• Dick Bong writes home

    Posted on May 17th, 2014 John Dorcey No comments

    In the nearly 12 months since Dick Bong had been away from home he had written home about twice a week. He had written additional letters to his siblings, friends and other Bong relatives. In his letter of May 17, 1942 he provides more of his impressions of the P-38 Lightning and we get a glimpse of the 21-year-old’s ties with home.

    5/17/1942
    Dear Mom:
    Well I now have 7 hours in the P-38. It certainly is quite an airplane. It’s the fastest I have ever flown and is the easiest plane to fly that I have yet flown. However, it is nothing to get careless with. One boy was killed out here yesterday.

    P-38E lands at Hamilton AAF, California; USAAF photo

    P-38E lands at Hamilton AAF, California
    USAAF photo

    Dick continued his letter with comments about cookies in a care package…”I guess I told you that (the) cookies arrived and were promptly did away with in the proper manner.” Other comments regarded relatives living in California and acquaintances from home entering the military. Like most in the service, Bong wanted to ensure everyone had his correct mailing address. “Be sure when you write to me”, he wrote, “you address the letters to the 49th Pursuit Squadron here at the field.” He continued with a question that implies he missed his parents.

    How about that deal of coming out here? … Dad ought to be able to get away for two weeks right after the seeding is done. Let me know about it anyway. I have no expenses here to amount to anything so I could send you a $100 now and another hundred the first of the month. After that, I won’t have any use for money at all, I suppose. I’ll have to send my radio home before I leave too, I suppose.

    I guess that is all for now.

    Love, Dick

    It will be 29 days before Dick’s next letter home. An unusual event with a valid reason. Maybe it was the P-38’s speed, maybe it was the ease with which Bong found it flew, maybe it was his youthful exuberance. What ever the cause, a few weeks after writing this letter young 2nd Lieutenant Bong found himself in hot water. So much so that he would soon be standing at attention in front of the 4th Air Force Commander, Major General George C. Kenney. It would prove to be a meeting that would extend far beyond the office walls.

    70th Anniverssary MOH logoThe Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame is celebrating the 70th anniversary of Richard Bong being awarded the Medal of Honor on December 12, 1944. Touring Wisconsin with the Bong Anniversary Tour is just part of this educational effort. Learn more about the tour, where you can experience the story through a multimedia presentation, and other Bong information at the website.

     

  • Lt. Bong, meet the Lockheed P-38

    Posted on May 12th, 2014 John Dorcey No comments
    Hamilton AAF main gate

    Hamilton AAF main gate
    Photo courtesy the California State Military Museum

    It was 74 years ago today, May 12, 1942, that 2nd Lt Richard Bong first flew the Lockheed P-38 Lighting. In the book, Dear Mom – So We Have a War, his letters home set the stage for the big day in this young pilot’s life.

    2nd Lt. R.I. Bong
    49th Sqdn, 14th Group
    Hamilton Field, Cal.
    5/7/42

    Dear Mom:
    Well, I’m here and settled in my new barracks. This is an old post and it is pretty complete and also pretty nice. I got my assignment today. I’m assigned to the 49th Pursuit Squadron of the 14th Pursuit Group stationed here at Hamilton. We start training tomorrow. Start out in ships like the airlines and then get shipped into P-38s. That is all they have here and so that is all we can fly.

    Richard Ira Bong entered the US Army Air Corps (USAAC) on May 29, 1941 at Wausau, Wisconsin. He had earned his Private Pilot Certificate through the Civilian Pilot Training program (CPTP) conducted at Superior State Teachers College (UW-Superior) in Superior, Wisconsin.

    Flight Cadet Bong went immediately to the Rankin Aeronautical Academy in Tulare, California, for primary training and became a member of Class 42A. He soloed the Stearman PT-17 “Kaydet” less than a month later on June 25, 1941. Next was basic training at Gardner Army Air Field (AAF), arriving on August 20. Here Cadet Bong flew the Vultee BT-13A “Valiant” and soloed this airplane on September 3, 1941. He then went to Luke AAF for advanced training in the North American AT-6A “Texan” arriving on November 4. Graduating from flight school on January 9, 1942 Bong received his wings and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant.

    Lockheed C-40, image courtesy National Museum of the USAF

    Lockheed C-40
    Image courtesy National Museum of the USAF

    2nd Lt Bong stayed at Luke as an instructor, building his skills as a pilot and adding one more aircraft type, the P-36, and flight time to his logbook. He arrived at Hamilton with 501 hours of military flight time, all of it in single engine aircraft. The “ships like the airlines” Dick wrote about in his letter home (above) was the Lockheed C-40, or its civilian designation, the Model 12 Electra. He received one hour of instruction in this type, his only twin engine time, and later that same day made his first flight in the P-38. This first flight would last 40 minutes.

    Here is Dick’s next letter home:

    5/12/1942

    Dear Mom:
    Well I flew a C-40, (a ship like the one that flies on the airways and comes into Duluth or Superior every day), and a P-38. WOOEY!! What an airplane. That’s all I can say, but that is enough. You know what they look like from the pictures.

    He continued a few paragraphs later,

    Our training program is supposed to finish on the 13th and we leave the states shortly afterward, I guess. I don’t know where to, but it will be a long ways from home.

    It won’t turn out quite like that, but that is another story.

    The Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame (WAHF) kicked off its Bong Anniversary Tour at the Wisconsin Aviation Conference in Wausau on May 5-7, 2014. Learn more about the tour kickoff  or all of the tour details.

    70th Anniverssary MOH logo

  • Civil Air Patrol seeks Congressional Gold Medal

    Posted on April 9th, 2012 John Dorcey No comments

    Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) is the most recent cosponsor of senate bill S.418. He signed the bill on March 26, 2012. So far five Wisconsin representatives have cosponsored the house version, H.R.719. The bills, if passed, will award the Congressional Gold Medal to World War II veterans of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP). Representative Bob Fisner (D-CA) introduced the bill on February 15, 2011. He has since been joined by 163 cosponsors. The Senate bill was introduced by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) on February 28, 2011. Johnson brings the total senate cosponsors to 82.

    You might wonder what the Civil Air Patrol did to be considered for this prestigious award. The Coastal Patrol, as the CAP was originally known, was created by presidential executive order on December 1, 1941 as part of the Office of Civilian Defense. Antisubmarine operations using civilian volunteer pilots, flying their personal aircraft, began in March, 1942. The program lasted for 18 months. The civilian patrol experiment was an overwhelming success.

    During the 18 months of combat operations the Coastal Patrol sank two enemy submarines and attacked another 57. That success came with a cost. The Coastal Patrol lost 90 aircraft at sea, 26 crew members were killed, and seven were seriously injured. Fairchild Model 24s and Stinson 10As were two of the more common aircraft used but many other types were pressed into service. As the program developed, aircraft were armed with 50 and 100-pound bombs and 325-pound depth charges. The program began operations from three bases eventually growing to 21 facilities along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

    WAHF inductee Logan A. “Jack” Vilas was active in the Coastal Patrol and founded an unofficial club for Coastal Patrol personnel. Coastal Patrol pilots who, during a mission, made a forced landing on the water were made members of the Duck Club. By the end of the 18 month program, 114 pilots survived a forced water landing. Pilots from 16 of the 21 Coastal Patrol bases were club members.

    The Coastal Patrol flew other than antisubmarine missions – target towing, search and rescue, border patrol, disaster relief, and emergency transport. During the war 60,000 adult members had volunteered to serve their country through the Coastal Patrol. A total of 824 Air Medals were awarded by executive order of the president for service as flight crew on antisubmarine missions for the Coastal Patrol. By the end of the conflict nearly 750,000 flight hours had been logged, while 150 aircraft were lost, and 64 members killed. Like the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) these aviators had been promised veteran’s benefits. Benefits never materialized for either group. The WASP were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2010.

    You can assist the CAP Congressional Gold Medal recognition effort in two ways. First, contact your senator and representative and ask them to support S.418 or H.R.719. Second, help locate CAP veterans. If you, or someone you know, served in the CAP between December 7, 1941 and August 15, 1945 and was 18 years old, or older, during that time you or they will be eligible for the award. Upload their information into the World War II Congressional Gold Medal database, or send it to Holley Dunigan.

    FMI: http://www.americainwwii.com/stories/guarding.html
    http://www.capmembers.com/media/cms/Gold_Medal_Feature__Swain_3CEB7EED6ABEB.pdf

  • Robert J. Goebel – Gone West

    Posted on February 28th, 2011 John Dorcey 1 comment

    Today would have been Robert Goebel’s birthday. Mr. Goebel died last Sunday, February 20, just days short of his 88th birthday. Goebel, a member of the greatest generation, was typical of the group. He enlisted on April 4, 1942 as an aviation cadet. Goebel graduated flight training, earning his wings and second lieutenant commission in May 1943. His first assignment, defense of the Panama Canal, would last a scant five months. He flew the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk and Bell P-39 Airacobra while gaining invaluable fighter pilot experience.

    Lt Robert Goebel in his P-51 "Flying Dutchman"

    Robert shared his World War II combat pilot story in the book, Mustang Ace, Memoirs of a P-51 Fighter Pilot. In the book’s forward, Goebel states, “Like the rest of my generation, in combat I did what I had to do, the best way I knew how. There was no hating, no anguish, no sense of guilt. Only of getting the job done.”

    First Lieutenant Robert J. Goebel was awarded the Silver Star on August 18, 1944. The citation reads in part, “Displaying outstanding aggressiveness and courage, with complete disregard for the overwhelming superiority of enemy aircraft, Lieutenant Goebel immediately engaged the hostile ships, and, in the ensuing engagement destroyed two enemy fighters and forced the rest to withdraw, thus saving the life of his comrade. En route to base, though having serious mechanical difficulties, he again intercepted enemy aircraft and accounted for another enemy fighter destroyed.”

    Lt. Robert Goebel, wife June, and son Gary

    He flew 61 combat missions in the North American P-51 Mustang during World War II. He had 11 aerial victories over enemy aircraft. In addition to the Silver Star, Goebel was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with Silver Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Air Medal with 17 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters.

    After the war, Goebel attended the University of Wisconsin and earned a bachelor’s degree in physics. He served as commander of the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 126th Fighter Squadron until being recalled into the Air Force in 1950. Lieutenant Colonel Robert Goebel retired from the USAF in 1966. After retiring from the Air Force, he worked for NASA and the Atomic Energy Commission.

    Robert J. Goebel, 2003

    Goebel was born on February 28, 1923, in Racine, Wisconsin. He was the youngest of seven children. Robert married his high school sweetheart, June Meany, while awaiting orders to San Antonio Aviation Cadet Center. They were married for 64 years. Together they raised nine children. June died March 6, 2006. In addition to their children, he is survived by 27 grandchildren and 37 great-grandchildren.

    Robert was inducted into the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame in 2003.