Richard Ira "Dick" Bong

Last Wartime rank:

HQ 5th AF Fighter Command

Theatre(s): ETO/PTO 

September 24, 1920
Superior, Wisconsin 

School:Richard Ira "Dick" Bong
Poplar (Wisconsin) High School
Graduated Superior (Wisconsin)
Central High School (18th of 428) in 1938
Superior State Teachers College
US Gov't. Civilian Pilot Training Program
acquired Private Pilot's License.

40 Air Destroyed
7 Air Probable
11 Damaged Air


Total Sorties: 200+ 
Strike Rate: N/A

Assigned Combat Aircraft:
P-38H-LO, #79

SN: 42-103993


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
Australian Distinguished Flying Cross

After 2 1/2 years of college, Bong enlisted in the AAC Aviation Cadet Program, at Wausau, Wisconsin, May 1941. Primary Flight at Rankin Aeronautical Academy near Tulare, California soloing in a Stearman PT-17 on June 25, 1941.
Basic Flight at Gardner Field near Taft, California flying the Vultee BT-13 Valiant or known to pilots as the "Vibrator". Bong took Advanced Training at Luke Field near Phoenix, Arizona flying the North American AT-6 Texan where his gunnery instructor was the future distinguished politician and future Presidential Candidate, Barry Goldwater.
Commissioned 2/Lt. in the AAF Reserves on January 9, 1942 and stayed at Luke Field as a gunnery instructor. Later sent to Hamilton Field near San Francisco, California for Aerial Combat Training in the Lockheed P-38 Lightning Fighter with the 49th PS/14th PG on May 6, 1942. Reprimanded for flying incidents by Maj. General George C. Kenney, Commander of the 4th AF. Assigned to 84th FS/78th FG. Reported to the SWPA in Brisbane,Australia on September 10, 1942 and assigned to the 9th Ftr. Sq./49th Ftr. Gp./5th AF. Temporarily assigned to the 39th FG./35th FG to gain combat experience at Port Moreby, New Guinea. By January 8th, he had become an "Ace" with the 39th FS and recieved a Silver Star and the DFC.
Back with the 49th FG, Bong became a "Double Ace" by April 14, 1943. "Triple Ace" and DSC for destroying four Japanese fighters while on bomber escort at Lae, New Guinea. Relieved from combat after scoring 21 victories in 158 missions for a 60-day R&R.
Returning to the SWPA, Bong was assigned to V FC and allowed to pick his own combat missions. Became "American Ace of Aces" by scoring his 27th victory (plus a probable, confirmed later) by April 12, 1944. Relieved to R&R and further gunnery training and public relations.
Bong returned to the SWPA on Sept. 10, 1944 assigned as an advanced gunnery instructor and observer with strict orders to avoid air combat except in self-defense. Bong "defended" himself to 30 victories by October 10, 1944 and was grounded by Gen. Kenney, who had personally chosen Bong for combat in the first place. Bong later persuaded Kenney to allow a return to combat. By November 15, 1944, Bong had his 36th victory prompting Kenney to recommend an Award of the Medal of Honor to Gen. Douglas MacArthur who, in turn, approved the citation, forwarded in to Washington, D.C. and later personally presented the Award to Maj. Bong on Dec. 12, 1944. MacArthur threw away his prepared speech and said instead, "Major Richard Ira Bong, who has ruled the air from New Guinea to the Philippines, I now induct you into the Society of the Bravest of the Brave, the wearers of the Congressional Medal of Honor of the United States."
When Bong scored his 40th confirmed victory, he was completely relieved from combat as Gen. Kenney feared he'd never see his "hero's welcome". Arrived home in the USA on New Year's Eve, 1944. Assigned to Flight Test, he was killed when the Lockheed P-80 "Shooting Star" he was testing, flamed-out upon takeoff on August 6, 1945, the day before the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.

Top American Ace - Flew with many organisations including the 35th FG and the 8th FG, however, 21 air victories were scored with 7th and 9th FS of the 49th FG/5th AF/SWPA.