475th Fighter Group and P-38 Lightning Cockpit
The 475th Fighter Group, also known as “Satan’s Angels,” was the only Fighter Group that featured the P-38 Lightning aircraft. Their mission was critical in support of U.S. forces to regain control in the Southwest Pacific.
The 475th Fighter Group was activated in May 1943. The Papuan Campaign in New Guinea ended four months earlier, freeing these forces in the Southwest Pacific to support the beginning of the offensive to gain air control over New Guinea. The squadron was made up of the only three P-38 squadrons in the 5th Air Force — the 80th squadron of the 8th Fighter Group, the 39th Squadron of the 35th Group, and the 9th Squadron of the 49th Group. The 475th trained for three months and began operating out of Port Moseby, Australia, by August 1943.
The P-38 Lightening was the only fighter aircraft in the Southwest Pacific that had a range sufficient to escort bombers to and from Australia and New Guinea. The twin-tailed fighter entered service with the U.S. in 1941. It served in every theater during WWII: Europe, Africa and the Pacific. Built as a high-altitude interceptor, the P-38 saw success as a fighter aircraft, but was also used for photoreconnaissance, bombing, and night fighting. The last P-38 was received in 1945 and was phased out of service by 1949.
A total of 38 pilots of the 475th achieved the title “Ace” by shooting down at least five enemy aircraft in a battle. Col. Charles MacDonald downed a total of 27 enemy aircraft. Captain Daniel T. Roberts shot down 14. Lt. Francis J. Lent and Lt. Col. John S. Loisel both shot down 11. Capt. Elliot Summer also downed 10 aircraft. The pilots were also joined by Charles Lindbergh on at least two missions.
The highly decorated P-38 group participated in seven campaigns and 3,042 missions during two years of active combat. Pilots shot down 551 enemy aircraft while losing only 56 P-38s. The group was awarded three Distinguished Unit Citations for outstanding performance of duty in action.
Our exhibit highlights uniforms and memorabilia belonging to members of the 475th Fighter Group. The fiberglass cockpit displays instrument panels and equipment used by 475th pilots. All items have been generously provided by the 475th Fighter Group Historical Foundation.