By Sam McGowan Without dispute, the P-38 was the airplane of the aces. While other fighter types had their share of aces, the P-38 was flown by most of the top scorers, of whom Major Richard Ira Bong was at the top of the heap. A Wisconsin farm boy and one of nine children, Bong received Civil Aviation flight training and earned his private pilot’s license at Superior State College, then enlisted in the Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet on May 29, 1941. After completing pilot training he remained behind for a time as an instructor then was assigned to Hamilton Field, Calif. to check out in the P-38. While he was at Hamilton, Bong was involved in the famous buzzing incident that brought him to the attention of General George Kenney. He looped the loop around the Golden Gate Bridge, then flew down San Francisco’s Market Street at such a low level that he blew the laundry off a woman’s line. She complained to the Fourth Air Force commander, General Kenney, who called the errant pilot to his office for a chewing out. Kenney was impressed with Bong and asked for him by name for assignment to Australia. Bong was assigned to the 49th Fighter Group in Australia, but was one of a group of 49th pilots who were picked to gain combat experience in New Guinea with the 35th Fighter Group, which had been flying combat in P-39s and was partially converted to P-38s. Bong was one of the first


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