P-38 Lightning (San Diego, 130 fsw)

This P-38 crashed during a training flight near Torrey Pines State Beach in May 1943. There were three planes engaging in a practice attack drill when one of them had the right wing hit the surface of the water, damage the prop and then he tried to limp home on the remaining engine. However, the plan quickly changed to ditching the plane and the pilot survived.

The P-38 is a pretty unique looking aircraft with a “twin tail” as can be seen above. Since the plane has been down for close to 80 years and since a lot of the plane was made from aluminum, it has really started to show the age. I’ve seen pictures from 20 years ago that show almost the full cockpit and canopy (http://www.cawreckdivers.org/Wrecks/P38.htm). Unfortunately, that is not the case anymore.

I’ve decided to post photos that have been converted to black & white that give a sense of the overall wreck/structure and then color for some of the close-up pictures of unique features.

Overall Structure

There are some cool features to be found on this particular P-38 including the superchargers on the engine pontoons, the engines themselves and the 50 cal ammunition still in the cans. I like these photos in color since you can get a sense of the growth on this artificial reef.

2 x 12 Cylinder Allison V-1710 Engines

The P-38 design by Lockheed had twin “booms” to accommodate the tail assembly, engines, and turbo-superchargers. You can clearly see the two booms in the pictures above. The engines had a lot of aluminum which doesn’t last very long in salt water so the heads on the engines have rotted away revealing the piston chambers. You can even “count” the pistons on each side.

Turbo Supercharger

Each of the pontoons had a turbo supercharger made by GE about the middle of assembly. You can see it in the picture below.

50-cal ammunition

At the front of the wreck area, there are multiple containers of 50 caliber ammunition that divers have thoughtfully left for others to see. If you dive this wreck, please don’t take them!

5 thoughts on “P-38 Lightning (San Diego, 130 fsw)

Leave a Reply