The Last Great Ace
Who Was McGuire?
Book Introduction
Order Book
About Author
Author's Note
Lindbergh Photo
Richard Bong Photo


On January 22, 1945, a small news item appeared on the front page of the New York Times:



McGuire was the last of World War II’s great aces remaining in combat, and he had stayed too long. The war ended in August 1945, with the dropping of the atomic bombs. The New York Times of August 7, 1945, carried a small headline on a front page story that almost went unnoticed among the atomic bomb stories:




Dick Bong died at Burbank, California, while trying to bail out of a disabled P-80 jet fighter. It happened on August 6, the day the atomic bomb was dropped. In a seven month period America's top two Aces were gone!

The nature of aerial combat has changed--gone the way of the Cavalry steed, the fort, and the cross bow--the aerial dogfight of World War I, World War II and Korea is now history. The "Top Guns" of today fly combat against each other, often with a weapon's officer flying in the back seat. Scopes and instruments have changed aerial combat from a one-on-one battle to a committee affair. Weapons are often fired without the enemy even being seen.

The battles of the future, like so many things of today, will be run by computers. Combatants will not see each other, or smell the fumes of cordite in the cockpit as they try to outguess and outfly each other. Instead they may complain about the eyestrain of looking at the glowing phosphors of a CRT during the height of battle.

McGuire and Bong were the greatest two fighter pilots the United States will ever produce--never again will we know two like them. Their names go at the top of a small list with those of Boyington, Foss, Gabreski, Johnson, Lufbery, Luke, MacDonald, McCampbell, Meyer and Rickenbacker as the best of their times.

America was deprived of its two greatest air aces essentially in accidents. After all the combat they had survived it was a shame that neither of them had a chance to enjoy the hero's life like Rickenbacker or Lindbergh. During World War I a reporter asked Raoul Lufbery, our top ace at the time, what he planned to do after the war. He replied, “There isn't any after the war for a fighter pilot.” He died a few months later, like McGuire, in a borrowed plane.

Bong and McGuire never got to enjoy the way of life they helped protect. If they were alive today they might complain about Rock and Roll music, but it's sad neither of them lived to hear it. Knowing these two guys, they may have liked Rock and Roll. One thing is for sure-- they would surely have defended your right to listen to it if you wanted to. They were the kind of people who could have made life interesting for the people around them.

Marilynn McGuire and Marge Bong waited those tough war years only to be left with a hollow spot in their lives. They both did what human beings do--they went on living. It's a shame, after all the pain of war, that these two young wives and their husbands never got a chance to fully enjoy each other in a peaceful world. They had earned the chance and deserved it.

Marilynn McGuire has said to me several times over the years, “Charles, I still see Tommy as a young man. We’ve all gotten older but he remains 23 years old to me.”

Adjacent to McGuire's grave at Arlington National Cemetery is the grave of a Marine killed in the bombing at the U. S. Embassy in Beirut. It is a sad reminder that conflict continues to take many of our best young men before their time.

Richard Bong was THE ACE OF ACES!

Tommy McGuire was THE LAST GREAT ACE!