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America's Top Two Aces

Maj. Richard I. Bong. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Maj. Richard I. Bong. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio -- Maj. Richard Bong's flight jacket, boots and cap on display in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. These items were donated by his father, Carl T. Bong of Poplar, Wis. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio -- Maj. Richard Bong's flight jacket, boots and cap on display in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. These items were donated by his father, Carl T. Bong of Poplar, Wis. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Detail of Pudgy (V). Note there are 40 victory flags although Maj. Thomas B. McGuire Jr.'s official number of victories was 38. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Detail of Pudgy (V). Note there are 40 victory flags although Maj. Thomas B. McGuire Jr.'s official number of victories was 38. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Maj. Thomas B. McGuire Jr. (right) with Charles Lindbergh. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Maj. Thomas B. McGuire Jr. (right) with Charles Lindbergh. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Majs. Thomas B. McGuire Jr. and Richard I. Bong on Nov. 15, 1944, in the Philippines. Majs. Bong and McGuire were the top two scoring U.S. aces in World War II with 40 and 38 victories, respectively. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Majs. Thomas B. McGuire Jr. and Richard I. Bong on Nov. 15, 1944, in the Philippines. Majs. Bong and McGuire were the top two scoring U.S. aces in World War II with 40 and 38 victories, respectively. (U.S. Air Force photo)

3/4 front view of Pudgy, Maj. Thomas B. McGuire Jr.'s aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo)

3/4 front view of Pudgy, Maj. Thomas B. McGuire Jr.'s aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Thomas B. McGuire Jr. with Pudgy (V), his regular P-38L-1-LO (S/N 44-24155), although he was killed in another aircraft (P-38L, S/N 44-24845). (U.S. Air Force photo)

Thomas B. McGuire Jr. with Pudgy (V), his regular P-38L-1-LO (S/N 44-24155), although he was killed in another aircraft (P-38L, S/N 44-24845). (U.S. Air Force photo)

Official photo of Thomas B. McGuire Jr. as an Aviation Cadet. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Official photo of Thomas B. McGuire Jr. as an Aviation Cadet. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Pacific Theater of Operations produced the two highest scoring aces in American history, Maj. Richard I. Bong and Maj. Thomas B. McGuire Jr. Both men flew P-38 Lightnings in the Southwest Pacific, and each received the Medal of Honor in recognition of his courage and accomplishments. 

Maj. Richard I. Bong
In the air over Hollandia on April 12, 1944, Maj. Bong scored his 26th and 27th victories to break the previous record of 26 set by Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker during World War I. Maj. Bong scored 28 air-to-air victories. When he returned to the Pacific for his second tour, he was assigned as a gunnery instructor. He voluntarily flew numerous combat missions and in "self defense" scored 12 more victories to bring his total to 40, making him the highest scoring ace in American history. He lost his life in the crash of a P-80 jet aircraft in August 1945 at Burbank, Calif.

Maj. Thomas B. McGuire Jr.
Maj. Thomas B. McGuire scored 38 aerial victories in a P-38, making him America's second highest scoring ace. Among his many decorations was the Medal of Honor awarded for his actions on Dec. 25-26, 1944, when he shot down seven enemy aircraft. On Jan. 7, 1945, he crashed to his death on Los Negros Island in the Philippines while risking an extremely hazardous maneuver at low altitude in an attempt to save the life of a comrade. McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey is named in his honor.

Click here to return to the Combat Pacific Overview.

 

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Related Fact Sheets
Lockheed P-38L Lightning
Medal of Honor Awards in the Air Force
Capt. Edward V. Rickenbacker
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