Richard Ira Bong.





P-38 Lightning.

Richard Ira Bong, who would become America's "Ace of Aces," was born on the 24th of September, 1920, the son of a Swedish immigrant. He grew up on a farm near the small town of Poplar, Wisconsin, USA.  Richard or ' Dick' as he was soon to be known as did well in high school, helped on the farm, and pursued many interests as a teenager. He played on the school's baseball, basketball and hockey teams; played clarinet in the school band; sang in the church choir; and enjoyed fishing and hunting. He became quite a good shot with a hunting rifle. Like many boys of his era, he became interested in aviation at a young age, and was an avid model builder. Bong started at Superior State Teachers College in 1938, where he enrolled in the Civilian Pilot training program, also taking private flying lessons. In 1941, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet Program. In January of 1942, just after Pearl Harbour, Dick earned his Army Air Corps commission and his coveted pilot's wings. After a few months he got the chance to train in Lockheed's big new fighter, the P-38. When General Kenney went to the Pacific in September, 1942, Bong was one of the pilots he tapped to join the 49th Fighter Group. 2nd Lieutenant Bong was assigned to the 9th Fighter Squadron, the "Flying Knights," and was sent to Australia to "hurry up and wait." While waiting for P-38s to be delivered, Bong flew with the 39th FS of the 35th FG, operating out of Port Moresby, New Guinea. On the 27th of December, 1942, while flying with the 35th, Bong scored his first aerial victories, a Zero and an Oscar. So would begin Bong's combat career. 






BY October 1944, Bong's number of victories had grown to 40. For his gallantry and extraordinary achievements during World War II, Major Bong was awarded -- among other decorations for valour and heroism -- the Distinguished Flying Cross with an Oak Leaf Cluster and the Air Medal with an Oak Leaf Cluster. He also earned the Congressional Medal of Honour, awarded on the 8th of December, 1944, for shooting down eight enemy airplanes while flying over the Leyte area of the Philippines. Major Richard Bong became the leading American fighter ace of World War II and the leading American fighter ace of all time. Major Bong returned home on New Years Day, 1945. In June 1945, he was assigned to the Lockheed Corporation at Burbank, California, to perform test flights on the then-troubled P-80 jet fighter. On the 6th of August, 1945, Major Bong, a survivor of 200 combat missions, died in a crash near Los Angeles, California, while test-flying one of the prototype P-80s. Ironically, Major Dick Bong’s death shared the newspaper headlines with another earth-shattering event that same day: the AAF had attacked Hiroshima, Japan, with a 20-kiloton nuclear weapon. In ways that no one could possibly imagine at the time.

Bong was the Possibly the first avaitor, to use an actual photograph as nose art, in this case his wife Marge.