Richard Bong America’s Top Ace of WWII and Wisconsin Deer Hunter

Richard Bong America's Top Ace of WWII and Wisconsin Deer Hunter
Richard Bong America's Top Ace of WWII (right) and Wisconsin Deer Hunter

Arizona -(Ammoland.com)- Richard Bong was born on September 24th, 1920. My father was born on January 22, 1918, less than two years earlier. They grew up about 40 miles apart, on farms in northern Wisconsin.  Richard in the town of Poplar. My father was raised in the town of Lenroot. Township. Townships in Wisconsin, are political units, six miles by six miles square.

Both were good deer hunters.  Richard Bong, the famous World War II ace, was shown using a Savage 99 chambered in .300 Savage, while hunting deer in Northern Wisconsin. The picture was taken in 1943 during his first leave back to the U.S. It appears that Richard is wearing a military web belt. His father, Carl, was shown walking alongside him.

What struck me were the rifles. Richard's father, was carrying a Remington model 8 or 81, the first successful high powered semi-automatic rifle. It came on the market in 1906. I have one made in early 1907.

The Savage 99 Richard Bong used deer hunting has been donated to the Bong Center. It no longer sports a Weaver scope
The Savage 99 Richard Bong used deer hunting has been donated to the Bong Center. It no longer sports a Weaver scope.

Richard Bong's Savage model 99 was advanced for its time in a different way. It sported a rifle scope. It was probably a 3/4 inch tube Weaver 3-30, 3-29, or 4-40. Weaver converted to one inch tubes for their high powered rifle scopes after the war, in 1947.

The Savage 99 rifle Richard Bong used deer hunting has been donated to the Bong Center. It no longer sports a Weaver scope, but those scopes have long been obsolete.

The serial number on the Bong .300 Savage model 99 indicates it was manufactured in 1923.
The serial number on the Bong .300 Savage model 99 indicates it was manufactured in 1923.

The serial number on the Bong .300 Savage model 99 rifle indicates it was manufactured in 1923.

Richard and Carl wore matching deer hunting outfits of the era, with plaid shirts, wool pants, and what appear to be lace up shoe-pacs.  I remember my father wearing similar clothing. I cannot tell if the pacs are Sorrels or some other manufacture.

Everyone wore Sorrel rubber on the bottom, leather on the top, felt lined, shoe-pacs when I was growing up in that country 20 years later.

By the time Weaver came out with the K-series scopes with one inch tubes, Richard Bong, America's top ace, was dead. He died in a tragic test flight of an early jet fighter, the P-80. The crash occurred on 6 August, 1945, the same day the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.  He had been brought home after having 40 confirmed kills in the Pacific Theater.

My father loved the Savage model 99. He was a deadly shot on deer in the Wisconsin woods, where I grew up. He obtained his model 99 in 1946, and used it with a peep sight until he converted to the Weaver K2.5X riflescope.  He was rejected for military service because of an ulcer. There wasn't much deer hunting during the war. Ammunition for hunting was hard to come by. My father spent the war years in Milwaukee building armaments at A. O. Smith.

I shot my first buck with my father's Savage model 99 and the K2.5 Weaver.

Farm boys contributed greatly to the war effort. My 100 year old friend in Australia, Roy Eykamp, built airplanes for the war in California, at Lockheed. He was raised on a farm in South Dakota.

Roy was a deadly shot. In April, 2018, when he was over 100 years old, he told me he didn't think he could ever shoot a human being.  Roy was born two months after my father.

A neighbor, Lyman Williamson, was part the famous raid on the heavy water plant in Telemark, Norway. My father told me about it, and that Lyman did not like to talk about it.  Lyman was recruited because he spoke Norwegian like a native.

A local ski resort was named Telemark two decades after the war.  The man who developed Telemark also promoted the Birkebiner cross country ski race. The race was from The Telemark ski resort to Hayward, Wisconsin. I often wondered if the choice of the name had anything to do with the famous raid.

I have gotten far afield from the memories induced by the picture of those two Wisconsin deer hunters in 1943. Deer hunting in Wisconsin continues to be popular in the state.  The Savage 99 remains a popular deer rifle, and a Remington model 8 and 81 semi-autos remain in use.

WWII continues to be a fairly popular war, after the fact. I wonder if we will see local social justice warriors calling for the state to tear down Bong's memorial, close his museum, and rename the wildlife preserve and bridge named in his honor.

After all, he was a deer hunter.

For the humor impaired, the previous sentence was satire.


About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

  • 5 thoughts on “Richard Bong America’s Top Ace of WWII and Wisconsin Deer Hunter

    1. I have a .300 Savage 99 in my safe. It was my Mom’s deer rifle. Still a great game rifle. Proves that great designs are timeless.

      Dean; mentioned the Bong museum but not much about it. It is in Superior, WI, a short drive from Duluth, MN. The museum is dedicated to WWII and Richard Bong. Worth a few hours of your time. https://www.bvhcenter.org/

      A true American hero. Thanks to Dean for the article.

    2. Bong received the medal of Honor for shooting down 40 aircraft. In one engagement he noted a fellow pilot in trouble with a Japanese fighter. So Bong got close, shut down one engine and the enemy went after him thinking his P-38 was crapping out and it would be an easier kill. Bong went into a cloud bank followed by the enemy and started his engine back up and got the drop on the Japanese pilot and shot him down. Pretty good hunter!

      1. The P-38 was shortchanged by bad management and poor support despite all it’s “problems ” mostly human error, it was the best plane for the whole war, only the P-47 Jug came close. P-51 and Corsairs came online very late after most of the best Axis pilots were dead. it is rarely even noted that the highest scoring pilot flew the Lightning ! When you see one still flying , tip you hat and thank Kelly Johnson and the Skunk Works!

        1. @ Jim

          The P-38 was and is my favorite aircraft design of all time. It wasn’t just the top scoring pilot, it was the top two, and no less than at least three out of the top 10 WW2 aces flew the lightning. While Bong is Credited with 40 confirmed kills, his actual kill count is much higher.

          It should also be noted that the P-38 was the fighter that was used to snipe Admiral Yamamoto out of the air far behind enemy lines. Only the P-38 had the range and reliability for such a mission at the time due to the twin engine design.

          As for the P-47, it is humorous to note that the frontline mechanics and engineers were able to figure out a much more efficient prop design which increased the performance drastically compared to the often described “Pencil thin” factory prop that it was fitted with from the factory. With a fat paddle prop installed to wring the full potential from the Pratt and Whitney 2800 Wasp radial the P47 was able to outclimb much lighter German aircraft in dogfights.

    3. I attended a Natl. Park Service training session for Rangers nearby the Memorial P-38 Pylon. I failed to take a camera with me on the trip so I did not get a picture of it. I had read about Bong when I was younger though and recognized the Memorial instantly. I just didn’t realize I was in the area he had lived. Country boys, deer hunters, and game bird hunters made some of the best pilots and soldiers of the war.

    Leave a Comment 5 Comments

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *