Major Richard Bong

Richard Ira Bong was a United States Army Air Forces Major and Medal of Honor recipient and one of the most decorated American fighter pilots and top flying ace during the second world war. Bong was credited with shooting down 40 Japanese aircraft, all with his trusty Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter named “Marge”.

On June 12th, 1942, a good friend of Bong’s was getting married. To help celebrate, Bong took his P-38 to rooftop height and flew directly over the lovebird's home, then directly down Market Street, where according to the story, Bong was so low that clothing was blown off an Oakland woman's clothesline. According to reports, Bong also looped his Lightning around the Golden Gate Bridge.

Bong admitted to buzzing his buddy’s house, and Market Street, but denied looping the bridge. Bong was grounded.

According to the story, he was forced to work in the woman's yard to make up for his mischievous actions. Soon he was returned to flying status and returned to the Pacific war to help thin out enemy aircraft numbers.

On August 6, 1945, he took off to perform the acceptance flight of P-80A 44-85048. It was his 12th flight in the P-80 he had a total of four hours and fifteen minutes of flight time in the jet.

The plane's primary fuel pump malfunctioned immediately after takeoff. Bong either forgot to switch to the aux fuel pump or for some unknown reason was unable to do so. Bong successfully cleared away from the aircraft, but was too low for his parachute to fully deploy. The P-80A slammed into a narrow field at Oxnard St & Satsuma Ave, North Hollywood.

Richard Bong was such a well-known aviator, that his loss was front-page news across the country, sharing headline space with the first breaking news of the atomic bomb detonation over Hiroshima.  

  "Major Richard Bong was an example of the tragic and terrible price we must pay to maintain principles of human rights, of greater value than life itself. This gallant Air Force hero will be remembered because he made his final contribution to aviation in the dangerous role of test pilot of an untried experimental plane, a deed that places him among the stout-hearted pioneers who gave their lives in the conquest of sky and space."

-Eddie Rickenbacker, World War I Ace

Leave a comment