bong01.jpg (34933 bytes)

Richard Ira Bong in a P-38G Lockheed Lightning on 6 March 1943


Upon his arrival in Brisbane, Australia, Richard Bong was assigned to the 9th Fighter Squadron of the 49th Fighter Group.

At some stage during the war, Bong staged through Townsville with 9th Fighter Squadron of the 49th Fighter Group, spending time at Garbutt Airfield and possibly Ross River airfield. A bridge in Townsville has been named "The Major Richard I. Bong Bridge" in honour of Richard Bong which is located in the vicinity of the WW2 Ross River airfield.

On 14 November 1942 he was re-assigned to the 39th Fighter Squadron of the 35th Fighter Group at Port Moresby in New Guinea.

He returned to the 9th Fighter Squadron of the 49th Fighter Group on 11 January 1943. He flew P-38's with the 9th Fighter Squadron until 11 November 1943, when he was given 60 days leave and was re-assigned to Headquarters of the Fifth Fighter Command in New Guinea as Assistant A-3 in charge of replacement aircraft.

Walter Markey, an ex 9th Fighter Squadron member told me the following :- "I passed through Townsville on a few occasions returning from Australia to New Guinea from R & R. Dick Bong & I usually went to Brisbane, then to shore at Southport. On one occasion we went down to Sydney where the 49th group maintained an apartment in the Rose Bay section."


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General Paul Wurtsmith, Commander of 5th Air Force Fighter Command, presents the Distinguished Service Cross to "Dick" Bong for downing two Tonys and two Zeros on 26 July 1943

Richard Ira Bong with General George Kenney


Richard Ira Bong with General George Kenney


Bong returned to the USA in April 1944 and was assigned to the Matagorda Peninsula Bombing Range at Foster Field in Texas.

In September 1944 he returned to the Fifth Fighter Command in New Guinea in charge of gunnery training.


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"Dick" Bong and Jimmy Mattern during a visit to a Lockheed plant in the US.


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Richard Bong with his beloved wife Marge (nee Vattendahl)


bong05.jpg (39799 bytes)
Taken by John Stava

"Marge" P-38J-15-LO Lockheed Lightning, #42-103993


The guys at 5th Air Force Photo lab did the blow-ups of Marge for Bong's P38. Dick Bong would drop in every month or so to get a replacement copy since they kept wearing off (or were lost in the occasional crash he had).


bong06.jpg (40611 bytes)
Taken by John Stava

Major Bong in the Philippines with Kenney and MacArthur. Probably taken
on 12 Dec 1944 when Bong was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honour


Major Richard Ira Bong being awarded the Congressional Medal of Honour by General Douglas MacArthur in the Philippines on 12 Dec 1944.


Major Richard Ira Bong


The Major Richard I. Bong Bridge on MacArthur Drive in Townsville


Memorial to Major Richard Ira Bong
near "The Major Richard I. Bong Bridge"


The memorial plaque near "The Major Richard I. Bong Bridge"


The Boston Globe of 12 October 2003 carried a very nicely written obituary of the widow of Major Bong. Marge died on 27 September 2003 at the age of 79. She was married only eight or nine months before Dick Bong was killed in August 1945. Marge remarried twice and had two daughters from her last marriage. Out of respect to the father of her girls, Marge never really spoke much of her short marriage to Major Bong, but she had her ashes buried next to his in Poplar Cemetery in Poplar, Wisconsin, the home town of Major Bong.


The two of the above photographs were taken by John Stava, who served with the 5th Air Force from May of 1943 until June of 1945, as a combat photographer/gunner. Initially he ran the Photo Lab at 5th AF HQ (Port Moresby, Nadzab), as well as flying select combat missions with various Bomber Groups (22nd, 38th, 345th, 3rd, etc.), then in Nov of 1944 he transferred to the 17th Recon.

Robert Stava, John's great nephew, donated copies of both these photographs to the Richard Bong Heritage Center in 2000 after contacting Marge Bong Drucker. She said she had never seen the two photographs before.


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This page first produced 24 August 2000

This page last updated 07 April 2020