b. 24/09/1920 Superior, Wisconsin. d. 06/08/1945 North Hollywood, California.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 10/10/1944 to 15/11/1944 Borneo.
Bong, the son of Swedish immigrant parents, grew up on a farm in Poplar, Wisconsin, as one of nine children. He became interested in aircraft at an early age and was an avid model builder.
He began studying at Superior State Teachers College in 1938. While there, Bong enrolled in the Civilian Pilot Training Program and also took private flying lessons. On May 29, 1941, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet Program. One of his flight instructors was Captain Barry Goldwater (later Senator from Arizona).
Bong's ability as a fighter pilot was recognized at training in northern California. He was commissioned a second lieutenant and awarded his pilot wings on January 19, 1942. His first assignment was at as an instructor (gunnery) pilot at Luke Field, Arizona from January to May 1942. His first operational assignment was 0n May 6 to the 49th Fighter Squadron (FS), 14th Fighter Group at Hamilton Field, California, where he transitioned into the twin-engine P-38 Lightning.
On September 10, 1942, Lt. Bong was assigned to the 9th Fighter Squadron (aka "Flying Knights"), 49th Fighter Group, based at Darwin, Australia. While the squadron waited for delivery of the scarce Lockheed P-38s, Bong and other 9th FS pilots flew missions with the 39th FS, 35th Fighter Group, based in Port Moresby, New Guinea, to gain combat experience. On December 27, 1942, Bong claimed his initial aerial victory, shooting down a Mitsubishi A6M "Zero" and a Nakajima Ki-43 "Oscar" over Buna (during the Battle of Buna-Gona). For this action Bong was awarded the Silver Star.
In March 1943, Bong returned to the 49th FG, now at Schwimmer Field near Port Moresby, New Guinea. In April, he was promoted to first lieutenant. On July 26, 1943, Bong shot down four Japanese fighters over Lae, an accomplishment that earned him the Distinguished Service Cross. In August, he was promoted to captain. While on leave to the United States in November and December 1943, Bong met Marge Vattendahl at a Superior State Teachers' College Homecoming event and began dating her. After returning to the Southwest Pacific in January 1944, he named his P-38 "Marge" and adorned the nose with her photo. By April 1944, Captain Bong had shot down 27 Japanese aircraft, surpassing Eddie Rickenbacker's American record of 26 credited victories in World War I. In April, he was promoted to major.
Bong then became a test pilot assigned to Lockheed's Burbank, California, plant, where he flew P-80 Shooting Star jet fighters at the Lockheed Air Terminal. On August 6, 1945, the plane's primary fuel pump malfunctioned during takeoff on the acceptance flight of P-80A 44-85048. Bong either forgot to switch to the auxiliary fuel pump, or for some reason was unable to do so. Bong cleared away from the aircraft, but was too low for his parachute to deploy. The plane crashed into a narrow field at Oxnard St & Satsuma Ave, North Hollywood. His death was front-page news across the country, sharing space with the first news of the bombing of Hiroshima.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty in the Southwest Pacific area from October 10, to November 15, 1944. Though assigned to duty as gunnery instructor and neither required nor expected to perform combat duty, Maj. Bong voluntarily and at his own urgent request engaged in repeated combat missions, including unusually hazardous sorties over Balikpapan, Borneo, and in the Leyte area of the Philippines. His aggressiveness and daring resulted in his shooting down 8 enemy airplanes during this period.
BURIAL LOCATION: POPLAR CEMETERY, POPLAR, WISCONSIN.
Plat I, Block 8, Lot 10, Grave 2