Monday, August 17, 2009

Charles Lindbergh - The Lone Eagle during WWII in the Pacific

Charles Lindbergh, the famous aviator, was against America going into WWII. After the Pearl Harbor attacks, however, he wanted to do whatever he could for the war effort. President Roosevelt didn’t want a national hero to be involved in any actual combat lest he got hurt or killed. Also the president held some deep resentment against Mr. Lindbergh because of Lindbergh’s activities before the war.

So in May 1944 Charles Lindbergh became a Technical Advisor/Consultant to the United Aircraft Company which required him to Field Test the F4U Corsair with the Marine Corps at Guadalcanal. He flew on 14 combat missions. Then in June 1994 he went to the lush tropical island of Emirau (also spelled Emira). This island is in the St. Matthias Group or Islands, also known as the Mussau Islands, in the Bismarck Archipelago that makes up part of Papua New Guinea. Papua New Guinea is approximately 125 north of Australia.

Lindbergh was stationed with the 475th Fighter Group which was part of the 5th Air Force. This group was known as “Satan’s Angels.” He would be flying the Lockheed P-38 Lightning. He took part in 50 combat missions and even shot down 1 enemy plane.

As an observer he quickly calculated that the combat radius of the P-38 could be extended by 30%. A standard technique at the time was to cruise at 2200 – 2400 rpm’s with a fuel/air mixture set to auto-rich with the manifold pressure set to low. Lindbergh called for only 1600 rpm with a fuel/air mixture set to auto-lean and a manifold pressure set to high. This reduced fuel consumption to between 63 and 70 gallons per hour from 90 to 100 gallons per hour. The cruising speed was around 185 mph. The P-38’s used to fly a five-hour mission and come back on fumes, but after taking Lindbergh’s advice, the range of the P-38’s increased as much as 400 miles. The mission’s (bomber escort and loiter) time was increased to nine hours with fuel to spare. I doubt that the pilot’s enjoyed sitting in the cockpit for nine hours!

When Lindbergh first gave his advice for extending the range of the P-38, the pilots and especially the mechanics were against it. The mechanics thought that the engines would be put under too much strain and that part’s of the engines would rapidly wear out. But after the P-38’s came back from missions, the mechanics would strip the engines down and find no abnormal wear or tear. Lindbergh was vindicated, but he chose not to lord that over anyone. He let his actions speak for him.

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