Made during World War II as an industrial incentive film -- a propaganda film made to encourage war plant workers in their daily tasks -- ANGEL IN OVERALLS presents a look at the construction and performance of the Lockheed P-38 "Lightning". The film shows P-38 fork tail devils in combat, flying aerial surveillance and intelligence missions, and more. The film features images of ace pilot Major Dick Bong at 7:01, and shows the aircraft's innovative features including the tricycle gear, forward-oriented cannon, and more. The film ends with footage of a P-38 on fire, with its pilot desperately trying to make a runway landing. He fails and the accident is fatal. The loss of the plane "can be corrected by you, who make the P-38, who make the thousands of parts that keep it flying."
The Lockheed P-38 Lightning is a World War II-era American piston-engined fighter aircraft. Developed to a United States Army Air Corps requirement, the P-38 had distinctive twin booms and a central nacelle containing the cockpit and armament. Allied propaganda claimed it had been nicknamed the fork-tailed devil. The P-38 was used for interception, dive bombing, level bombing, ground attack, night fighting, photo reconnaissance, radar and visual pathfinding for bombers and evacuation missions and extensively as a long-range escort fighter when equipped with drop tanks under its wings.
The P-38 was used most successfully in the Pacific Theater of Operations and the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations as the aircraft of America's top aces, Richard Bong (40 victories), Thomas McGuire (38 victories) and Charles H. MacDonald (36 victories). In the South West Pacific theater, the P-38 was the primary long-range fighter of United States Army Air Forces until the appearance of large numbers of P-51D Mustangs, toward the end of the war.
The P-38 was unusually quiet for a fighter, the exhaust muffled by the turbo-superchargers. It was extremely forgiving and could be mishandled in many ways but the rate of roll in the early versions was too slow for it to excel as a dogfighter. The P-38 was the only American fighter aircraft in production throughout American involvement in the war, from Pearl Harbor to Victory over Japan Day. At the end of the war, orders for 1,887 more were cancelled.