Major Richard Bong's WWII rivals visit his center in Superior

By KBJR News 1

May 18, 2014 Updated May 18, 2014 at 5:26 PM CDT

Superior, WI (NNCNOW.com)

The twin engined Lockheed P–38 Lightning fighter was designed for speed, long range and hard hitting fire–power for aerial battles in World War Two.
America's greatest fighter ace, Richard Bong of Poplar, flew one.
In the Pacific Theater of that war, it seems every pilot loved the aircraft.

"It was the greatest plane there is, really!"

Former P–38 pilot John Paul and three of his former comrades were in Superior on Wednesday to look over Major Richard Bong's Lightning and to reminisce.
It was the annual reunion of the 339th Fighter Squadron.
Bong was in the 9th Fighter Squadron so the 339th men jokingly told each other back in the day that the Major wracked up such a high score because he was given easy targets.

"We thought that probably he was getting all the good jobs!"

The 339th had their own tough job to do in World War Two.
P–38's from the unit helped shoot down Japanese Admiral Yamamoto, the architect of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
At this reunion, though, talk was more about memories of the hot, humid life in the South Pacific.

"We went into an area and it was loaded with centipedes and scorpions and stuff like that. We'd clean the area out so we could live there."

As a fighter plane unit, centipedes, scorpions and snakes were more common than the Japanese, at least on the ground if not in the air.
The 339th did take one prisoner, though, as a Japanese holdout emerged from the jungle after a year of hiding.

"I think one guy walked through our outfit and we didn't even know who he was. He was so skinny. He was really in bad shape."

The men at this reunion ranged in age from 89 to 91.
They're all holding up well but do admit their celebrations are getting calmer.

"We used to say we lie a lot and drink a lot but now we just sleep a lot!"

The air warriors of yesterday have advice for those flying in defense of America today.

"Keep your tail up, bud. Keep your tail up!"

In Superior, Dave Anderson, KBJR 6 and Range 11.