The P-38 had an unusual "twin-boom" design and two engines. Although the first prototype flew in early 1940, the first production aircraft were not delivered until October 1941, because its unorthodox design provided many design problems.
The British were the first to order the P-38, although they were only used for training purposes. The P-38F was the first model to see combat—it was used extensively in North Africa and the Southern Pacific. The P-38G and H also served notably as bomber escorts in Europe, although with the development of the P-51 Mustang and the P-47 Thunderbolt they were almost phased out. They were used throughout the Pacific theatre, as their long range, bomb capacity, and speed made them superb choices for land-based aircraft. In April 1943, 18 Guadalcanal-based Lightnings were sent on a secret mission to intercept and shoot down the plane carrying top Japanese commander Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto.
- Martin Caidin. Fork-Tailed Devil: The P-38 (2003) excerpt and text search
- Michael O'Leary. Lockheed P-38 Lightning (1999) excerpt and text search
- John Stanaway and Tom Tullis. P-38 Lightning Aces of the ETO/MTO (1998) excerpt and text search
- Donald A. Davis, Lightning Strike: The Secret Mission to Kill Admiral Yamamoto and Avenge Pearl Harbor (2005)