SUPERIOR, Wis. (AP) -- More than 1,000 people gathered to celebrate the opening of the Richard I. Bong World War II Heritage Center here, which is named for the Poplar native and America's "Ace of Aces."
The Heritage Center was created to teach the histories of the men and women who fought in World War II. Displays tell the story of courage in war against the Axis nations.
"It's the best thing that ever happened," said Elwood Barden, who came from Alabama for the ribbon cutting Tuesday. "If these were everywhere, it would absolutely teach young people what love of country means."
Barden, who retired from the Air Force in 1960, served as Bong's crew chief in the 49th Fighter Squadron in New Guinea, during Bong's first tour of duty.
Bong enlisted in the Army Air Corps. when he was 20. He eventually became America's all-time Ace of Aces, downing 40 enemy planes in the Pacific theater of the war while flying P-38 fighter planes. His many decorations included the Congressional Medal of Honor.
He died at age 24 while test piloting the first Lockheed jet fighter.
For Harold Anderson of Des Moines, Iowa, there was something familiar about the P-38 Lightning, surrounded by camouflage cargo net, sand bags, coconut palms, a thatch-skirted air-control tower and the Quonset hut in the Heritage Center's main display area.
In 1941, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps. and served as a member of the 480th Service Squadron, 450th Service Group, 5th Air Force. The squadron's mission was to repair planes damaged in battle at a base in New Guinea.
The center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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