From the “Pilot Training Manual for the P-38 Lightning”:
Many stories have been circulated that you can’t successfully bail out of the P-38. Rumor had it that you wouldn’t have a chance of missing the horizontal stabilizer, and twin booms and rudders. Actual experience has disproven these stories. In spite of the hangar talk that crops up from time to time, it is no more difficult to bail out of a P-38 than any present-day fighter.
Before you bail out, if you have the time, make the necessary radio calls as outlined in Emergency Radio Procedures. If you bail out over water or unpopulated territory, your best chance for rescue lies in correct and speedy radio procedure before you abandon your airplane.
The method of leaving the plane is largely dependent on your altitude, attitude, and airspeed. The final decision on how to get out rests with you. Here are three recommended and accepted procedures for bailing out.
Over the trailing edge of the wing
1. Head towards an unpopulated area and disconnect oxygen tube and radio equipment.
2. Slow the plane down as much as possible.
3. Roll down the left window and release the canopy.
4. Release your safety belt and slide out head first off the trailing edge of the wing. Never stand up or jump!
YOU WILL CLEAR THE HORIZONTAL STABILIZER.
Roll the plane over and drop out
1. Disconnect oxygen tube and radio equipment.
2. Roll elevator trim tab forward while holding plane level. (This will keep the nose of the plane up while you are on your back.)
3. Release the canopy and roll the plane over on its back.
4. Unhook your safety belt and drop out.
Unless you are very low to the ground, keep your hand off the ripcord when leaving the plane. If you hold the ripcord handle as you bail out, the slipstream jerks your arm and the chute opens before you are clear of the plane.
Sucked out at high speed
If your P-38 is out of control and traveling at a high airspeed, disconnect the oxygen tube and radio equipment, unhook your safety belt, and then release the canopy.
When the canopy is released, the vacuum created in the cockpit sucks you out of the seat and carries you clear of the plane.
If you feel conditions warrant leaving your plane and you have made up your mind to jump, decide which is the best way to get out, and then go.