Double Trouble Nose ArtThe P-38 “Double Trouble”
“Let me tell you a story.”

Interrview by: Walt Wentz

In my previous report, it was written that only one photograph of the P-38 “Double Trouble” exists, that being the first of the series, Double Trouble I, an H model Lightning. In fact, from a later interview I made with Larry Szelznik, former 2nd Lt., USAAF, in 1975, it is obvious another photo of a Lightning bearing this name does exist. The plane depicted in the photo is probably the Double Trouble III, a J model. Szelznik himself loaned it to me, noting that it was an official USAAF photo, not a private snapshot.
From the sunlight and the clothing of the pilots, it is obvious this photo was made on one of the rare sunny days England saw in the wet summer of 1944. The viewer will note the bunny-girl mascot is in a different pose than she was on the Double Trouble I. No doubt the squadron artist Szelznik introduces below varied the poses for his own amusement.

Larry Szelznik: “Let me tell you a story about this picture... One of my buddies was a scribbler, you know a cartoonist - He had notebooks full of sketches, we pinned 'em up all over the squadron ready room - caricatures of the guys, sketches of the countryside, but the ones that really left an impression were his pinups ... he had a what you might call a facility for that type of thing--Whoo boy!--and us guys, we didn't discourage him, either.”

“That's him in the photo, third from the left, listening to me--I’m on the far left--telling how I got on the tail of a 190 (Folke-Wulf) over Belgium--you see, this Heinie came sneaking out of the clouds, thought he'd got the jump on me, but I... But never mind that, I was talking about Scribbles...”

“Yeah, he even had had some of his work published in one of those comic books. This one was called "Bunnies at War," and it was a comic published for servicemen overseas, it wasn’t for the Stateside market.”

BAW North Afrika Cover“Anyhow, Scribbler really liked that comic-- a lot of us did-- and he drew a lot of the characters from it for nose art and pinups for the guys and such. Anyhow, he did up a picture of this blondie British bunny-girl and Australian tiger-cat cutie fighting German tanks in North Africa, and sent it to the publishers of that comic, and they liked it so well, damn if they didn’t print it as a cover for the next issue! Don’t know if they ever paid him anything, but he probably didn't care... he was so proud, he had a bunch of that issue and he was handing 'em around to everyone... I still have my copy, but it’s getting pretty ragged and worn.”

“He's the one who painted the first Double Trouble bunny-girl on my P-38. I was always getting into jams, so he said the name ought to fit my plane and would give me luck, and maybe it did.”

“Maybe he could have used some of that luck himself. I think that nose art on Double Trouble III was the last cartoon he ever did.”

“We were over in the low countries, hedge-hopping, shooting up rolling stock or anything that moved and looked military, when we spotted this train--looked like an ordinary munitions train, but it was a ringer. Armored and heavy armed, like the Q-Ships in the first war. The Germans had dummied up what looked like boxcars, but they were armored boxes with roofs that opened up, and they packed at least a couple of 88s and lots of smaller stuff in there. We couldn't tell from the air--not till we we were committed to our strafing run, right down the length of the train--then we see those muzzle flashes right in our faces! I mean, they blasted us good and proper.”

“I got a splinter in my leg, and both Allisons were belching black smoke and running ragged. When I pulled her out of the treetops and got to where I could look around, I could see Scribbles was hit too. His port prop was feathered, with a long streamer of smoke from the engine. His R/T must've been shot up--I told him I was hurt, and he waggled his wings to let me know he understood, but I heard nothing back over the headphones.”

“We turned and headed for the Channel, clawing for as much altitude as we could get--seemed to take forever, he was running on one engine and both of mine were marginal. I'd stopped the bleeding from my leg as much as possible, but it hurt like hell and I was feeling pretty damn sorry for myself.”

“We'd just come in sight of the Channel when I looked over to the left just as Scribble’s starboard engine froze up... the prop didn't feather, it just packed up solid. His Lightning seemed to just hang in the air for a moment, then it flipped over and dived inverted for the deck.”

“It was a crystal clear day and I watched him all the way down-- he seemed to fall for hours. The canopy never opened and I never saw a chute.”

“I figured later that he must've been hurt worse than I was, but he couldn't tell me with no transmitter. Maybe he should have landed and got help, I don’t know. But instead he stuck with me--two wounded buddies headed for home. I'm guessing that he had maybe passed out or even was dead by the time his remaining engine packed up. If he’d been in any kind of shape, he could have recovered and put her into a glide--the Lightning was a very forgiving bird when you knew how to handle it. But he just rolled over and fell. I dunno, guess I'll never know if he was aware as he took that long fall--like I said, he seemed to fall and fall for hours. Then there was just me, up there alone... and I never felt so alone in my life as I headed out over the Channel...”

“Lonely... and cold... That J model had lousy cockpit heating, and I was probably going into shock, too. My vision was getting blurry. I wasn't certain where I was, exactly, but I was losing altitude and from the vibration it felt like at least one of my engines was ready to go. I got a call from one of the picket ships out in the Channel, telling I was just passing overhead and smoking badly. They advised me to bail out and they’d pick me up, and I almost did... I was about to unlatch the canopy when I remembered the bunny-girl painted on the nose of my Lightning. Call it crazy, but suddenly I was determined not to lose that plane, that I'd bring her back even if I had to bleed to death doing it... And I did, too... Bring her in... Old Double Trouble was a good plane, she practically landed herself. I don't recall a thing from when her wheels touched the tarmac till I woke up in the hospital.”

“I took good care of old Double Trouble after that--the mechanics replaced both engines, patched her up and she was good luck for me-- till that day I went trophy hunting and ended up with half the Luftwaffe on my tail over northern France. But never mind, that's another story.”

“Later on, I'd always find someone to copy the bunny-girl nose art onto my next Lightning, 'cause in war, you know any plane--no matter how you take care of her--doesn't last long. But I kept the bunny-girl anyway, and she watched over me, all through the war... I think Scribbler would've liked that...”

The Log of "Double Trouble"

Other Reference: Bunnies aT War

Interview with Larry R. Szelznik

Eyes Only: The Secret Wartime Files of M15


Excerpt from Field Interrogation

Return to the Quagmire