Richard Ira Bong was rightly nicknamed America’s “Ace of Aces” during World War II. He is credited with shooting down 40 Japanese aircraft during combat while flying a P-38 Lightning fighter in the Pacific. He was one of the most decorated American pilots of all time and was awarded the Medal of Honor by General Douglas MacArthur in December 1944.

Richard Bong was killed on August 6, 1945, when a jet plane he was test-piloting in California, crashed soon after takeoff. He was only 24 years old at the time of his death.

 

An Early Love of Aviation

Richard Bong was born on September 24, 1920, in Superior, Wisconsin, the oldest of nine children. His parents had emigrated to the United States from Sweden.