Ira "Dick" Bong America's "Ace of Aces" 24 SEP 1920 / 6 AUG 1945
With 40 aerial victories, this Wisconsin farm boy became America’s
top ace, only to die in a tragic P-80 crash at home.
While in the war, he was the one to beat...but nobody ever did.
The pilot who came closest, Tommy McGuire,
died on the mission where he might have tied Bong's record. Of
course, then Bong probably would have insisted on going back up
again to give it another go!
Bong's famous P-38, Marge,
is currently honored at the Museum which was opened in his honor,
the Bong Heritage Center.
The brief video below gives a brief bio of Bong's life and death,
including footage of General MacArthur pinning the Medal of Honor on
Bong. There are also some other materials below
which will give you a good sense about Dick Bong,
"America's Ace of Aces"
Medal of Honor
Distinguished Service Cross
Silver Star with 1 OLC
Distinguished Flying Cross
with 6 OLC
Air Medal with 14 OLC
American Campaign Medal
American Defense Service Medal
Distinguished Unit Citation with 1 OLC
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with 1 Silver
Philippine Liberation Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Australian Distinguished Flying Cross
They were two of the greatest
heroes of World War II. But only
one could be top gun...
Capturing the hearts of a
beleaguered nation, the fighter
pilots of World War II engaged
in a kind of battle that became
the stuff of legend-and those
who survived showdowns earned
the right to be called aces. But
two men in particular rose to
become something more. They
became icons of aerial combat,
in a heroic rivalry that
inspired a weary nation to fight
Richard "Dick" Bong was the
bashful, pink-faced farm boy
from the Midwest. Thomas "Tommy"
McGuire was the wise-cracking,
fast-talking kid from New
Jersey. What they shared was an
unparalleled gallantry under
fire which earned them each the
Medal of Honor.
What separated them was a
closely watched rivalry to see
who would emerge as the
top-scoring American ace of the
war. What they left behind is a
legacy and a record of aerial
victories that has yet to be
surpassed anywhere in the world.
DICK BONG: AMERICA'S ACE OF ACES By
George C. Kenney
second edition of General George C. Kenney's
book about Dick Bong. It is unusual for a
commanding officer to write a biography of one
of his subordinates, but that is just what
General Kenney has done. Originally published in
1960, this book provides a real glimpse at what
life was like for fighter pilots in the Pacific
theatre of WWII. Even better, it tells the story
of our leading ace, Dick Bong.
RETURN TO LIST
PROTECT & AVENGE:
THE 49TH FIGHTER GROUP IN WORLD WAR II
by S. W. Ferguson & William K.
49th Fighter Group in World War II. Unit
history of the 49th Fighter Group in the
Pacific, WWII. Richard Bong is among the
heroes portrayed in this detailed account of
their 30 aces and crews who achieved more than
600 kills in three years of combat. 320 pgs.,
RETURN TO LIST
FORWARD IN FLIGHT:
The History of Aviation in Wisconsin by
Michael J. Goc
History of Aviation in Wisconsin. This
book tells the story of the skies over
Wisconsin with a fine mix of text and tales,
plus nearly 400 photos and works of art. They
are all here - the local heroes, the
world-renowned inventors, the farm-boy
barnstormers, and the top military commanders.
Names like Cal Rodgers, Billy Mitchell, Walter
Lees, Richard Bong, Paul Poberezny and many,
many more which will fascinate you. 352 pgs.
RETURN TO LIST
AMERICA'S TOP WWII ACES IN THEIR OWN
EIGHTH AIR FORCE
by William N. Hess
mission, America's WWII pilots were
required to submit a report of that
day's events. Here is a selection of
those reports from the greatest aces
- Zemke, Bong, Yeager, and others -
who recount engaging enemy pilots in
dogfights, being hit with enemy fire
and nursing damaged aircraft back to
base. Photos and appendices listing
names, units and victories, make
this an invaluable reference. 224
pgs.,100 B&W photos.
RETURN TO LIST
DEAR MOM, SO WE HAVE A WAR
by Carl Bong
REVIEW: "A wonderful mix of Bong's
letters home, "testimonials" from
those who flew with him, and other
source documents such as his
logbook. I highly recommend this
book as a way to get in the mind of
a young WWII fighter pilot."
Rare book. Hard to find.
Sometimes it becomes available at Amazon, so
if you click the "Buy Now" button you will
find out the current availability.
RETURN TO LIST
P-38. Containing several segments, this video shows the
capabilities of this acclaimed fighter. Next you can learn how
to fly it; then see a short piece detailing the use of unarmed
P-38s as reconnaissance aircraft in the Pacific. The next
segment shows P-38 pilots planning and executing a long-range
mission to shoot down Admiral Yamamoto and features real gun
camera footage showing his plane going down. The final segment
is a tribute to America's top scoring ace, Major Richard Bong,
as he flies his P-38 and shoots down 40 enemy planes. 55
RETURN TO LIST
Accounts Recorded During the
War. This collection of actual
WWII recordings from AAF Radio
Reports takes you along for the
tension of a B-25 bombing run,
the emotional eulogy for Major
Richard Bong, the dropping of
the first atom bomb and other
dramatic events. Also includes
songs such as Song of the
Bombardier, I'll be Seeing You,
and Spirit of the Air Corps. Two
CD set - Eagles Over Europe and
Silver Wings Over the Pacific.
Forty-two tracks; 144 total
A R T W O R K
PAIR OF ACES by Stan
two top-scoring American aces of WWII, Richard Bong and Tom McGuire, are
depicted here in their P-38 Lightnings. Both of these highly
decorated aces were killed before the war's end.
- MARGE (Richard
Bong's P-38) by
B I O G R A P H Y
RICHARD IRA "DICK" BONG
Major, United States Army Air Corps
Richard Ira Bong, who would become America's "Ace of Aces," was born on September 24, 1920, the son of a Swedish immigrant. He grew up on a farm near the small town of Poplar, Wisconsin.
Dick 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 a 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.
He 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.
He did his primary flight training at Rankin Aeronautical Academy in California in June 1941, and completed Basic at Gardner Field, California. He went to Luke Field near Phoenix, Arizona, for Advanced Training in single-engine (fighter) planes, where he learned to master the AT-6 under Captain Barry
Goldwater. In January of 1942, just after Pearl Harbor, Dick earned his Army Air Corps commission and his coveted pilot's wings. He promptly became a "plow-back," staying on at Luke to teach gunnery. But after a few months he got the chance to train in Lockheed's big new fighter, the P-38. While mastering the twin-engine craft at Hamilton Field, San Francisco, he first attracted the attention of General George Kenney, his future mentor and head of the Fifth Air Force.
When General Kenney went to the Pacific in September, 1942, Bong was one of the pilots he tapped to join the 49th Fighter Group.
Second 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 Captain Thomas Lynch, 39th FS of the 35th FG, operating out of Port Moresby, New Guinea. On December 27, 1942, while flying with the 35th, Bong scored his first aerial victories, a Zero and an Oscar, for this he earned a Silver Star.
Bong's kills were evenly spread out throughout his time flying combat. Also, most of Bong's victories were in the earlier stages of the war against very experienced Japanese pilots. Bong also was considered extremely lucky in finding the enemy. Some pilots hardly saw any enemy fighters in all their time flying combat.
General Kenney took him out of action again and promoted him to Major.
Bong returned to the Southwest Pacific on September 10, reporting to Gen. Kenney at
Hollandia. Bong's latest HQ assignment was 'advanced gunnery instructor', and while allowed to go on combat missions, he had orders to only defend himself, and not seek out the enemy. Bong was finally grounded and sent home by General Kenney. He was the most successful U.S. fighter pilot of
WW2, and earned the following decorations: Medal
of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star with 1 OLC, Distinguished
Flying Cross with 6 OLC, Air Medal with 14 OLC, American Campaign Medal,
American Defense Service Medal, Distinguished Unit Citation with 1 OLC (49th Ftr.
Gp.), Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with 1 Silver Service Star,
Philippine Liberation Medal, World War II Victory Medal, and Australian
Distinguished Flying Cross.
On August 6, 1945, while half a world away the Enola Gay dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, Bong stepped into an airplane for the last time. His P-80 malfunctioned just after take-off, and while he bailed out, he never had a chance. He was just too close to the ground. After surviving two years of combat flying, Richard Ira Bong met his end while on a routine acceptance flight.
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