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    Legendary WWII Ace Richard Bong’s “Marge” Found in South Pacific After 80 Years

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    In a discovery that stirs the hearts of military history aficionados and aviation enthusiasts alike, the Lockheed P-38 Lightning aircraft, affectionately nicknamed “Marge” by America’s top flying ace of World War II, Captain Richard I. Bong, was recently unearthed in the jungles of Papua New Guinea.

    This remarkable find comes 80 years after it vanished following a fateful flight on March 24, 1944, a testament to a bygone era of heroism and aviation prowess.

    Captain Bong, revered for shooting down an unparalleled 40 enemy aircraft, became an emblem of American aerial might.

    His plane, “Marge,” named after a photograph of his girlfriend and future wife Marjorie Vattendahl, which he had emblazoned on the aircraft’s nose, became nearly as iconic as the ace himself.

    On that March day in 1944, it was another pilot, Thomas Malone, who encountered mechanical issues and parachuted to safety while “Marge” succumbed to the thick New Guinea jungle.

    The Pacific Wrecks team, a non-profit dedicated to locating wartime remnants, embarked on a mission on May 1, in partnership with the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center, to find “Marge.”

    Their efforts bore fruit less than three weeks later when they discovered the wreckage half-buried in a ravine in Madang Province.

    During the search, Justin Taylan, the expedition leader and founder of Pacific Wrecks, acknowledged that after so many decades, expectations had to be tempered.

    Yet, the discovery of a wingtip, featuring the distinct red paint characteristic of “Marge” and a U.S. Army Air Force stencil with the serial number “9-9-3,” confirmed the identity of the legendary aircraft.

    “It’s a great day for the center, a great day for Pacific Wrecks, a great day for history,” Taylan proclaimed during a video news conference from the jungle.

    The locals played an instrumental role in leading the search team to the site, navigating the treacherous terrain with remarkable expertise.

    Some community members even repurposed parts of the aircraft, with portions of “Marge’s” wings serving as benches in the nearest village. Taylan noted, “People sit on top of a piece of ‘Marge’ every day.”

    The news of this historical revelation sent waves of excitement through the Bong family. James Bong, the nephew of the famed pilot, expressed the family’s elation: “It is amazing and incredible that ‘Marge’ has been found and identified.”

    Captain Bong’s achievements in his P-38, including three victories in “Marge,” contributed to his legacy, one immortalized by the Medal of Honor bestowed upon him by General Douglas MacArthur in 1944.

    While Captain Bong’s life ended tragically in a test flight crash on the same day as the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, his heroism and the legend of “Marge” endures.

    Relevant articles:
    Famed plane ‘Marge’ of ace pilot Richard Bong found in South Pacific, MPR News
    Explorers find what they believe is World War II ace Richard Bong’s downed plane in South Pacific, AP News
    Wreckage of World War II ace Richard Bong’s plane believed found in South Pacific, The Independent
    Wreck of famed P-38 fighter flown by America’s top ace found in Papua New Guinea, Stars and Stripes

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