Major Thomas McGuire (l) speaking with Charles Lindbergh ®.
One of the most interesting stories of the war was the contribution of Charles Lindbergh. First making headlines when he was able to fly over the Atlantic Ocean without stopping, but was also an exoert in fuel management. The American fighter groups were always trying to find new ways to increase their operating range, especially in the Pacific. Navigating over water is difficult, and saving every drop of precious fuel could save pilots. An increase of range would open up many more targets for attack.
Lindbergh received permission by the Navy to tour installations in the south Pacific. He spent time flying the Corsair, and finished his tour in June 1944. Lindbergh went to New Guinea to meet with General Ennis Whitehead, and was invited to instruct P-38 pilots better fuel management.
Lindbergh was given permission by Colonel Robert Morrissey to travel to Nadzah, New Guinea, and become familiar with the P-38. On June 15, 1944, Lindbergh arrived, and was soon spending time behind a P-38. His first flight was rather interesting because once he landed, a brake malfunction resulted in a blown tire, but there was no damage. Soon Lindbergh felt comfortable with the aircraft, and on June 26, he took off to join up with the 475th Fighter Group. He flew along combat missions as an observer, and quickly calculated that the combat radius could be extended by 30%. A standard technique at the time was cruising at 2200 - 2400 rpm’s in auto-rich at low manifold pressure. Lindbergh called for only 1600 rpm in an auto-lean mixture with a high manifold pressure. This reduced fuel consumption to 70 gallons per hour, and resulted in a cruising speed of 185 mph. By comparison, in July 1944, P-38s would fly a five-hour mission and come back on fumes, but after taking Lindbergh’s advice, Colonel Jack Jenkins landed with over 160 gallons of fuel.
Lindbergh’s impact was very significant and had a direct impact on the war effort.
On July 15, 1944, while on a combat mission, Lindbergh was suddenly faced with a Japanese aircraft heading straight for him. Lindbergh fired his guns, and then pulled up, missing the Japanese aircraft by five feet. He scored a confirmed kill, but was never officially recorded in the records of the 433rd Flight Squadron. Squadron commanders had given direct orders to keep Lindbergh out of dangerous situations, so his unplanned encounter with the Japanese aircraft was kept secret.