Army & Navy - HEROES: The Boy from Poplar

It was like a tour of O.D. duty—not fun, but necessary. Snub-nosed, wavy-haired Lightning Pilot Richard Ira Bong, one of the U.S.'s two top aces.† was on exhibition in Washington, and he took it that way, self-possessed, as a well-bred 23-year-old should be.

The ex-farm boy and choir singer from Poplar,Wis. described his 27th and last kill to newsmen as casually as he met the high-rankers of the Air Forces who shook his hand. That day, he had been fighting so long over the Pacific that the over-heated barrels of his guns had warped. All he could do was blaze...