They say a picture paints a thousand words.  This one may not paint that many, but it does reveal a number of interesting aspects about the 35th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron’s primary aircraft in overseas service during World War II.

A 35PRS F-5E Photo Lightning rests at Yunnanyi Airfield in China, circa late 1944 - early 1945 (Courtesy John Brasko, Jr.)

A 35PRS F-5E Photo Lightning rests at Yunnanyi Airfield in China, circa late 1944 – early 1945 (Courtesy John Brasko, Jr.)

Pictured here is a 35th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron Lockheed F-5E Photo Lightning reconnaissance aircraft, at Yunnanyi (also spelled Yunnani) Airfield in China.  The Squadron’s “G” Flight operated at Yunnanyi between 16 September 1944 and 10 February 1945.  For more information on this airfield, see the entry for it on the Pacific Wrecks website at:

There is no serial number seen on the tail of the aircraft as was common for other USAAF aircraft.  Instead, a three digit squadron code number is depicted, number “810.”  According to a listing of 35PRS aircraft tail numbers in a Mission Summary document in the 35PRS squadron history of July, 1945, tail number 810 correlated to F-5E serial number 610.  This indicates that the full serial number for this aircraft is 43-28610, a P-38J-15-LO modified into an F-5E-2-LO.

So this aircraft began life as a P-38J at Lockheed’s production plant in Burbank, California.  It was then flown to Texas, where a total of 200 P-38J-15-LO fighter airframes were converted in the Dallas Modification Center at Love Field to F-5E-2-LO reconnaissance configuration.  (See reference below for interesting information about USAAF aircraft modification centers in WWII.)

How this F-5E was transported from the U.S. to overseas is a bit of a mystery, presumably by ship, but it probably arrived in India in the summer of 1944 and was prepared for service.  The aircraft was flown over the Hump into China for operational service, which appears to be indicated by a mountain-like mission symbol at upper left, below and in front of the cockpit.  This Hump symbol is followed by two rows of photo mission symbols (indicating 32 missions total) painted like an old style camera.

National insignia appear to be normal on this natural metal finished aircraft.  There don’t appear to be any squadron-unique color bands, spinners or stripes on the aircraft.  However, the 35PRS Redhawk emblem is prominent on the nose of the aircraft.  Also of note is the writing on the left engine, “How Much?” written over what appears to be a stylized lightning bolt striking something.  The meaning of this is unknown.

The ultimate fate of this aircraft is also unknown to the writer of this blog.  As always, appreciate any feedback to help with such matters.  And there is a description of a picture, in less than a thousand words!


35PRS History for July, 1945

Maurer, Maurer, Editor, “Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II,” Office of Air Force History, Washington, D.C, 1982, 35PRS entry, at:

Click to access AFD-101202-002.pdf

WWII US Aircraft Modification Centers

1943 USAAF Serial Numbers (43-5109 to 43-52437)

Lockheed P-38 Lightning