Unit: 341st FS, 348th FG, USAAF
Serial: 993/597 (42-103993
Pilot: Richard Bong
Whilst on leave, Bong met his future wife Marge Vattendahl whilst attending a College Homecoming event. The two struck up a relationship and upon returning to front line operations in January 1944, Bong named his P38 after her and decorated his fighter’s nose with a picture based on a photograph of her. Back in action, Bong shot down his first Japanese aircraft in his newly adorned P38 off Cape Hoskins on February 15th.
On April 12th Bong shot down three enemy aircraft and officially surpassed the 26-kill American record score set by US ace Eddie Rickenbacker during the First World War. Rickenbacker was characteristically gregarious about the accomplishment, and personally wrote to Bong to congratulate him on this and his recent promotion to Major, and offer him a case of scotch.
Bong would never fly in combat again. He returned to the United States and married Marge Vattendahl in February 1945. He was then sent to Wright Field to be employed as a test pilot, working on the new Lockheed P80 Shooting Star. On August 6th 1945, the same day as the Enola Gay dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima, Richard Ira Bong was killed during a routine flight when he was forced to bail out of his P80 after a fuel pump malfunction. He was too close to the ground for his parachute to open.