P-38 Ligthning

During the second half 1944, Allied aircraft appeared daily over Yugoslavia. Large formation of U.S. bombers, which flew from Italian bases, bombed targets deep behind enemy lines in Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Romania. Lightings escorted these bombers all the way to their targets and back, owing to their long range.

One early morning at the beginning of April 1945,one P–38 from 14th B G was damaged by AA over Austria and suffering turbo–supercharger failure, the pilot decided to land on airfield which we overflow on the way back to Italy. It turned out to be Sombor airfield, currently used by 421st attack wing and 111th Fighter wing of the Yugoslav Army aviation. After a successful lending, the “domestic” pilots and mechanics rushed to meet the pilot and to see this modern airplane. Everybody was impressed by its strong armament and production quality. The U.S. pilot was transferred to Belgrade and then to his unit in Italy, while his aircraft remained at Sombor. As the Soviets showed their intention to fly the P–38 to Russia, the Yugoslavs decided to prevent this. They quietly removed one of the mainwheels in secrecy in order “to be repaired” and hide it until the Soviets moved to another base. The next day the Lighting was repaired and soon it was ready for flight-testing.

The first pilot to fly the P–38 was Radovan Dakovic,

2nd Lieutenant 111th Fighter wing and he took it to the Air on 19th May 1945. After the transfer of 111th wing to Skoplje, the P–38 went on 21st May, too.

The P–38 flew only several times in 1945 and made few more flights in 1946. Owing to the lack of spares, it was dissembled and stored at Technical University at Belgrade. In early ‘70s, it was transferred to Yugoslav Air and Space Museum in Belgrade, and parts of its fuselage with original U.S. markings as well as wing parts, are at the storage in the Museum` s depot.

The P–38 which landed at Sombor was a P–38 L.–5-L O, serial No. A F 44-25786. It was in natural metal overall with white bands, bordered in red on fin and rudder as well as tailplanes. Roman No. “I” (last digit of “I8I”) was painted in black on the nose and on bottom radiators. The combination of two colors (red 48th FS and white for 37th FS) leads to the possibility that this was a personal mount of the Group’s higher officers, but this still has to be confirmed. At Sombor the light areas of U.S. stars were painted out in red and the later, at Skoplje, the U.S. markings were removed and Yugoslav Standard markings applied. The individual No. “I” was never removed.

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