World War II saw countless battles in the skies above the Pacific and in Europe. It is estimated that over 40,000 pilots lost their lives in aerial combat in the 6 years of war. Those who fought will be remembered, but there are legends who stand above the others. Let’s take a look a the Top 5 Greatest Fighter pilots of WWII and the endeavors that made them legends.
With 40 aerial victories, Richard Bong was America’s “Ace of Aces” more than any other US pilot during WWII. Bong joined the Army Air Corp in 1941 studying under Captain Barry Goldwater (future Arizona Senator and Presidential Nominee).
Flying a P-38 Lightning in missions over the Pacific he took down a down a down an A6M Zero and a Nakajima Ki-43 near Papua New Guinea to earn Silver Star. He continued campaigns against the Japanese throughout the Philippines racking up 40 victories. In December of 1944, General Douglas MacArthur awarded Bong the Medal of Honor for his success in the Pacific Theater of War.
After his service in WWII Richard Bong became a test pilot for the for Lockheed. On August 6th, 1945 while testing the P-80 Shooting Star the jet malfunctioned and crashed into a field killing Bong upon impact. The world mourned his loss and was prominently featured in newspapers alongside stories of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima occurred on the same day.