Main Page Early Life

Military Career

Death and Legacy

Bong's ability as a fighter piliot was recognized early on in his military career. His first assignment in the military was as an instuctor pilot at Luke Field. His first operational assignment was serving with 49th Fighter Squadron of the 14th Fighter Group.

He was stationed at Hamilton Field and here learned to fly the Lockheed P-38 Lightning. During his time in California he was reprimanded for flying low over San Francisco's Market Street and blowing the clothes off an Oakland woman's clothesline. Bong was still grounded when the rest of his Fighter Group was sent to England in July of 1942. He then transferred into the 84th Fighter Squadron of the 78th Fighter Group which deployed to the South Pacific.

In September of 1942 Bong was assigned to the 9th Fighter Squadron 49th Fighter Group, but in November he and some other pilots were temporarily assigned to the 39th Fighter Squadron 35th Fighter Group. It was with the 35th that he claimed his first two air to air kills against a Mitsubishi A6M Zero and Nakajima Ki-43 Oscar. In January of 1943, Bong rejoined the 9th Fighter Squadron and in April was promoted to First Lieutenant. On the 26th of July he claimed four more Japanese Aircraft earning him the Distinguished Service Cross.

While on leave in the United States during November and December he met Marjorie Vattendahl at a homecoming event and the two starting dating.

Upon returning to the Pacific in January of 1944, he named his P-38 Marge after Marjorie and adorned the nose of his aircraft with her picture. Captain Bong then went on to shoot down his 26th and 27th aircraft on April 12 surpassing the previous american record held by WW1 Ace, Eddie Rickenbacker of 26 kills. He was then promoted to Major and given leave until he returned to New Guinea in September. By December 17th he had claimed 40 air to air victories.

Upon recommendation from General George Kenney, Major Bong received the Medal of Honor from General Douglas MacArthur in December of 1944.

In January of 1945, America's Ace of Aces went home for good. Bong and Vattendahl were married February 10th 1945.

Major Richard Bong's
P-38 "Marge".

 

The Lockheed P-38 Lightning (bottom) and the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star (top).

 

 

 

Site created by Rob Jorden, May 2018.