P-38 Lightning became one of the most feared and respected aircraft to fly in the Axis skies. Its firepower was lethal and its long range allowed it to accompany bombers to Berlin and beyond.
The Lightning entered service in 1941 and was deployed in Europe, North Africa, and the Pacific during 1942. Throughout the war it gained steadily in performance, demonstrating remarkable versatility. Although it achieved its ultimate effectiveness as an escort, the P-38 was also used extensively as a ground-attack aircraft, as well as during night raids, photograph reconnaissance missions, and to drop smokescreen layers.
It was this combination of power and versatility that gained the P-38 a formidable reputation among the Japanese and Germans, who dubbed it the “fork-tailed devil.” In fact, the Lightning ended the war with more Japanese aircraft to its credit than any other type. And it was the only American fighter built before WWII to still be in production on VJ Day.