Over the summer last year I took my daughters out to Bong State Recreation Area in Wisconsin. The massive park offers miles and miles of walking and riding trails, large camping areas, a place to ride your dirt bike, and even a model rocketry range. During my stay I was reminded that it was once an Air Force base, and that it’s named after Richard “Dick” Ira Bong, the United States’ top ace of World War II. Active from 1941-1945, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions over the Pacific. By the end of the war, and before his untimely death as a test pilot for one of our country’s first combat jet aircraft, he was credited with 40 air-to-air kills.
As a thank-you for the trip and the brief history lesson, my daughters got me a model of his airplane — the P-38J, perhaps the best airplane of WWII and, incidentally, one of the very latest designs by Japanese model-maker Tamiya. It was even made in collaboration with Lockheed Martin and The Richard I. Bong Center.
I was touched, honestly, but also a bit overwhelmed. I haven’t built or painted a model airplane since I was 12 — although I have spent the past several years getting back into the hobby of painting Warhammer 40,000 miniatures. Once I dove in, I found that taking some time off to create something completely different was refreshing — and educational. I ended up devouring hours of YouTube tutorials and fan-made guides along the way, as well.
So here’s what good old Dick Bong’s twin-boomed warbird taught me about Space Marines — and the people who love them.
Model planes get way more expensive than 40K
Turns out that while 40K is considered an expensive hobby, scale modeling can