Lockheed P-38J Lightning – 43-28431 / MC-O, ‘Happy Jacks Go Buggy’, Capt. Jack M Ilfrey, 79th FS / 20th FG USAAF, RAF Kings Cliffe June 12th 1944
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Corgi Aviation Archive 1/72 scale AA36616: Lockheed P-38J Lightning serial 43-28431 / MC-O ‘Happy Jacks Go Buggy’, as flown by Capt. Jack M Ilfrey of 79th FS / 20th FG USAAF, RAF Kings Cliffe June 12th 1944. Limited edition of 1,000 pieces, sold out at launch
Length 6.25 inches Wingspan 8.75 inches
When learning about the exploits of pilots who served during the Second World War, some seem to be so incredible that they appear to have come straight from the pages of a Boy”s Own magazine. One such airman was American Jack M. Ilfrey, a man who was already a P-38 Lightning “ace” when he joined the 79th Fighter Squadron of the 20th Fighter Group at Kings Cliffe in April 1944. At that time, missions were heading deep into Germany and although the Luftwaffe could be elusive, when they did show up, they came in numbers and were extremely aggressive. On his third mission with the 79th, Ilfrey”s Lightning was involved in a mid-air collision with a Messerschmitt Bf 109, ripping almost four feet of his starboard wing off – he made it back to base, but only just.
His Lightning carried the name “Happy Jack”s Go Buggy” on its nose, reputedly applied by his crew chief as a joke, because everyone thought Ilfrey always looked a bit miserable. By the 12th June, the Lightnings of the 20th FG had been assigned dive bombing and strafing missions behind enemy lines and the mission that day was to destroy a vital railway bridge near the French village of La Possonniere on the banks of the river Loire. The Lightnings executed their mission with ruthless effectiveness, however, the minutes which would prove particularly memorable for Jack Ilfrey.
Designed to meet a USAAC requirement for a high-performance fighter, the P-38 Lightning was first flown on January 27th, 1939. The easily recognizable P-38 had twin-booms, twin turbo-supercharged engines, a central pod for the pilot, contra-rotating propellers and tricycle landing gear. Its roles included dive bombing, level bombing, ground strafing and photo reconnaissance. When equipped with drop tanks it was also flown as a long-range escort fighter. The Lightning’s armament was clustered in the nose of the plane, which gave the pilot a direct line of site to the target and also gave the weapons a “buzz saw” effect that was useful for strafing.