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Richard Bong

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Maj. Richard Bong, USAAC; the Ace of Aces.
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Richard "Dick" Ira Bong (September 24, 1920August 6, 1945) was a pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corps (USAAC), he is the United States' all time "Ace of Aces", having shot down 40 enemy aircraft during World War II.

Contents

Biography

Bong grew up on a farm near Poplar, Wisconsin. In 1941, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps, and was flying combat missions in the Pacific theater by late 1942, getting his first "kills" in late December. By April of 1943, he had shot down 27 aircraft, surpassing Eddie Rickenbacker's American record of 26 kills during World War I. His 40th and last victory was in late 1944. All of Bong's victories were while he was flying a P-38 named "Marge" after his wife.

On New Year's Eve, 1944, General Kenney had Bong sent home for good. Bong participated in numerous PR activities, such as promoting the sale of war bonds. He then became a test pilot for jet fighters. On August 6, 1945, the same day the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Bong was killed in a plane crash when his P-80 Shooting Star malfunctioned shortly after takeoff.

Among his decorations were the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star (with 1 OLC — Oak Leaf Cluster), the Distinguished Flying Cross (with 6 OLC's), the Air Medal (with 14 OLC's), and many other American and foreign medals.

WWII Historical Center

On September 24, 2002, which would have been Dick Bong's 82nd birthday, the Richard I. Bong WWII Heritage Center opened to the public in Superior, Wisconsin. The converted aircraft hangar contains a museum, a film screening room, and his fully restored P-38 Lightning. The work on the aircraft, begun in 1994 and coordinated by volunteers from the Duluth, Minnesota Air National Guard, required more than 16,000 hours of labor.

Honors

Namesake of Bong Recreational Area in Southern Wisconsin, and the Richard I. Bong Memorial Bridge in the Twin Ports of Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin.

Full List of Kills


 

DateKillsLocation/Comment
December 27, 19422over Buna
January 7, 19432Oscars over Lae
January 81over Lae Harbor, made 'ace'
February 3 back with 9th FS, at Schwimmer
March 31Zero during Battle of the Bismarck Sea
March 112Zeroes
March 291Betty? bomber; promoted to 1st Lt.
April 141bomber, defending against Japanese attack on Milne Bay. 'Double Ace'. Awarded Air Medal
June 121Zero, over Bena Bena
July 264fighters, on escort over Lae; awarded DSC
July 281Oscar, on B-25 escort over New Britain. Bong's plane damaged.
August 24 promoted to Captain, R&R in Australia
September 60claimed two bombers, but wins were not confirmed; crash-landed at Mailinan airstrip
October 21Dinah, while leading Green Flight over Gasmata
October 292Zeros, over enemy airfield at Rabaul
November 52Zeros, over enemy airfield at Rabaul; total of 21 kills
Dec. 1943 - Jan. 1944   - On leave at home in Wisconsin, met Marge Vattendahl
Feb. 1944 -   assigned to V Fighter Command HQ, allowed to 'free-lance'
February 151Tony off Cape Hoskins, New Britain, first vistory in 'Marge'
February 280destroyed a Japanese transport full of officers on the runway at Wewak
March 32Sally bombers, over Tadji, New Guinea
March 8 Friend & mentorTom Lynch killed
April 31fighter over Hollandia, 25th win
April 123surpassed Rickenbacker's WWI record of 26
May-July, 1944   - On leave in U.S., made publicity tours
October 271The 9th FS had set up at Tacloban, in support of the Leyte landings. Bong successfully lobbied to get back in action for this crucial phase.
During this time, the other high-scoring P-38 ace, Thomas McGuire began to approach Bong's combat record.
October 282Oscars off Leyte, total of 33
November 101Oscar over Ormoc Bay
November 112Bong recommended for Medal of Honor.
December 72Sally and Tojo, while covering American landings at Ormoc
December 151Oscar
December 16?1Oscar over Mindoro. Total of 40 wins; finally grounded and sent home by General Kenney. He was the most successful U.S. fighter pilot of WW2

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