View Full Version : I was at the mall yesterday and happened to see an

01-16-2010, 11:20 AM
elderly man in a suit and tie sitting by himself doing the daily crossword puzzle. I've seen him before a few times and just figured he enjoyed the quiet time after dropping off his wife for shopping or hair-do or whatever.

Today, I happened to notice he was wearing two small pins, pilot’s wings and a P38. I went over and introduced myself asking if he was a pilot. "Yes", he replied," I was a fighter pilot in WWII. This was one of the planes I flew” pointing to his lapel.

He went on to tell me about flying in the 39th Fighter Squadron in the Pacific theater. He flew the P38 until the Air Corp switched them over to P47's in '44 and then did more ground attack and strafing. He said they fused over losing the Lightning. The P38 was a lot more fun to fly and he said he really liked having those two engines, "Especially if one was out and you had to get home on just one engine. That happened a few times". He told me about how he was the wingman for Captain Charles P. Sullivan when he was shot down over New Guinea.


Before he left, he asked for my email and wanted to send me info on the film they'd made. He said if I got an email from Outcastblue2, it would be him and don't just think it's some junk mail. Outcast was his flight group's name and he was blue2.

A real interesting guy. It was an honor to shake his hand.

Here's a newspaper article he emailed me this morning:

Franklin resident Lewis Lockhart was a World War II fighter pilot. He served in the Army Air Corps' 39th Squadron, which was known as "the cobras in the clouds." (MITCHELL KLINE / THE TENNESSEAN)

‘Blue Two' tells war stories for film
Lockhart flew famous fighters in WWII

Staff Writer

FRANKLIN — Lewis Lockhart's pilot buddies still call him Blue Two.
That was the World War II fighter pilot's call sign on Sept. 20, 1943, while escorting a group of bombers during a raid of a Japanese base in the South Pacific.

Lockhart flew in a squadron of P-38s that provided cover for bombers. His leader, Charles O'Sullivan, was shot down and managed to crash-land in the New Guinea jungle. O'Sullivan encountered hostile natives and survived 30 days in the jungle before finally reaching a group of Australian troops and eventually getting back to his base.
Lockhart, 87, nearly ran out of gas as he flew over the jungle searching for O'Sullivan's plane the day it crashed. Lockhart had to make an emergency landing on a dirt runway to refuel before heading back to his base. The squad spent three days searching for their leader's plan, but never found it and assumed O'Sullivan was dead.
O'Sullivan's survival story is the subject of a new documentary, which will be submitted to the Nashville Film Festival. The documentary premiered at the Hot Springs Film Festival in Arkansas, where it received good reviews. Lockhart appears in the film, talking about the crash and how he and other pilots spent days looking for O'Sullivan's plane.
The film reunited Lockhart and O'Sullivan, who now communicate on a regular basis.
"He still calls me Blue Two," Lockhart said.
While he didn't have to fight the New Guineans or endure 30 days in a jungle, Lockhart has a few of his own survival stories.
"It seems like I was on the edge of catastrophe all the time," Lockhart said, recounting his combat experience from the dining room of his Franklin home. "I wasn't unusual. The only unusual thing about me was I made it back without a scratch."
College student becomes cadet
He grew up in East Tennessee, and was going to Middle Tennessee State University when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Lockhart felt compelled to fight back and volunteered for the U.S. Army Air Corps.
"Really, I'd never been off the ground," Lockhart said. "I'd seen movies about fighter pilots and figured cadet training was the best place to be."
He got his wings on Oct. 9, 1942, and landed on foreign soil ready for combat exactly one year after Pearl Harbor was attacked. He left behind his college sweetheart. Lockhart was stationed in New Guinea with the 39th Fighter Squadron. The squad was known as "the cobras in the clouds."
Squad members conducted various missions including reconnaissance, strafing runs, defensive support and transportation.
Lockhart completed 171 missions and flew seven different types of planes, but his favorite was the Lockheed P-38 Lightning.
"I wouldn't want to fly anything else," Lockhart said. "I could do anything in that plane."
The P-38 was a compact fighter plane with twin engines. Lockhart said it was one of the fastest planes of its time. The P-38 was designed to allow pilots to perform a variety of acrobatic maneuvers such as rolls, loops and dives.
"You could outrun anything in a P-38," Lockhart said.
Japanese fighters weren't the only danger Lockhart and his fellow pilots encountered. On many occasions mechanical failure was Lockhart's worst enemy.
"Every time you took off there was something that could go wrong," Lockhart said. "If you got captured by the Japanese you knew what would happen. You'd be beheaded."
In 1943, he was escorting a group of B-24 bombers, cruising at 19,000 feet, when an engine went out.
"I found myself in a hornet's nest of Japanese Zeroes," Lockhart said. "I outran them on one engine and got back to an emergency strip without ever getting shot."
Near miss came before takeoff
In 1944, he was nearly blown to bits before he ever left the runway. Lockhart was set to lead a flight of four fighters on a long-range mission. His plane had been equipped with a 200-gallon fuel tank.
Gaining speed for takeoff, a tire blew and the tank dragged across the pavement, causing sparks and then an explosion.
"It popped me out," Lockhart said. "I laid there a minute, but I was just jarred. I wasn't even scratched. The plane burnt to the ground."
Firefighters had to work cautiously as 45 mm rounds in the burning plane started going off.
Lockhart's squad members carried out their mission and were surprised to see him sitting on a jeep when they returned.
Life as a fighter pilot in the South Pacific wasn't always harrowing.
Lockhart got to meet famed pilot Charles Lindberg, who taught him how to fly long distances in a P-47. He got to visit Australia's vibrant beaches while on leave, and once dropped in on a lonely cattle rancher.
Lockhart was flying a P-39 for training purposes and decided to do some sightseeing.
He was flying over the Australian outback when coolant started leaking from the plane and he bailed out.
His parachute got tangled in a tree and he had to cut himself down in the middle of nowhere. Lockhart said he followed a stream until he came across a cattle station where cowboys were breaking in wild horses.
"A man there welcomed me in," Lockhart said. "They didn't have a lot of contact with the outside world, but he was well-stocked with any kind of meat you could want. He offered me my choice of steak and bourbon or gin."
Because he was flying where he wasn't supposed to when trouble ensued, Lockhart was grounded for a week.
He said sinking his teeth into a juicy steak was worth it.
Widower finds college sweetheart
Lockhart was in the Army Air Corps from 1942 to 1946. He earned the rank of captain before getting out. He earned a base salary of $150 a month and picked up another $75 in flight pay.
Lockhart completed a degree in chemistry and went to work for the Mead Corp. in Atlanta. He retired in 1982.
After his first wife died, Lockhart decided to track down his college sweetheart, the woman who pinned his wings on his chest when he graduated flight school.
He called the Middle Tennessee State University's alumni association and got her address. He hadn't seen or spoken to Thelma in 51 years.
"We met at her sister's house in Monteagle, and the old spark was still there," Lockhart said. "We married one year later in 1994."
Thelma Lockhart is a retired teacher and was living in Franklin. Lewis Lockhart came from Atlanta to live with her.

01-16-2010, 11:30 AM
Very cool. I know you've seen that wooden model of a P-38 in my living room. They used to build them at Vultee over on Briley Parkway.

Mike S
01-16-2010, 01:18 PM
Not many WW II vets left. It's great you got to meet him. That was a great article, thanks for posting it.

Mike S
01-16-2010, 01:20 PM
Very cool. I know you've seen that wooden model of a P-38 in my living room. They used to build them at Vultee over on Briley Parkway.

The P-38 and P-51 are my two favorite WW II fighters. It would be a blast to fly one. :) :)

01-16-2010, 03:53 PM
Check this out....

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BTW, Robin Olds was also one of our first aces in Vietnam in the F4 Phantom.

Mike S
01-16-2010, 05:02 PM
Very cool. I love the history channel. They do such a great job with these shows.