The idea behind The Last Lightning begins with the legendary plane itself. When the Army Air Corps decided to seek bids for a new fighter, they had no idea they would end up with one of World War II's most iconic airplanes.
Lockheed's famed Kelly Johnson drove his designers to create an airplane that was fast, heavily armed, and highly maneuverable. With Europe about to erupt in war there was no time to lose. The first P-38 prototype flew in 1937, setting a transcontinental speed record. The U.S. government was impressed enough to order an additional thirteen planes. British pilots tagged the fighter with its popular name, Lightning. But the Brits never embraced the new airplane and it fell to American pilots to demonstrate the versatility of the big twin-tailed fighter. Though the P-38 proved itself in North African and European skies, it was in the Pacific where the plane's legend was born. When P-38s began arriving in the southwest Pacific in enough numbers to equip entire squadrons, the beginning of the end for Japanese domination began. General George Kenney's Fifth Air Force ruled the skies over New Guinea and the Philippines. His fighter groups racked up an unheard of ratio of ten-to-one kills with the Lightning. Wisconsin native Richard Bong (40 kills) and New Jersey's Tommy McGuire (38 kills) were awarded the Medal of Honor for their heroics in Lightnings. The P-38 produced a long list of aces (pilots with at least five aerial victories). Japanese admiral Isoruku Yamamoto, architect of Pearl Harbor, was shot down by a flight of P-38s. His crashed bomber in a Bougainville jungle remains a testament to the awesome firepower and long-range capabilities of the Lightning. Hidden in Papua New Guinea are some 300 missing Allied aircraft, among them P-38 Lightnings.