- Jun 19, 2005
If the F80 Shooting Star had saw service nearing the end of WWII, do you guys think it would be as equal, less, or greater than the ME262. What type of outcome do you think would it have?
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General MacArthur presented the medal to Bong on the Tacloban airfield on December 12, 1944. He tossed away his written remarks and said, "Major Richard Ira Bong, who has ruled the air from New Guinea to the Philippines, I now induct you into the society of the bravest of the brave, the wearers of the Congressional Medal of Honor of the United States." Then he pinned the medal on Bong, they shook hands and saluted.
RICHARD I. BONG - Medal of Honor Citation:
Rank and organization: Major, U.S. Army Air Corps. Place and date: Over Borneo and Leyte, 10 October to 15 November 1944. Entered service at: Poplar, Wis. Birth: Poplar, Wis. G.O. No.: 90, 8 December 1944.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty in the Southwest Pacific area from 10 October to 15 November 1944. Though assigned to duty as gunnery instructor and neither required nor expected to perform combat duty, Maj. Bong voluntarily and at his own urgent request engaged in repeated combat missions, including unusually hazardous sorties over Balikpapan, Borneo, and in the Leyte area of the Philippines. His aggressiveness and daring resulted in his shooting down 8 enemy airplanes during this period.
After Bong scored his 40th victory, General Kenney sent him home, this time for good. He was America's "Ace of Aces," with 40 aerial victories, 200 combat missions, and over 500 combat hours behind him. By New Year's Eve, 1945, America's number 1 ace was back in the "Z.I.," headed for Washington D.C. to meet the dignitaries, including General 'Hap' Arnold. At the Pentagaon, he met Bob Johnson, also there on a PR tour. Dick explained that he had been dragged around the country on War Bond tours and hated it. "I've got this coming out my ears, Johnson. I'm sure glad to see you. You can help me bear up under this nonsense. It's worse than having a Zero on your tail."
After his PR trip, he returned to Wisconsin, and married Marge on February 10, 1945. After their California honeymoon, he went to work at Wright Field as a test pilot, helping to develop the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star. He studied jet propulsion theory and boned up on the engineering details of the new plane for two months, before getting a chance to fly one. After being checked out in the P-80, he flew it eleven times that summer.
By this time Dick Bong had gone home, for a triumphant tour of the U.S., with 40 victories to his his credit. McGuire had 38, was still in combat, and there were still plenty of Jap planes around. Everyone, including McGuire, expected him to break Bong's record. It seemed like just a matter of time, not too much time at that. Afterwards, McGuire would have gone home to a hero's welcome as well. But time ran out for Tommy McGuire, just as he almost had his goal within his grasp.
The Final Mission
On Jan. 7, 1945, Tommy McGuire led a flight of four planes on an early morning fighter sweep over the Japanese airdrome on Negros Island. Flying McGuire's wing was Capt. Edwin Weaver, whom McGuire had given demerits to when they were cadets in San Antonio. Major Jack Rittmayer and Lt. Douglas Thropp formed the second element. All were veteran combat pilots. The P-38's each carried two 160 gallon external fuel tanks. They spotted a single Jap fighter coming right at them. They departed Marsten Strip around 0615 and leveled off at 10,000 feet, but in the vicinity of Negros the weather forced their descent to 6,000 feet. McGuire led Daddy Flight to an airdrome over Fabrica Strip and made a futile attempt at provoking an enemy response by circling the area for approximately ten minutes. They were now flying at 1,700 feet.
When this effort failed, McGuire proceeded to another airdrome on the western coast of the island. En route, Rittmayer throttled back while breaking through the clouds and became temporarily separated from the rest of the flight. McGuire ordered his pilots to regroup, but learned that Rittmayer's aircraft encountered engine trouble. Thropp, therefore, moved into the number-three position.
Suddenly, Weaver spotted a Japanese fighter heading in their direction, 500 feet below and 1,000 yards ahead. The Ki-43 Oscar, piloted by Warrant Officer Akira Sugimoto, passed below McGuire's P-38 before either pilot could react. Meanwhile, Sergeant Mixunori Fukuda, piloting a Ki-84 Frank, was attempting to land and noticed his comrade's plight. Sugimoto fired into Thropp's aircraft, destroying one of the turbo-chargers. The Lieutenant's first thought was to drop his belly tank, but McGuire anticipated his intention and ordered his pilots to refrain from doing this. It is assumed he issued this order to avoid an early return to Leyte, thereby scrubbing the mission.
Rittmayer, meanwhile, had rejoined the flight and maneuvered his malfunctioning fighter to an advantageous position. He fired into Sugimoto's Oscar, frightening the Warrant Officer off Thropp's tail, but the enemy pilot didn't flee as anticipated. Instead, he turned his fighter tightly and fired several long bursts into Weaver's P-38. Weaver summoned McGuire's assistance.
McGuire's response was immediate as he turned sharply to the left, but something went wrong as his Lightning shuddered and threatened to stall. He sharply increased his turn in an attempt to get a shot at the enemy fighter, but his plane lost momentum and snap-rolled to the left. It was last seen in an inverted position with the nose down about 30-degrees.
Weaver momentarily lost sight of McGuire's fighter, but a second later witnessed an explosion. Sugimoto broke off his attack against Weaver just before McGuire's plane crashed. Rittmayer and Thropp pursued the damaged Oscar as it climbed to the north, and the young Lieutenant managed to deliver one last burst into Sugimoto's aircraft before it crash-landed in the jungle. He died shortly thereafter from six bullet wounds to the chest. Now Sergeant Fukuda arrived on scene and charged head-on at Thropp's P-38, but Weaver recovered from his ordeal in time to fire at the Frank. Rittmayer turned his aircraft to assist, but Fukuda caught the Major in a vulnerable position and fired a burst into his aircraft. The bullets struck the P-38 with telling effect, and it exploded outside the village of Pinanamaan. McGuire had crashed near this area a few minutes earlier.
It can be said that McGuire was never shot down by enemy fire, only a split second violation of his rules for combat resulted in his death. Some critics have maintained that McGuire's order to keep the tanks was greedy and foolish; supposedly he wanted to score a 'quick kill' on the lone Japanese plane.