There are no great aces without great wingmen, and young Lt. Floyd Fulkerson from Little Rock, Arkansas was one of those wingmen. Although he had four confirmed victories, so he was nearly an ace himself, he saw his primary contribution to the war effort to have been the protection of his lead pilots, some of whom were America’s leading aces. During his time with the 475TH Fighter Group in the Pacific, Floyd flew with such notables as Major Richard Bong, Major Tommy McGuire, and even the much-celebrated “Lone Eagle,” Charles Lindbergh. Cover the shooter, that’s what wingmen do. They protect the shooter from surprise attack. In this role, Fulkerson helped some of our great aces achieve their successes.
A bomber pilot, but not for long
“I was 21 when I finished training on the B-25 Mitchell and was shipped overseas. I arrived in the South Pacific in June 1943, and immediately started flying missions out of Port Moresby in New Guinea, including one low-level strafing run on the Japanese airfields at Rabaul. That early in the war, that was an extremely risky endeavor. “Not long after arriving, and quite by chance, I ran into an old college classmate while visiting Base Ops on a nearby field. My friend Alec Guerry was in an administrative position and involved in the forming of a new P-38 fighter unit. After some catching up on old times, I let it be known that as much as I loved strafing the enemy with the Mitchell, I would rather be dicing it up in a ‘38.’ Alec took my suggestion to heart and set about pushing the right buttons to make my dream a reality.”
In another time and place, the probability of making a bomber-to-fighter transfer happen would have been bureaucratically nil. However, in the fast-moving dynamics of front line warfare and thousands of miles from Command Headquarters scrutiny, his friend did some paper-shuffling magic and somehow managed to change Floyd Fulkerson, bomber pilot, into Floyd Fulkerson, P-38 fighter pilot.
A new fighter group with a new airplane
At this point in time, General Kenney had completed the formation of the 475th Fighter Group. This was Kenney’s pet outfit and was comprised of mostly handpicked personnel. It was built around the revolutionary new Lockheed P-38 Lightning. By the time Fulkerson arrived, the 475th FG had just been organized, trained and deployed at forward bases around Port Moresby.
Fulkerson remembers, “In January 1944, I was 22 years old and was assigned to the 431st Fighter Squadron. I began my fighter pilot career operating out of Dobodura. From that point on, I would fly combat missions continuously for a year with only an occasional ten-day rest and recuperation break. We ranged as far away as Ceram, Indonesia, all over the New Guinea countryside, the surrounding waters and ultimately to the big shootout in the Phillipines.
“From the beginning I flew the new ‘J’ series Lightning and I served my entire tour of duty as a member of the 431st squadron.” This was significant because the 431st was the first to be equipped with the P-38 and would produce a multitude of aces including the top two American aces, Bong and McGuire.
The 431st, along with its sister squadrons the 432ndand 433rd went on to exceed Gen. Kenney’s expectations by a wide margin and former bomber pilot Lt. Fulkerson was right in the thick of things. In particular, he witnessed history being made while flying wing on Maj. Bong when he made his last four kills, starting on December 7, 1944 over Ormoc Bay in the Phillipines .
Watching the master at work
The mission was to fly top cover for the Leyte invasion. The flight also included number two ace, Maj. Thomas McGuire, and Maj. Jack Rittmayer, an old flying mate from Headquarters. Together they comprised “Daddy Green Flight” and their assignment was to orbit the landing beach area at about 4,000 feet. It was late in the afternoon and shortly after arriving on station, Bong spotted a Betty bomber making a run on the invasion fleet below. With Floyd as witness, it would become kill number 37. Fulkerson says, “Maj. Bong suddenly rolled out of formation and began a descent. As I watched him, I could see a bomber low on the water in the distance lining up for a run on the landing area. For a second or two, I was angry. As wingman, my job was to cover him during our mission. Combat procedure required him to call out the target location and then initiate his attack. Don’t get me wrong, I have great respect for Maj. Bong. He was a very important part of the war effort, but it was my job to cover his six and I didn’t want anything happening to him on my watch. I took a quick look around and breathed a little easier: there were no more enemy aircraft in sight. Just the same, I rolled in on his tail and shoved the throttles up to catch him. As I approached, I was a little higher and just behind him, as he began his attack on the Betty. From my vantage point I could see it all quite clearly.
“Richard was a good fighter driver, but his real forte was gunnery. I had a ringside seat and watched a master at work. Approaching to about a 150 yards, he was a little high and behind the bomber, when he snapped offa quick burst. Just that fast, the tail gunner position turned into a shower of metal and glass shards. With no tailgunner to worry about, he moved into about 50 yards and, with about 3 degrees of skid to the left, began to work the left engine area. I could see the hits sparkling, pieces coming away and in seconds smoke began to trail from the engine. I scanned the area again and, as I looked back down, he started rolling the nose of the ‘38’ to the right.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
April 25, 1967, VA-212 tests the A-4 to the limit
Boeing’s electronic attack weapon
Naval Aircraft Factory N3N-3
Authenticated by its log books, an N3N that 41st U.S. President George H.W. Bush trained in is preserved and still flying—now owned by Stewart Wells.
Five-Gun Fury .
Lt. Floyd Fulkerson: Wingman to the Aces
Impossible barriers are made to be broken
Few technologies have had such a rapid development and such a powerful impact on mankind as the invention of the airplane.
YELLOW SCORPIONS - P-51 Mustangs rule the skies in China
Using Chinese airfields, the 311th Fighter Group was the first to take World War II to the Japanese. The 311th’s 530th Fighter Squadron, which became known as the “Yellow Scorpions,” was the first squadron based in China. During their combat tour, they flew A-36 dive bombers along with all versions of the P-51 (A, B, C and D). However, it was their expertise with P-51 B and C models that earned them the respect of Japanese pilots.
WACO “Super Sport” S3HD - A Golden Age king
The WACO “Super Sport” S3HD is often referred to as the “King of the WACO biplanes.” Built as only one example, it is the stuff of legends.
SPITFIRE WITH A PUNCH - ROYAL AIR FORCE FIGHTER IN POLISH COLORS
Squadron Leader Clive Rowley, MBE RAF (Ret.), a former officer commanding the Royal Air Force Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, tells the story behind the latest color scheme for the Flight’s Spitfire Mk XVI TE311.
F-35B LIGHTNING II SEMPER FI
The JSF (Joint Strike Fighter) program is synonymous with the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, which ultimately won the competition against Boeing and its X-32. The JSF plan was to have a similar new fighter for the U.S. Marine Corps, Air Force, and Navy and U.S. allies: Build a bunch and keep the price tag down. It has been a success story since then.
DEFENDER OF THE REICH WW II as seen by a Luftwaffe Ace
Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring was in rare form, his eyes full of fire as he faced one of the better known of Germany’s aces, Oberst Walther Dahl. “Göring’s reply astonished even me,” Dahl remembered. “In the presence of pilots with heads, arms and legs in plaster, he yelled: ‘You cowards! Now I know why your Geschwader holds the record for parachute jumps: you jump so as not to fight.’
FLOYD'S KILLER COP MARKED FOR DEATH!
Experts warn rogue lawman won’t leave prison alive
Starting a New Chapter
Some people don’t find their true direction in life until they are halfway through it
THAT WON'T WORK ON THE STREET!
IT’S SAFE TO INFER THAT EVEN BACK IN THE DAYS OF THE GREAT ASIAN DYNASTIES, THERE WAS SOMEONE POINTING AT THE TEACHER OF A KINGDOM’S ARMY AND SAYING‚ “THAT WON’T WORK IN BATTLE.” MARTIAL ARTISTS ARE KNOWN FOR BEING CRITICAL OF TECHNIQUES THAT ARE NOT INTRODUCED BY THEIR INSTRUCTOR, THAT WERE NOT CREATED BY THEM PERSONALLY OR THAT COME FROM OUTSIDE THEIR SPECIFIC SYSTEM
‘I Am More Optimistic Than I've Been in a Long Time'
The Washington Post ’s Radley Balko was a pioneer in reporting on the disastrous consequences of police militarization and the need for criminal justice reform. Now everyone else is catching up.
SUBWOOFER SETUP STEPS
SUBWOOFERS ARE LIKE the magic beans of audio, expanding a playback system’s dynamic range in a way that dramatically enhances the listening experience. There’s an attitude among some audiophiles that subwoofers represent, if not the spawn of the devil (there are numerous or More Subs for such spawns in audio lore), a bad compromise at minimum. But the truth is that adding a modest but well-designed subwoofer to speakers, even compact bookshelf models, can result in better performance than what you’d get from full-range towers that cost considerably more.
Fair fowl, or just plain foul?
THE DEBATE OVER EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMALS ON PLANES
GOTTA HAVE A TERMINATOR
STEPHEN FLOYD’S SINGLE-TURBOCHARGED, GOTTA HAVE IT GREEN 2003 COBRA
Dolly Turned Back On Dying Kid Brother!
Floyd was like son to her – until she forgot about him.
For the Love of Money
Boxing’s flamboyant former pound-for-pound king is still the undisputed champion of Sin City.
जॉर्ज फ्लॉयड के परिवार ने बरसी पर रैली निकाली
अश्वेत अमेरिकी जॉर्ज फ्लॉयड और पुलिस की कार्रवाई में मारे गए अन्य लोगों के परिजन, कार्यकर्ताओं ने फ्लॉयड की बरसी पर रविवार को एक रैली में हिस्सा लिया।