JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. –
Base members driving through the McGuire Gate in the past week might have noticed something missing when reaching Pudgy Circle.
April 13, members of the 305th Maintenance and 87th Civil Engineer Squadrons, with help from a civilian equipment company, prepared Pudgy for a short "flight" to a flatbed.
The historic P-38 Lightning, an institution of the joint base, was moved to determine costs of refurbishment.
"Pudgy is the symbol of McGuire Air Force Base," said John Murphy, 87th Air Base Wing historian. "With the base no longer existing, Pudgy is the iconic remembrance of the old base."
Maj. Thomas B. McGuire, the namesake of former McGuire AFB, began flying his P-38 Lightning in August 1943. He named his aircraft "Pudgy" in honor of his wife, Marilynn, who obtained the nickname in high school.
McGuire flew five aircraft christened Pudgy before he was killed in action leading a voluntary fighter sweep over Los Negros Island, piloting P-38 Eileen Ann, not Pudgy V.
Awarded a Medal of Honor for the sweep posthumously, the citation lauded his bravery, "On 7 January 1945, while leading a voluntary fighter sweep over Los Negros Island he risked an extremely hazardous maneuver at low altitude in an attempt to save a fellow flyer from attack, crashed, and was reported missing in action. With gallant initiative, deep and unselfish concern for the safety of others, and heroic determination to destroy the enemy at all costs, Major McGuire set an inspiring example in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service."
McGuire was the second highest scoring ace with 38 aerial victories in Pudgy, only two behind Maj. Richard I. Bong with 40.
The Pudgy V replica, constructed in 1946, began her flight to McGuire AFB to become a static display in 1981. Pudgy made it to the base in time to be on display for that year's air show.
According to Jeffrey Michalke, Air Mobility Command historian Pudgy was last painted in 2002.
The Pudgy static display will remain on base throughout the evaluation and refurbishment process, which is estimated to last at least six months.
Until Pudgy "flies" home, many base members will miss the landmark.