Here are some great sources for more info about "Photo Joes"


They were the first on D-Day and the last on VE-Day, flying low-level photographic missions over Normandy and then in support of the Allies as they fought their way through into the Reich. Here is their incredible story.

$44.95 |

More Photo Recon Books

Stories from my Younger Days

The Eight Ballers

9th PRS

Many of the Squadrons had their own insignias, oftentimes created by the men themselves.

We have a few of the Photo Recon Squadron insignia products available in our CafePress shop.



Photo Recon Links


9th PRS
30th PRS
33rd PRS


P-38 Photo Reconnaissance planes (called F-4s and F-5s) and their pilots were the eyes of the AAF.  Their only weapon was a camera.

The F-4 was the first version of the unarmed Lightning, and the F-5 was an extension of that design (based on the P-38E).  The F-5 carried from 3 to 5 precision cameras in their nose, which could be operated by remote control from the cockpit.

Because it has no armament, the F-5 was much lighter and, therefore, faster than the standard P-38s, a definite plus in the unfriendly skies over enemy territory.

Many people have said that photo reconnaissance pilots did everything the combat pilots did -- but they did it without any guns (other than the .45 they carried in the cockpit).  Speed and altitude were the only protection the Photo Joe's had.

  • They flew into enemy territory (without guns)

  • They had to participate in dog fights (without guns) -- basically by evading enemy aircraft who had spotted them.

  • They were valued for pre-strike intelligence gathering and post-strike damage assessment.

Association Member, Jude BK Pao, was a part of the Chinese Air Force Reconnaissance, and he has an interesting story to tell here.

A poem written for and dedicated to "Photo Joes"

To Photo-Recon Joe
By Tom McGuire

Of all the Air Force pilots that I most deeply admire,
I give my top-notch vote to Photo-Recon Joe
Who goes it alone, unarmed, and braves the enemy's fire
By taking crucial photos which spell doom to the Axis foe.

Ahead of his Lightning's sound, his F-5 zips in at tree-top level;
Too late they hear him coming, now he's already gone past
A flashing form, a blast of wind, the Fork-Tail Devil,
His photos taken, speeds home, no higher than a mast.

On lists of fighter aces, his name is never placed,
And sadly, he's soon forgotten after the war has ended,
But war historians know that priceless F-5 photos based
The Normandy invasion so air, sea, and land attacks all blended.

"Unescorted, unarmed, and unafraid" Joe wings his gutsy way
Into the lethal Axis Reich, where death waits in that murky air.
But he presses on, he shoots his films, and dearly earns his pay
By these "dicing," flack-filled missions that only he would dare.

So now I raise a grateful toast to Photo-Recon Joe,
And, Joe, I also bow to you-and believe me, I bow low.


We are not affiliated with the USAF or Lockheed.
Our entire operation is supported entirely by people like you.

As our parents, grandparents and friends who were "hands on" with the P-38 Lightning are continuing to leave us, keeping this website available as a tribute to them is vital.  This aircraft was an important part of their lives and their history, and to carry on this legacy, we need funding.

What would you pay for a good aviation DVD or book? If you enjoy this website, please consider a financial contribution of the same amount to help defray our increasing costs and ensure that this part of aviation history continues to be available to people all over the world.

We have a page to thank our website's financial contributors and will add your name when you make a contribution.  No donation is too small, after all $1 from a million visitors will keep us going a very long time!

It's easy to help...just click on the  button below.

The copyright to all graphics on this site are held by the original copyright owners.

 2001-2013  P-38 National Association Website  All rights reserved.
Contact us | Privacy Policy