Explorers discover possible wreckage of World War II ace Richard Bong’s plane in South Pacific

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Searchers introduced Thursday they’ve found what they consider is the wreckage of World Struggle II ace Richard Bong’s airplane within the South Pacific.

The Richard I. Bong Veterans Historic Heart in Superior, Wisconsin, and the nonprofit World Struggle II historic preservation group Pacific Wrecks introduced in March they had been launching a joint search for Bong’s Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter. Bong nicknamed the airplane “Marge” after his girlfriend, Marge Vattendahl.

One other pilot, Thomas Malone, was flying the airplane in March 1944 over what’s now generally known as Papua New Guinea when engine failure despatched it right into a spin. Malone bailed out earlier than the airplane crashed within the jungle.

The expedition’s chief, Pacific Wrecks Director Justin Taylan, stated in a information launch that the search group found the wreckage within the jungles of Papua New Guinea’s Madang Province. He launched pictures of himself within the jungle with chunks of metallic on the bottom taken Might 15.

In a single photograph he factors to what the caption calls a wing tip from the airplane stamped with “993,” the final three numbers of the airplane’s serial quantity. Enlarging the photograph exhibits markings that could possibly be two “9s” however they’re obscured by what could be dust or rust and tough to make out. One other photograph exhibits a bit of metallic stamped with “Mannequin P-38 JK.”

“The airplane’s affiliation with Richard Bong makes it one of the vital World Struggle II plane on the earth,” Taylan stated within the information launch.

Bong, who grew up in Poplar, Wisconsin, is credited with taking pictures down 40 Japanese plane throughout World Struggle II. He plastered a blow-up of Vattendahl’s portrait on the nostril of his airplane, in response to a Pacific Wrecks abstract of the airplane’s service.

Bong shot down extra planes than every other American pilot. Gen. Douglas MacArthur awarded him the Medal of Honor, the U.S. army’s highest ornament, in 1944.

Bong and Vattendahl finally married in 1945. Bong was assigned to obligation as a check pilot in Burbank, California, after three fight excursions within the South Pacific. He was killed on Aug. 6, 1945, when a P-80 jet fighter he was testing crashed. He died on the identical day the US dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Vattendahl was 21 on the time of Bong’s dying. She went on to turn out to be a mannequin and {a magazine} writer in Los Angeles. She died in September 2003 in Superior.

A bridge connecting Superior and Duluth, Minnesota, is known as for Bong.

“The Bong household could be very enthusiastic about this discovery,” James Bong, Richard Bong’s nephew, stated within the information launch. “It’s wonderful and unbelievable that ‘Marge’ has been discovered and recognized.”

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