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Tue, Mar 26, 2024

Museum Searches for Wreckage of Dick Bong's P-38 Lightning

Pacific Wrecks to Scour Papua New Guinea for Remains of Top Scoring Ace Plane

The Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center has embarked on a search for the remains of its WWII ace namesake's aircraft, working with preservation specialist Pacific Wrecks in an effort to find the P-38 Lightning "Marge". 

Richard, or 'Dick' as friends and internet-adepts today know him, racked up a healthy medal case throughout his time in the Army Air Corps, downing 40 Japanese aircraft in the Pacific Theater. Sadly, he nearly survived the war itself, only to pass away while flight testing in the nascent jet fighter program just before V-J day. In the field, Bong's Lockheed P-38 was named after his girlfriend back home, Marjorie Vattendahl, infamously sporting a full size poster of her sweetheart photo emblazoned on the nose. Marge was taken out on a mission with another pilot in his unit over Papua New Guinea in March of '44, when an engine failure forced him to bail out and let her crash into the jungle below. Bong's flying earned him the Medal of Honor, a capstone on a wartime career as the highest-tallied ace America fielded. Even today, the Marge insignia is replicated, with even the P-38 Lightning displayed in the EAA Museum sporting her namesake and decor.

Pacific Wrecks, a preservation group looking to save whatever's left of historic crashes before they're permanently lost to the climate, believes they have a line on the location. Justin Taylan, founder, has a plan to find the remains of Marge, and he's been bootstrapped to the tune of 63,000 dollars to see the mission through. Strangely, there isn't some new crack in the case, a precise set of coordinates or treasure map to lead the way to the precise location. Instead, it seems as if Taylan is the first one willing to really put in the elbow grease to find the aircraft's remains in the none too inviting Guinean jungle (a place that probably-not-but-maybe still has actual cannibalism, according to internet lore). He made an appearance on a local radio show, saying "Hopefully we'll be able to find the ultimate proof, which will be a serial number from the airplane that says this airplane is Marge."

FMI: www.pacificwrecks.com

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