Sins of Omission

Ace of Aces: Richard Bong

He was an all-American boy who became an American hero in World War II.  Born in 1920 to a father who, at the age of five, had immigrated to the United States with his family from Sweden and an American-born mother of Irish, Scottish, and English descent, Dick Bong was reared on a farm a few miles west of Poplar and some 15 miles southeast of Superior, Wisconsin.  He had eight brothers and sisters.  Bong began working in the fields and driving farm machinery at a young age.  He stared into the sky at every plane that flew overhead and was enamored of the deeds of Charles Lindbergh, who had grown up just over the state line in Minnesota.

He played on the Superior Central High baseball team with one of my uncles, and hunted and fished.  For his 4-H project he planted a windbreak of trees on the family farm.  His sister Geraldine, still going strong at 87, told me that he was the best big brother anyone could ask for.  In 1938 he began his studies at Superior State Teachers College and enrolled in the Civilian Pilot Training Program.  Three years later he enlisted in the Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet Program.  Bong excelled in both programs, and, by early January 1942, just a month after the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, he had both his wings and a commission as a second lieutenant.

Bong was assigned to the 49th Fighter Squadron at Hamilton...

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