Richard “Dick” Bong

World War II ace Richard Ira Bong photographed next to his plane, dubbed “Marge” after his wife. (Image: Bong Museum)

Richard I. “Dick” Bong (1920–1945) was born in Superior and grew up on the family farm in Poplar, one of nine children of Swedish immigrants.

His downing of forty enemy planes while flying P-38 fighter planes in the Pacific during World War II made him America’s all-time Ace of Aces. He was awarded many decorations for outstanding skills and extraordinary courage, including the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was ordered home for his safety before the war ended and married his sweetheart, Marge, in Superior. Six months later, in August 1945, Dick was killed test piloting the first Lockheed jet fighter plane. He died the same day that the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

The Bong Heritage Center opened in September 2002 near Superior’s Barker’s Island. The Center features a great deal of World War II history as well as “Marge,” Bong’s famed P-38, named for his future wife, which has been carefully restored.

One story has it that Bong once flew his P-38 through Duluth’s Aerial Lift Bridge, but some say that is a myth. Read more about it here.

Story by Tony Dierckins. Originally published on Zenith City Online (2012–2017). Click here for more stories by Tony Dierckins.