Richard Bong

A fighter pilot in the US Army Air Forces, Richard Bong is the highest scoring air ace of WWII. Bong, born on September 24, 1920, was one of nine children and developed a love of model aircraft at a very young age. By 18, while at Superior State Teachers College, Richard Bong enrolled in a pilot training program. He also began private flying lessons. His path would eventually lead him into service, where would fly the P-38 Lightning.

 

 

 

Off to a Rocky Start


He is reported as having been reprimanded for an adventurous flight with some of his fellow pilots in which they reportedly flew under the Golden Gate Bridge, buzzed Market Street and even blew the clothes off a women’s clothes line. Richard Bong was reprimanded by General George Kenney, who instructed him to report to the woman Monday and hang out any wash she might have, take it down and in between, Bong was told to make himself useful by mowing her lawn or anything else that needed to be done. While Kenney did not agree with Bong’s stunt, he is later reported as having written (in reference to Bong), “We needed kids like this lad.”

WWII Silver Star

In September of 1942, Kenney would recruit Bong to join him in the 49th Fighter Group. Then 2nd Lieutenant, Bong would join Captain Thomas Lynch – operating out of New Guinea. Within three months, he would score his first aerial victory – a Japanese Mitsubishi Zero. The kill earned Bong the Silver Star.

 

Richard Bong’s Record and Awards


In his service throughout World War II, Bong would go on to earn a total of at least 40 kills – all Japanese aircraft. He is said to have had an extraordinary sense in locating the enemy aircraft – something many pilots hardly ever witnessed. Bong credits his success with his ability to get the most out of his P-38 aircraft.

Richard Bong would eventually be promoted to General. Throughout his distinguished career, he received the Medal of Honor, Medal of Honor Citation (Air Mission), 7 - Distinguished Flying Crosses, 2 - Silver Stars, Distinguished Service Cross, and 14 - Air Medals.

 

The US WWII Top Ace Dies on a Routine Acceptance Flight


After his service, General Richard Bong became a test pilot for the P-80 Shooting Star. On, August 6, 1945 – the day the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima – Bong’s P-80 malfunctioned shortly after take-off. Before attempting bailout, Bong is said to have first steered the aircraft clear of a residential area. Because of his close proximity to the ground, it was reported he never had a chance. Richard Bong, the United States highest scoring air ace of WWII, was killed.