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WW-2 Pilots

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    Posted: 14 October 2020 at 12:27

Race of Aces: WWII's Elite Airmen and the Epic Battle to Become the Master of the Sky

By:  John R Bruning(Author)

 

In 1942, America's deadliest fighter pilot, or "ace of aces" -- the legendary Eddie Rickenbacker -- offered a bottle of whiskey to the first U.S. fighter pilot in WW-2 to break his record of twenty-six enemy planes shot down.   This started the  air race in the South Pacific theater.

Great read if you like War-Birds.  The Lightning and other planes are described along with the guys flying them.  A good (long) read for plane buffs.  We all know that dick  Bong, was that ace; but how he got there and who he was is an interesting story.

I visited the dick Bong history center last year, and this book certainly added to the experienced. https://bongcenter.org/. ; the center is close to IBD's headquarters, so I want to go back, maybe get some Jameisons??????

The IQ and the life expectancy of the average American recently passed each other in opposite directions.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Irish Bird Dog Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 October 2020 at 21:09
Bong memorial site is about 35 miles from our house in Superior,WI. I first read about Richard Ira Bong in HS. His Lightning aircraft is displayed there.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BEAR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 November 2020 at 10:00
A good read on Dick Bong.  ...  The Ace of Aces   


Bong had survived many air battles only to die in a routine test flight accident.  It happened in SF California  on the same day as the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima; so it didn't get the public aclaim his death deserved.  Also happened after only7 month after he returned from war to marry his school sweetheart.

Seems like his story would make a great movie...with lots of stunting and dogfieghts in Lightnings and zeroes.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Irish Bird Dog Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 November 2020 at 08:23
Hey Bear, thanks for posting the Bong story. Read about him in HS and live not far from his hometown in WI. For many years (decades) a P-38 (don't know if one he ever flew or not) was on a pedestal in Poplar, WI next to USH 2 in the open air. The years in outside environment took it's toll on the plane. A few yrs back a group of folks did a restoration of the P-38 with help from a MN Air National Guard unit in Duluth MN. As you know bear it now resides indoors at the Bong museum in Superior WI adjacent to USH 2.....just a few miles west of Poplar WI, Bongs hometown.




The REST of the STORY:
NEWS

Marge Bong Drucker lived life to the fullest

Marge Bong Drucker died last week at the age of 79 in Superior, but before she did, she lived three lives. In her first life, she grew up in Superior as Marge Vattendahl and married flying ace Richard I. Bong. While their marriage lasted only six...
Written By: Duluth Budgeteer | 

Marge Bong Drucker died last week at the age of 79 in Superior, but before she did, she lived three lives.

In her first life, she grew up in Superior as Marge Vattendahl and married flying ace Richard I. Bong. While their marriage lasted only six months before he was killed testing a new jet fighter, it secured her a place in World War II history. Her picture flew with Bong on the nose of his plane as he became the most successful combat pilot in American history.

Her second life involved fashion, modeling, publishing and motherhood as she married Murray Drucker and raised two daughters while traveling all over the world as a businesswoman.

Her third life brought her back to Superior, and, after Murray Drucker died, she focused her time and energy on keeping alive the memory of the country's most celebrated fighter pilot. A crowning glory in her life was the opening of the Richard I. Bong WWII Heritage Center and the restoration of a P-38 Lightning, the type of plane that Bong flew in the South Pacific while shooting down more planes than any WWII pilot. He amassed a record of 40 victories that still stands today.

Bong Drucker was a student at Superior State Teacher's College, now the University of Wisconsin-Superior, and just starting life No. 1 when she met Bong, home on his first combat leave. They met at the college's homecoming dance, where the Poplar native Bong crowned the queen in 1943.

She was surprised when his sister, Jerry, tracked her down on campus the next week and asked her to go out on a date with her brother, who, at the time, was 23, a famous fighter pilot and one of the country's most eligible bachelors.

The two squeezed in as many bowling dates and movies as Bong's rigorous schedule raising money on the war bond circuit would allow.

Bong went back into combat and they both secured their places in history. Bong put her college graduation picture on the nose of his plane and named the aircraft "Marge." Then he had claimed his 26th, 27th and 28th victories and broke Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker's World War I record of 26 downed enemy aircraft. That brought them both worldwide acclaim. Soon, everyone wanted to meet Marge, "the most shot after girl in the South Pacific," as Bong wrote to her, apologizing for bringing her into the media frenzy.

On leave again after breaking Rickenbacker's record, the two became engaged and married when Bong returned home from combat, after Gen. MacArthur awarded him the Congressional Medal of Honor. He came home a hero, and America's favorite son.

The couple's wedding stands as one of the biggest in Superior's history, with 1,200 guests. The ceremony was taped and broadcast over the radio in Chicago. The wedding was recorded by the national media, and the film is in the National Archives today.

The couple settled in California, where the famous pilot still garnered the limelight and was one whom the stars sought out for autographs, including Judy Garland, Angela Lansbury, Bing Crosby and Lucille Ball.

The couples' shining star burned brightly, but not for long.

Just six months later, Bong was testing a prototype jet fighter for Lockheed when it malfunctioned over North Hollywood. He tried to eject after navigating his aircraft to a vacant lot, but he died in the crash.

"After Richard was killed I stayed in California and did not come back here until 40 years later," she said just two weeks before her death. "I was suffering from a great deal of pain. I just felt a bit like a non-person, and I had to work myself out of that." Despite being married to one of the most famous Americans at the time, she did not go public with her loss.

"I never wanted to trade in on Richard's publicity," she said. "I was invited out for movie interviews and I could have talked to any reporter I wanted, but I chose not to do that. What did I do? I didn't do anything, I was just lucky enough to have married him."

So she began life No. 2 on her own. It started with a modeling career, and she worked for the largest agency in Hollywood. That led to her marriage to Murray Drucker, who published both fashion and dog magazines. They raised two daughters, Kristina and Karen Drucker, and the family traveled around the world on fashion shoots and business for the magazines.

Bong Drucker became a publisher herself in 1956 and started Boxer Review, an award-winning dog magazine that she ran from her home office until 2001 when she sold it.

"She was editing her pages the day after I was born," said Karen Drucker. "She was a working mom. She was in the hospital editing pages."

She may have been a working mother, but in photos of her during that era, she looked like a tall, stately model, who made the improbable boxer look like a glamour dog. Pictures show her on photo shoots from all over the world, in some posing, in others, assisting the models for the perfect shot.

During those years, she kept her first life locked away.

"Nobody knew about it. It was really like separate lives," said Karen Drucker, adding that it wasn't until she was about 10 years old that she discovered pieces of her mother's life with the famous WWII flying ace.

"In a way, it was really honoring of my father. Here was this other life and here is my life now," Karen Drucker said.

Murray Drucker died in 1991, and with her children grown, Marge Bong Drucker, successful publisher, world traveler, mother, opened another new chapter on her life.

"Life No. 3 would be my fund raising for the Heritage Center," she said.

She came back to Superior after a 40-year absence to attend the dedication of the Bong Bridge, and that began her re-entry to the Bong era. She was touched by the reception she received in Superior on her first visit back home. She was asked to speak to the 49th Fighter Group, which was in town for a reunion.

"I was so shocked," she said, "to receive such a wonderful reception and a welcome back, so that was really wonderful. That was the beginning of my opening up to the press and the public."

It was also the beginning of the Richard I. Bong WWII Heritage Center. Bong Drucker and others, including Bong's family, embraced the notion of honoring their pilot with a museum. Bong Drucker began raising money by accepting invitations to speak at veteran's events all over the country.

One of the high points of all three of her lives was the opening of the center on Sept. 24, 2002.

"Many have asked me, 'What do you think Richard would feel about the museum,'" she said. "I think he would be very proud of what we have done, mainly because we included other veterans. Every branch of service is represented there. I think he would have felt a little chagrined to see it was named just in his honor. But it includes the stories of all veterans, and that's why it is called the World War II museum.

"I feel we were just doing our job in getting a very fitting tribute to all the heroes, and many of whom lost their lives. Recognizing the worth of these veterans is very important and even more important is to pass down this information to the younger generations, many of whom don't know a thing about World War II," she said.

With her mission on life No. 3 completed with the opening of the Heritage Center, Bong Drucker was not ready to settle down to her old life in California.

In 2002, she sold the house that she had lived in for more than 50 years in Hollywood and had a new house built on the original Bong homestead in Poplar.

Just days before, she had no regrets. She did not feel cheated that her time with Richard Ira Bong was short.

"I was just happy for the time I had with him," she said.





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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BEAR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 November 2020 at 09:04
Good read IBD.  different times then.

In biography I remember reading that husband #2 was a dud, often berating Dick Bong.

What a life.
The IQ and the life expectancy of the average American recently passed each other in opposite directions.
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