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Explorers find what they believe is World War II ace Richard Bong's downed plane in South Pacific

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Explorers find what they believe is World War II ace Richard Bong's downed plane in South Pacific
News

News

Explorers find what they believe is World War II ace Richard Bong's downed plane in South Pacific

2024-05-24 06:26 Last Updated At:06:31

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Searchers announced Thursday they've discovered what they believe is the wreckage of World War II ace Richard Bong's plane in the South Pacific.

The Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center in Superior, Wisconsin, and the nonprofit World War II historical preservation group Pacific Wrecks announced in March they were launching a joint search for Bong's Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter. Bong nicknamed the plane “Marge” after his girlfriend, Marge Vattendahl.

Another pilot, Thomas Malone, was flying the plane in March 1944 over what is now known as Papua New Guinea when engine failure sent it into a spin. Malone bailed out before the plane crashed in the jungle.

The expedition's leader, Pacific Wrecks Director Justin Taylan, said that the search team discovered the wreckage in the jungles of Papua New Guinea's Madang Province on May 15.

He released photos of himself in the jungle with chunks of metal on the ground. In one photo he points to what the caption calls a wing tip from the plane stamped with “993,” the last three numbers of the plane's serial number. Enlarging the photo shows markings that could be two “9s” but they're obscured by what might be dirt or rust and difficult to make out. Another photo shows a piece of metal stamped with “Model P-38 JK.”

Taylan said during a video news conference from Papua New Guinea on Thursday afternoon that the serial number and model identification prove the plane is Marge “definitely, beyond a doubt."

“I think it’s safe to say mission accomplished,” Taylan said. “Marge has been identified. It’s a great day for the center, a great day for Pacific Wrecks, a great day for history.”

Taylan has been researching the location of the crash site for years. He said that historical records suggested it went down on the grounds of a 150-year old plantation. Local residents initially showed the expedition the wreck of a Japanese fighter plane before telling the searchers about wreckage deeper in the jungle.

The explorers hiked through the jungle until they discovered wreckage in a ravine, Taylan said. At the top of the ravine they found two aircraft engines sticking out of the ground, indicating the plane went in nose-first and buried itself in the ground. Taylan said Bong painted the wing tips red and the paint was still on them.

Bong, who grew up in Poplar, Wisconsin, is credited with shooting down 40 Japanese aircraft during World War II. He plastered a blow-up of Vattendahl's portrait on the nose of his plane, according to a Pacific Wrecks summary of the plane's service.

Bong shot down more planes than any other American pilot. Gen. Douglas MacArthur awarded him the Medal of Honor, the U.S. military's highest decoration, in 1944. Taylan said that Bong shot down three planes while flying Marge.

Bong and Vattendahl eventually married in 1945. Bong was assigned to duty as a test pilot in Burbank, California, after three combat tours in the South Pacific. He was killed on Aug. 6, 1945, when a P-80 jet fighter he was testing crashed. He died on the same day the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Vattendahl was 21 at the time of Bong's death. She went on to become a model and a magazine publisher in Los Angeles. She died in September 2003 in Superior.

A bridge connecting Superior and Duluth, Minnesota, is named for Bong. A state recreation area in southeastern Wisconsin also is named for him.

“The Bong family is very excited about this discovery,” James Bong, Richard Bong's nephew, said in the news release. “It is amazing and incredible that ‘Marge’ has been found and identified.”

This photo provided by Joel Carillet shows a piece of wreckage from World War II ace Richard Bong's P-38 Lightning fighter plane as it lays on the ground in the jungles of Madang Province, Papua New Guinea, Wednesday, May 15, 2024. Another pilot was flying the plane when it crashed in 1944. An expedition sponsored by the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center and Pacific Wrecks, a World War II historical preservation group, discovered the crash site. (Pacific Wrecks/Joel Carillet via AP)

This photo provided by Joel Carillet shows a piece of wreckage from World War II ace Richard Bong's P-38 Lightning fighter plane as it lays on the ground in the jungles of Madang Province, Papua New Guinea, Wednesday, May 15, 2024. Another pilot was flying the plane when it crashed in 1944. An expedition sponsored by the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center and Pacific Wrecks, a World War II historical preservation group, discovered the crash site. (Pacific Wrecks/Joel Carillet via AP)

This photo provided by Joel Carillet shows explorers sponsored by the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center and World War II preservation group Pacific Wrecks as they photograph manufacturing information from the wreckage of World War II ace Richard Bong's P-38 Lightning in Madang Province, Papua New Guinea, Wednesday, May 15, 2024. Another pilot was flying the plane when it crashed in March 1944. (Pacific Wrecks/Joel Carillet via AP)

This photo provided by Joel Carillet shows explorers sponsored by the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center and World War II preservation group Pacific Wrecks as they photograph manufacturing information from the wreckage of World War II ace Richard Bong's P-38 Lightning in Madang Province, Papua New Guinea, Wednesday, May 15, 2024. Another pilot was flying the plane when it crashed in March 1944. (Pacific Wrecks/Joel Carillet via AP)

This photo provided by Joel Carillet shows Pacific Wrecks Director Justin Taylan with the remains of a wing from World War II ace Richard Bong's P-38 Lightning fighter plane that he discovered in the Papua New Guinea jungle, Wednesday, May 15, 2024. Another pilot was flying the plane, nicknamed "Marge" after Bong's girlfriend, when it crashed in Papua New Guinea in 1944. Taylan led an expedition sponsored by the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center and Pacific Wrecks, a World War II, historical preservation group, to find the wreckage. (Pacific Wrecks/Joel Carillet via AP)

This photo provided by Joel Carillet shows Pacific Wrecks Director Justin Taylan with the remains of a wing from World War II ace Richard Bong's P-38 Lightning fighter plane that he discovered in the Papua New Guinea jungle, Wednesday, May 15, 2024. Another pilot was flying the plane, nicknamed "Marge" after Bong's girlfriend, when it crashed in Papua New Guinea in 1944. Taylan led an expedition sponsored by the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center and Pacific Wrecks, a World War II, historical preservation group, to find the wreckage. (Pacific Wrecks/Joel Carillet via AP)

FILE - Captain Richard J. Bong, of Poplar, Wis., points to a large picture of his girl friend, Marge Vattendahl, on his Lighting P-38 fighter plane pilot stationed at a New Guinea Air Base, March 31, 1944. Searchers announced Thursday, May 23, 2024, that they've discovered what they believe is the wreckage of World War II ace Bong's plane in the South Pacific. (AP Photo, File)

FILE - Captain Richard J. Bong, of Poplar, Wis., points to a large picture of his girl friend, Marge Vattendahl, on his Lighting P-38 fighter plane pilot stationed at a New Guinea Air Base, March 31, 1944. Searchers announced Thursday, May 23, 2024, that they've discovered what they believe is the wreckage of World War II ace Bong's plane in the South Pacific. (AP Photo, File)

KIYOSU, Japan--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jun 19, 2024--

Toyoda Gosei Co., Ltd. (TOKYO:7282) has invested 1 in Synspective Inc., a startup that develops and operates small SAR satellites 2 and provides solutions based on satellite data analysis.

This press release features multimedia. View the full release here: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20240619747933/en/

Synspective was established based on development results for technology to make smaller SAR satellites in the Japanese Cabinet Office’s innovative research and development program (ImPACT). 3 Its business covers from satellite development to operation and proposals for solutions to problems using the obtained observational data. SAR satellites use radio waves (microwaves) of the wavelength range that can penetrate clouds, and so ground data can be obtained even during inclement weather and at night. By linking a number of these satellites, semi-real time and broad area observations are achieved. The aim is to help in responding to disasters and maintaining the earth’s environment.

In the automotive industry that is undergoing great changes beyond the previous boundaries, Toyoda Gosei aims to achieve sustainable business growth by exploring new fields unbound by its existing operations. The space-related business being developed by Synspective is expected to grow in the coming years. Toyoda Gosei invested in the company to gather information with a view to exploring fields where its technology can be used.

 

Small SAR satellite developed and operated by Synspective (Graphic: Business Wire)

Small SAR satellite developed and operated by Synspective (Graphic: Business Wire)

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