Originally conceived as a high-altitude interceptor to meet a 1937-vintage Army Air Corps requirement, Lockheed's Model 22 was to become one of the best-known fighters of World War II. The most distinguishing feature of the P-38 was its podded fuselage and unusual twin-boom tail assembly. Initially an innovative approach to the original Air Corps specification, it later would prove ideal for the Pacific Theater and the long, over-water flights that often were entailed.
Perhaps the most important of the Lightning variants was the P-38L. Equipped with more powerful 1,600-horsepower engines and other upgrades, it was considered by many to be the best of the breed. Over 3,800 were completed by the war's end.
The final noteworthy P-38 variant was the P-38M night fighter. This was one of the first radar-equipped U.S. fighters, and was distinctive in having an elevated rear seat and an extended rear canopy for a second crew member.
The Museum's P-38L-typeaircraft was actually one of the very last Lightnings produced. It was a P-38M when delivered to the Army Air Forces, but after Doug Champlin acquired it from Cecil Harp and Bob Ennis of Modesto, California in 1983 it was converted to its present single-seat configuration.