Archive for May 22nd, 2009


World War II American Fighters: Lockheed P-38 Lightning


Nicknamed the fork-tailed devil by the Germans, this American fighter achieved what many nations had hoped for in a twin-engine fighter — one that could actually fight.


Designed by Kelly Johnson of Lockheed’s Skunkworks, the twin-boom design with a center nacelle for the pilot created an effective gun platform that didn’t have the aiming problems of wing-mounted guns. 


The aircraft didn’t gain acceptance with US Army Air Corps pilots, however, until after Charles Lindbergh, brought on as a consultant, taught American pilots how to set the fuel mixture on the airplane.  After Lindbergh’s contribution, which greatly increased the range of the aircraft, this long range fighter began to dominate the air in both the Pacific and European theaters.


Sleek, fast and deadly, this warplane usually armed with four fifty caliber machine guns and a 20 millimeter canon, served as a bomber escort, interceptor, ground attacker, photo reconnaissance and as a radar equipped night fighter.


This particular P-38, which can be found at the EAA Airventure Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, was piloted by Richard I Bong of Poplar, Wisconsin, America’s Ace of Aces.  Shown here with 26 Japanese kills to his credit, Captain Bong would go on to shoot down 40 Japanese aircraft during World War II which leads all American aces in total number of kills.


On This Day, May 22: The Oregon Trail

May 22, 1843

Great Emigration departs for Oregon

A massive wagon train, made up of 1,000 settlers and 1,000 head of cattle, sets off down the Oregon Trail from Independence, Missouri. Known as the “Great Emigration,” the expedition came two years after the first modest party of settlers made the long, overland journey to Oregon.

After leaving Independence, the giant wagon train followed the Sante Fe Trail for some 40 miles and then turned northwest to the Platte River, which it followed along its northern route to Fort Laramie, Wyoming. From there, it traveled on to the Rocky Mountains, which it passed through by way of the broad, level South Pass that led to the basin of the Colorado River. The travelers then went southwest to Fort Bridger, northwest across a divide to Fort Hall on the Snake River, and on to Fort Boise, where they gained supplies for the difficult journey over the Blue Mountains and into Oregon. The Great Emigration finally arrived in October, completing the 2,000-mile journey from Independence in five months.

In the next year, four more wagon trains made the journey, and in 1845 the number of emigrants who used the Oregon Trail exceeded 3,000. Travel along the trail gradually declined with the advent of the railroads, and the route was finally abandoned in the 1870s.

“Great Emigration departs for Oregon,” The History Channel website, 2009, [accessed May 22, 2009]


On This Day

1455 – King Henry VI was taken prisoner by the Yorkists at the Battle of St. Albans, during the War of the Roses.

1819 – The steamship Savannah became the first to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

1841 – Henry Kennedy received a patent for the first reclining chair.

1849 – Abraham Lincoln received a patent for the floating dry dock.

1872 – The Amnesty Act restored civil rights to Southerners.

1947 – The Truman Doctrine was enacted by the U.S. Congress to appropriate military and economic aid Turkey and Greece.

1955 – A scheduled dance to be headlined by Fats Domino was canceled by police in Bridgeport, Connecticut because “rock and roll dances might be featured.”

1967 – “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” premiered on PBS.

1969 – A lunar module of Apollo 10 flew within nine miles of the moon’s surface. The event was a rehearsal for the first lunar landing.

1972 – U.S. President Nixon became the first U.S. president to visit Russia. He met with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev.

1990 – Microsoft released Windows 3.0.

May 22, 1939

The Pact of Steel is signed; the Axis is formed

On this day in 1939, Italy and Germany agree to a military and political alliance, giving birth formally to the Axis powers, which will ultimately include Japan.

Mussolini coined the nickname “Pact of Steel” (he had also come up with the metaphor of an “axis” binding Rome and Berlin) after reconsidering his first choice, “Pact of Blood,” to describe this historic agreement with Germany. The Duce saw this partnership as not only a defensive alliance, protection from the Western democracies, with whom he anticipated war, but also a source of backing for his Balkan adventures. Both sides were fearful and distrustful of the other, and only sketchily shared their prospective plans. The result was both Italy and Germany, rather than acting in unison, would often “react” to the precipitate military action of the other. In September 1940, the Pact of Steel would become the Tripartite Pact, with Japan making up the third constituent of the triad.

“The Pact of Steel is signed; the Axis is formed,” The History Channel website, 2009, [accessed May 22, 2009]

May 2009

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