Bong's brother Carl (who wrote his biography) questions the validity of reported circumstance that Bong repeated the same mistake so soon after mentioning it to another pilot.Carl's book—Dear Mom, So We Have a War (1991)—contains numerous reports and findings from the crash investigations.One of his flight instructors was Captain Barry Goldwater (later Senator from Arizona).
On December 27, 1942, Bong claimed his initial aerial victory, shooting down a Mitsubishi A6M "Zero" and a Nakajima Ki-43 "Oscar" over Buna (during the Battle of Buna-Gona). In March 1943, Bong returned to the 49th FG, now at Schwimmer Field near Port Moresby, New Guinea. While on leave to the United States in November and December 1943, Bong met Marge Vattendahl at a Superior State Teachers' College Homecoming event and began dating her. in May 1944, Major Bong returned to New Guinea in September.
After returning to the Southwest Pacific in January 1944, he named his P-38 "Marge" and adorned the nose with her photo. Though assigned to the V Fighter Command staff and not required to fly combat missions, Bong continued flying from Tacloban, Leyte, during the Philippines campaign, increasing his official air-to-air victory total to 40 by December.
The I-16 fuel pump was a later addition to the plane (after an earlier fatal crash) and Bong himself was quoted by Captain Ray Crawford (another P-80 test/acceptance flight pilot who flew the day Bong was killed) as saying that he had forgotten to turn on the I-16 pump on an earlier flight.
In his autobiography, Chuck Yeager also writes, however, that part of the ingrained culture of test flying at the time, due to the fearsome mortality rates of the pilots, was anger directed at pilots who died in test flights, to avoid being overcome by sorrow for lost comrades.
Bong considered his gunnery accuracy to be poor, so he compensated by getting as close to his targets as possible to make sure he hit them.