Wreckage of Top World War II Ace’s Fighter Plane Discovered in Papua New Guinea

America’s Ace of Aces Richard I. Bong’s famous P-38 Lightning “Marge” jungle crash site discovered

MADANG, PAPUA NEW GUINEA, May 25, 2024 -- A team from Pacific Wrecks discovered one of the most famous World War II aircraft, the P-38 Lightning fighter plane assigned to America’s top Ace, Richard I. Bong. Bong is credited with shooting down 40 Japanese planes and named his plane “Marge” after his girlfriend, whom he later married.

The aircraft was found in the jungles of Madang Province, Papua New Guinea. Pacific Wrecks confirmed the plane’s unique serial number.

The expedition is a partnership between Pacific Wrecks and Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center in Superior, Wisconsin.

Bong affixed Marge’s portrait to the nose of his P-38. In March 1944, Bong and the aircraft were photographed by news correspondents, and these images turned Bong and Marge into instant celebrities.

On March 24, 1944 P-38 “Marge” experienced mechanical issues while flown by another pilot, 1st Lt. Thomas Malone. Malone bailed out and returned to duty while the plane crashed inland from the north coast of New Guinea.

Bong was bestowed the Medal of Honor by General Douglas MacArthur. Upon returning home, he married Marge. Soon after, Bong died testing a new jet in California.

“Pacific Wrecks is honored to be entrusted with this important mission and proudly announces the identification of Marge. The plane’s association with Richard Bong makes it one of the most significant World War II aircraft in the world,” said Justin Taylan, Director of Pacific Wrecks.

“The Bong family is very excited about this discovery. It is amazing and incredible that ‘Marge’ has been found and identified,” said James Bong, Richard Bong’s nephew and retired U.S. Air Force F-15 fighter pilot who now flies for FedEx.

“We are so proud of the Pacific Wrecks’ team for their efforts in finding and identifying P-38 Marge. That the plane survives in the jungle brings new awareness of the amazing life and legacy of Richard Bong,” said Bong Center Curator Briana Fiandt.

Members and volunteers of the Bong Veteran Center are invited to attend a free live event on Thursday, May 30th at 7:00pm CT, in Superior, when Justin Taylan briefs on the Pacific Wrecks findings and shares highlights from the expedition. The event will be broadcast live from Papua New Guinea. A brief question and answer session will follow. To become a member of the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center visit https://bongcenter.org.

In virtual attendance will be Fiandt and James Bong. A brief question and answer session will follow.

The live event announces the signing of a Memorandum of Intent between Richard Bong’s hometown of Poplar, Wisconsin and Madang, Papua New Guinea to become Sister Cities. The U.S. currently has no Sister Cities with Papua New Guinea. This virtual signing may take place during the event or showcase already-executed documents.

To watch the free live event, visit https://P38Marge.org.

Pacific Wrecks https://pacificwrecks.com is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) dedicated to finding America’s Missing In Action (MIA) and leveraging new technologies in the study of past conflicts. Founded in 1995 by Justin Taylan, grandson of a WWII combat photographer who served in New Guinea, Pacific Wrecks teams operate throughout the Pacific region including Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and North Korea. Taylan has personally documented over a thousand plane wrecks.

The Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center https://bongcenter.org is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit museum located in Superior, Wisconsin. Opened in 2002, the museum is dedicated to sharing the legacy of Wisconsin hero, Richard Bong. The Bong Center plans an exhibit on the crash site in the future and is currently sharing the Mission: Marge expedition on their blog https://bongcenter.org/blog/announcing-mission-marge/.

Electronic Press Kit (EPK) with photos: https://P38Marge.org/epk

More information: Steve Kleiman / steve@pacificwrecks.org / +1 (310) 237-5389

Available for interviews: Justin Taylan, Director of Pacific Wrecks; Briana Fiandt, Curator of Collections, Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center; James Bong, Richard Bong’s nephew.