Monday, October 19, 2020

Well....That didn't take long!

 Internet access has been pretty sketchy over the past few days.  But I think I've figured out why.  The past several days have had very gusty winds.  Yesterday, I happened to look out the bathroom window and because I was putting my iPad down on the sill, happened to be looking down below the window outside.

This is what I saw.

 Well, that would explain the intermittent wireless internet connection.  Surprisingly, it is only up and down... but more down than up.  

So...juvat what's the house look like?

About like this.  And it ain't even a month old!  So...Today will be a bit of phone calling to get the antenna put back up and to get the soffit fixed.   

If you'll notice, you can see how I'm publishing this.  Knowing (Biblically) the CEO of a major travel company has its privileges, pirating a little bandwidth off her internet connection being one.

Shortly thereafter, Mrs J and I decided to go on a little walk.  As we exited the main gate and are walking down our lane toward the county road, I notice a mound of something on the road.  Kind of a grayish brown color.  I think that our neighbor's cattle might have gotten out, come down our lane to graze on Ol' juvat's grass and left us a present.

We're about 20' away when the mound uncoils and starts slithering off the road.  THAT, children, is why you should always be looking downward when you're walking.

 Yes, it's a rat snake and mostly harmless, but there was a period there where it was still uncoiling that I couldn't see the tail to see if it had baby toys attached or not. 

Ahh...Life in the country!

So, juvat, now that your pocket book is empty and your heart rate checked, what will we be discussing today?

Well, I thought I'd follow up last week's post about Tom McGuire with a "compare and contrast" post on the first half of the Race of Aces.  That would be America's Top Ace with 40 confirmed kills, Major Richard I. Bong.



Major Bong was born and raised in Wisconsin, joined the Army Aviation Cadet program just before America's entry into WWII.  Interestingly, one of his IPs was Barry Goldwater.  I guess great men congregate doing great things.  In any case, he received his wings and was assigned to Hamilton Field California to learn to fly the P-38. (I am intimately familiar with Hamilton Field as my mother and I had a short stay in the hospital there about 65 years ago.)

He was quickly identified as an exceptionally skilled pilot.  He demonstrated this by flying his P-38 at clothesline height down streets in San Francisco.  Apparently this distressed a woman who was hanging her laundry at the time.  She reported the situation to General Kenney who hauled him into his office and read him the riot act.

"Monday morning you check this address out in Oakland and if the woman has any washing to be hung out on the line, you do it for her. Then you hang around being useful - mowing the lawn or something - and when the clothes are dry, take them off the line and bring them into the house. And don't drop any of them on the ground or you will have to wash them all over again. I want this woman to think we are good for something else besides annoying people. Now get out of here before I get mad and change my mind. That's all!"

  He also was "supposedly" in a four ship of P-38's that did a loop around the Golden Gate bridge, although he never admitted that.


Through it all, he developed a reputation as a very talented pilot although he considered himself a poor shot.  As a result, he tended to get very close to his targets before opening fire.  On one occasion, he got so close, he actually collided with it. claiming it as a "probable" only.  Assigned to the Southwest Pacific, he got his first two kills on December 27, 1942 and by April of 1944, had passed Eddie Rickenbacker's WWI record with his 26th and 27th kills.

Major Bong was also a cautious pilot.  He rarely attacked when the odds were not in his favor, and would exit a fight if things started going against him.  As we read about Major McGuire last week, this was a significant difference between the two.

After passing Rickenbacker's record, he was sent home to rest and sell War Bonds.  While there, he met Marjorie Vattendahl and dated her.  Upon return to the War, he painted her picture on the nose of his aircraft and named them "Marge".  He was also assigned to V Fighter Command Headquarters as a staff officer, but was allowed to fly.  He was also told to "avoid combat".

While "avoiding combat", he manages to shoot down an additional 13 aircraft, bringing his total to 40 confirmed.  At this point, General Kenney nominates him for the Medal of Honor which is presented to him by General MacArthur.  He is then sent home permanently.

Major Bong marries Marge and is assigned as a test pilot at Lockheed's assembly plant in Burbank California.  On August 6, 1945 (aka the Day we nuked Hiroshima), he is scheduled to test fly a P-80A.  On takeoff, the fuel pump fails,  he aims the aircraft away from populated areas and jumps out.  Unfortunately, he does not have enough altitude for his parachute to open and is killed on impact.



Rest in Peace, Warrior!

Presented without comment, his Citation to accompany The Medal of Honor:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty in the Southwest Pacific area from October 10, to November 15, 1944.

Though assigned to duty as gunnery instructor and neither required nor expected to perform combat duty, Maj. Bong voluntarily and at his own urgent request engaged in repeated combat missions, including unusually hazardous sorties over Balikpapan, Borneo, and in the Leyte area of the Philippines.

His aggressiveness and daring resulted in his shooting down 8 enemy airplanes during this period.


  1. For the first 10 years of my life I lived in Studio City, just down the road from universal studios and Warner Bros.

    We lived on the base of a big hill which surprisingly is other than one house still unpopulated from 60 years ago

    And every spring time you would see a bunch of snakes all around the neighborhood

    I’m talking rattlesnakes and king snakes

    Let me tell you to see one of those suckers laying in your patio leaves an impression on a young boy

    To this day I hate snakes

    I’m wondering what street maj bong found to fly it clothesline level in San Francisco

    Most of them are steep hills

    Hamilton Field must’ve been good duty

    Just right across the bay around Sausalito

    His tactic on the aerial combat reminds me of Eric Hartmann

    I doubt if his record will ever be surpassed at 352.

    But if I’m not mistaken he would get up right behind a plane before firing and if it didn’t look good he too would go.

    The main reason your Internet was down was that wind would blow all those electrons

    You get some pretty good storms in Texas don’t you? I was visiting a friend in Waco and it was so windy and pouring rain and lightning I think it blew a neighbors roof off.

    1. According to one of my sources,, Major Bong impacted the ground near Victory Blvd which is about half way between the Burbank Airport and Studio City. Interesting.

      According to another source the clothesline incident was in Oakland, but the street level incident was down Market Street in SF. My mother (born and raised in SF) told me about the flight down Market St when I was a kid. No reason for her to have lied about it, and I don't recall her mentioning Major Bong, so I think that's probable cause to believe that story is true.

      Storms in Texas????Nah!!!I only had to replace the roof three times in the 20 years we lived in our previous house. That's why we got a metal roof on this one.


    2. According to a couple of accounts I've read, a "sport" for P-38 pilots training in the Seattle area was to fly so low over Puget Sound or Lake Washington that they were kicking up rooster tails of spray, and trying blow sail boats over. Not nice at all, and God forbid someone got your tail number!

  2. I remember visiting the memorial in the early sixties set up in Popular WI(about fifteen miles from his hometown of Superior) and seeing a P38 set up on pylons. Then a organized effort led to the eventual center being opened in Superior in 2002 with a restored P38. As to that antenna, partial anchoring on soffit?!?........Yikes! And that movable mound......nope..nope....nope..........:)

    1. Well, live and learn. But it had been mounted similarly on our previous house for a very long time (whenever we switched from satellite to wireless).

  3. Pretty interesting that you get any connection at all! Radio waves do interesting things!

    The image of your rat snake looks much like a bullsnake, which is a subspecies of the basic model, the gopher snake, or P. catenifer. There are lots of subspecies of rat snakes too, but I'm not familiar with any of them -- they're pretty scarce around these parts. It would be interesting to know which species yours is. Bullsnakes exhibit interesting rattlesnake mimicry when pestered; I wonder if gopher snakes do the same. You should pester one and find out! Just kidding.

    Very interesting that Goldwater was Bong's IP. I seem to remember reading that head on passes pressed very close were one of his go to tactics. It's always struck me as deeply ironic that Bong was killed after surviving combat. Life can serve up some ironic stuff.

    Cool post juvat.

    1. Yeah, when I told Mrs J about the antenna, she asked which one it was. I had been working on the computer writing the post (Ok, not working hard, mostly surfing the net) on my connection without too much trouble, so I told her it was probably hers. She said hers was working normally, so I did a little digging further and then it really started to act up. I finally gave up about the third time the post update failed and switched connections.
      Ed Rasimus demonstrated a head on pass to me in a 1 v 1 both solo ride at Holloman one time. Stunned me so much that I didn't do anything but flinch for a few seconds. A few seconds in Air to Air generally results in eternity. His debrief after the ride, brought home the point that Peacetime ROE is for safety, and had little application in War. I learned a lot from him.

      Thanks PA

  4. Good luck with the conversation about the robustness of the antenna- hope that's the only thing not affixed properly.
    I kinda like snakes - they play a pretty vital role in helping to keep rodent populations under control. Don't want venomous ones too close to habitations, though. We had a birthday party for our youngest son many moons ago out at a small working farm. Saw a herd of cats pawing at something under a big oak tree, went over and saw a good sized rat snake being harassed by the felines. It was about 5 or 6 feet long, I thought the kids might be interested so I picked it up and took it over to the group. Showed them it wasn't slimy like a lot of people think, had those who wanted to touch it. My wife was not amused when I asked our son if he'd like another birthday present, so I let the thing go near the barn.
    Major Bong was a childhood hero - thanks for the post about him. As to,his tactics, they make sense to me - nothing wrong with stacking the odds in your favor!

    1. Yeah, I'm looking forward to that conversation. OK, maybe not.

      I'm not fond of snakes, they creep me out, but you are right. They do have an important role in rodent control. Hence, my live and let live action.

      I tended to use similar tactics in both the F-4 and the F-15. In the F-4, anything could out turn you so getting in a sustained turning fight is a fool's errand. In the F-15, it's so big that it can be seen for miles. And as I mentioned in an earlier post, the only person that's more predictable than a person in the pipper, is the person looking through the pipper. So slash and dash was my plan should I ever do it for "realsies".


  5. A three "WOW" post.

    1) Anchoring anything on soffit (partially or otherwise) seems like a bad idea.
    2) Snakes? I have the same attitude towards them as Indiana Jones.
    3) Major Bong was an exceptional pilot. Good tactics on his part. Hartmann said he would let the enemy aircraft fill the windscreen before opening fire. (I wonder how many MiG/LaGG/Yak/La parts he collected by doing so.)

    Did this go from a one paragraph post to a full post at some point? (Perhaps when that aforementioned CEO blessed your use of the company internet.)

    Well done.

    1. Yeah, I was THIS close to texting you and bailing. I had the first paragraph written and went to upload that first picture and that's when the fecal matter hit the air distribution device. Took about an hour and a half to figure everything out and get back up and running.

      1) Like I mentioned above, it had been fastened that way for several years on our old house. I asked the guy about it when he was doing it and....Suffice it to say it won't be done that way again. Since I can see the tower from the ground, I'm thinking ground mounted somehow.
      2) I'm not fond of them either, but once I'd ID'd it I was ok. It's just the startle factor.
      3) Close is good, but one needs to quickly move out of the plane of motion as soon as you stop firing, sooner if you see hits.


  6. I remember my dad mentioning Richard Bong when we were talking about the fighter aircraft of the Second World War.
    That was when I was older and my dad had gotten so much smarter than the way he was during my teen years.
    (Yes, I know it was me that changed.)

    A couple of weeks ago we were on our bicycles and barreling south on the New Jersey side Canal towpath between Lambertville and Washington's Crossing.
    I was leading and I noticed that a stick just ahead had turned into and "S" shape and was rapidly getting out of our way.
    There are two types of venomous snakes in New Jersey and one of them has baby toys.
    Note to self while walking the towpath. Pay attention to sticks.
    Much like Tom in NC said, I don't have issues with snakes. If I dug hard enough into the family photos I might be able to find the picture of me with a large live snake draped around my neck at Florida's Ross Allen Reptile Institute. That was a very long time ago.

    I'm guessing that when you asked your wife to hold the antenna and aim it at a point in the sky, she didn't take it well?

    1. Yeah, if I'd asked her that, she'd probably have told me where to stick it.

      Paying attention to sticks is good advice.


  7. Once, while visiting some relatives in western Nebraska, we went out walking on their range land. Heard a strange noise from my cousin, and turned around and saw him with a strange expression.
    When asked what this was all about, he said "you just walked over a rattlesnake".
    No rattles, but no strike either...and no idea why.

    1. Well...There's an old saying "I'd rather be lucky than good" that might apply.


    2. The prairie rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis viridis) is quite docile. I've stepped over and even on a few and never drew a strike. When I move them off county roads (to keep them from getting run over) with a spade they rarely even rattle. They're still highly venomous and will strike if they decide to, so you don't want to make stepping over/on them a habit. They're really neat creatures and I love seeing them but I'm always on the verge of screaming like a girl.

  8. I don't mind snakes. We've had them as pets. You have coral snakes up there. Those are not much fun. They have to chew on you to inject poison. We have good size rattlers down here, but if you don't have rats and mice, you are pretty safe. I stopped out on a farm road once to pick up a road kill snake for boy scouts. It wasn't totally kilt and started flipping around. It turned out to be copperhead. No show and tell that day.

    Getting into the framing is key to having your parachutes not pull out like that. Those cute little screws they include usually don't dig in deep enough. It's always a good decision to use the proper fastener. Good decisions come from experience, experience comes from bad decisions.... Maybe the installer will learn.... hahah...

    Wind makes me homesick for my old stomping grounds. That is one of the strangest feelings I get now. About 40 years removed from that spot and I still miss it. Does that every go away?

    1. My old stomping grounds (as I remember them) have vanished.
      I miss them, too.

    2. When I took out the ladder and took a good look at the damage and how the antenna was attached, I realized there was no way it wasn't going to fail at some point. That point was just earlier than I expected. As I mentioned to Sarge, I think I'm going to investigate some kind of ground mount, or at least ask the question.

      Never seen a coral snake, or an actual rattler, around here. Just lucky I guess. If I do go out in the brush, I like to make plenty of noise. Lots of things out there that I don't care to meet face to face. Feral Hogs most especially.


    3. Skip,
      Yeah, it's a bit distressing to go on Google Earth and look for an old memory only to find a Mall parking lot there.

    4. While I wasn't stationed there, at Ft Polk LA coral snakes abound. They used to call them a "two step" - 2 steps and you are dead. It's a neurotoxin.

      Market Street I can believe for a low sweep in a P-38. It is a long Blvd - and fairly straight. It is a shame what it has become.

    5. I've heard that analogy about several snakes. The Habu on Okinawa was one. No, Beans, not the SR-71, an actual snake, nowhere near as fast.

    6. Red on yellow, kill a fellow.

      Red on black, friend of Jack.

  9. I might have mentioned this before.
    On of the first “adult” books I read from my folks bookshelf was about the aces.
    I can’t remember the title.
    The only pilot I remember from the book is Major Bong.

    1. I've read a few of those myself, Skip. Just bought another yesterday. Possible book report in the future.

  10. Well, pretty soon you'll be able to replace your feeble wireless system with the new SpaceX Starlink system, which seems to be getting rather excellent ratings during it's Beta test.

    Me? Probably stuck with cable internet as the apartment management doesn't like things in the yard (which is covered in big trees) or attached to the building (which is subject to wind damage and things falling from big trees.) Unless the Starlink comes out significantly cheaper than cable. Meh. If it works, it works. Cable is subject to water intrusion, wireless and satellite are subject to spotty environmental conditions like,,, water intrusion (in the form of rain and leaves.)

    Bump in the road? Meh. You should see some of the bumps in the road on US 441 as it passes through Payne's Prarie/Lake just south of the Beans' location. I think some 'Smart' car managed to tag a 10' gator one day, and I think the gator won.

    Seriously, though, yeah, as long as they aren't poisonous, meh. Poisonous? Who cares if they may be endangered, as the rule of 10' exists for them like it does spiders, mosquitoes, biting flies, pollsters, 'get-out-the-vote (for one side only) people' and other annoying and potentially deadly pests.

    As to Maj. Bong. Sad ending for a great man. You have to wonder, due to the way he flew and fought, if he'd have been safer flying combat than as a test pilot.

    The P-38 was much loved in the Pacific as having 2 engines was viewed as a good thing over so much water. And it really was a very different air-war than in Europe/Club Med. Between distances and very different aircraft and pilots. Though it's interesting that developments in both radial and in-line engines and airframes all resulted in similar style aircraft (like a Bearcat and a FW-190, not too dissimilar, or all the planes that ended up looking much like the P-51.)

    Sad way to die, though. He had all the making of an old pilot, if you know what I mean.

    1. They don't call them test pilots for nothing. And back in the day, they didn't have computer modeling to (sorta) predict how the aircraft would handle. But losing an engine on takeoff is a difficult problem to recover from in 4 of the 5 airplanes I flew. (The two made by Cessna especially, the one by Northrop somewhat depending on pressure altitude, the two by MacD...Well, let's just say, MacD's unofficial motto was reported to be "If you put a big enough engine on it, a brick will fly". Fortunately, I never experienced that particular emergency in real life.

      I'm curious. No one has commented on Major Bong's Citation. When I read that, I thought "Medal of Honor? No way, Air Medal perhaps." I'm not saying he did or didn't deserve the Medal of Honor, but having now read quite a few Citations that accompany them, His was not in the same ball park. I'm wondering if MacArthur said "Give him the Medal" and some staff wieney who didn't like Major Bong's fame or something wrote up a crappy citation just to spite him, knowing that he'd receive the Medal in any case.

      Not that I've ever met a staff weeney like that, well at least since Oct 1 1998.

    2. I’m going to have to enter the comment at home on my desktop. Between this little iPhone and this voice transcription that in between puts what you wanted to say and the time you hit send it’s going to be the end of me 😁

    3. It's probably because he did what he did during a bad time in the Pacific and the War Department needed something positive.

      Fall '44 was bad in the Pacific. Yes, we were winning, but casualties were really bad at the same time things were getting weird in Europe.

      I've stopped trying to figure out what gets and doesn't get X award for Y action. If there was any objective system, Maj. Leverette would have gotten one for downing 7 Stukas and disrupting the German attacks on British shipment. And he was as careful and thorough in his kills as Bong. But, well, politics, the correct actions at the correct time, better superiors and blah, blah, blah.

      I hate subjective awards.

    4. Some staffer was probably thinking it was unfair that Bing had the good fortune to not only be the Ace of Aces, but a Badger, as well! We are quite proud of him, here in Wisconsin!

    5. I thought it odd that Major Bong considered himself a bad shot so the Army makes him a gunnery instructor

      Yes I would agree that doesn’t seem to come up to medal of honor standards.

      I read during the Civil War when it started they were giving them out quite loosely.

      Then I read about acts of heroism in the Middle East recently and there’s plenty that should’ve gotten it but didn’t.

      And I’ve often thought there’s many that should’ve gotten it but for lack of a witness.

      Or personality clashes with an officer who could have recommended it

      Almost Always politics involved it seems.

      For some reason I always thought he crashed at Edwards.

      I always thought it curious in World War II that if a man started to achieve some kills-they pulled him out of service and made him go on war bond tours. Like many others.

      In Germany the pilots had a saying, “the iron cross or the wooden cross“

      You kept flying until you couldn’t or the war was over.

      I heard a wonderful talk by Bud Anderson last year in town.

      He was saying a lot of interesting things about flying in those days.

      For one, pilots in the AAF didn’t have call signs, but where issued a temporary one for each flight.

      I wonder what some of our aces could’ve done as far as scores had they been left in their units.

      As for Anderson, I think he came in towards the end of the war.

      But I read his book and he describes what you had to do in that Mustang during a dogfight.

      You’re playing with the throttle, the rudder, the flaps, and the trim tab all the time while somebody’s trying to kill you and you’re trying to kill them.

    6. @William, and the P-38 took a lot more effort with two engines than a P-51. Though an expert could really wring out a lot of performance from the P-38. Especially the P-38L, which finally got hydraulically boosted controls. Lockheed wanted to develop an engine control computer similar to what the FW-190 had (a single power lever for the engine, with the 'brain box' calculating best settings for throttle, mixture, propeller RPM, etc.), but the USAAF had no interest.

  11. I even remember my Dad mentioning Major Bong at some time, and Dad was a SeaBee in the Pacific.

    The antenna might have stayed up if the "installer" had doubled up the thickness of the soffit board with a back-up board. Pole mount would be fine. Just sink some good pipe in the ground, and mount the thing above head level and aimed at the tower.

    We have rattlesnakes here, but I haven't seen any here in Da Hood.

    1. There should be lots of leftover drill pipe out there in your neck of the woods. Easy to install, just use a backhoe to push or pound the sucker into the ground.

  12. A large snake when you are not expecting a large snake is a rather unnerving thing.

    1. When I was about 6, in the aforementioned house in Studio City, I was on my bile riding in a vacant lot when I saw what I thought was a rope across the path.

      I ran over the "rope" and saw a forked tongue stick out of his mouth.

      It was about 3' long.

      Dropped the bike and ran like @#$ home.

      Waited an hour to retrieve the bike, and I suspect the snake didn't like it much either.

      Maybe that's when it started.

      My dislike for snakes.

  13. Sigh... Not good that the antenna came down that quickly... Re Bong et al, it is interesting to note that 'many' of the MOH in WWII were for multi-day evolutions.


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

NOTE: Comments on posts over 5 days old go into moderation, automatically.