Richard Bong’s P-38 fighter plane, ‘Marge,’ discovered in Papua New Guinea

Richard I. Bong’s P-38 Lightning aircraft found after 80 years

On Thursday, the Richard I. Bong Veteran's Center announced that the Ace of Aces' missing aircraft has been found in the jungle of Papua New Guinea.

The Bong Veterans Historical Center and Pacific Wrecks have announced that the Richard Bong’s P-38 fighter plane, “Marge,” has been discovered in Papua New Guinea. The discovery was the result of a team expedition to Papua New Guinea that started back on May 1.

The aircraft was located in the jungles of Madang Province, Papua New Guinea on May 17. Pacific Wrecks confirmed the plane’s unique serial number.

“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.

A press conference was held Thursday, May 23 to announce the find.

“We received video and photographic documentation confirming the discovery of one of the most iconic aircraft of World War II—Richard Bong’s P-38 fighter plane, known as ‘Marge’,” explained Briana Fiandt, the Curator of Collections and Exhibits with the Bong Center. “This incredible find was authenticated by the last three digits of the serial number, which were still visible on a piece of the aircraft wreckage. Remarkably, this fragment, found on the right wing of the plane, still bore some of the original red paint from over 80 years ago.”

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

“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.

The Bong Center, describes Richard Bong as “America’s most daring ace,” and his exploits in “Marge” in the Pacific Theater during World War II also made the P-38 Lighting iconic in its own right.

“Marge” was named after Bong’s girlfriend Marjorie Vattendahl and was decorated with her portrait.

The aircraft was lost in 1944 when another pilot, Lt. Tom Malone, was piloting “Marge” during a weather reconnaissance mission and had to bailout due to a malfunctioning engine. The location of the P-38 remained a mystery for eight decades until it was discovered during “Mission: Marge”, a joint effort between the Bong Center and the non-profit Pacific Wrecks.

“This discovery not only honors Richard Bong’s memory but also serves as a reminder of the sacrifices made by all who served during World War II. It is a tribute to their courage, their service, and their enduring impact on our nation’s history,” said Fiandt.