Dogfighter of the Pacific: “Buck” Dugan

The man on the 1945 magazine cover above is Fred “Buck” Dungan.  In June of 1944 “Buck” Dungan and his wingman “Scoop” came out of the clouds over Guam, the only American aircraft on the scene. He saw 40 enemy aircraft,  20 bombers and 20 torpedo planes – preparing to land at Japanese-held Orote Field.  More enemy fighters swarmed above them, protecting the aircraft below. With a split-second decision, Buck radioed for the rest of his squadron to return, but then dove his Navy Hellcat in for an attack.  

Buck shot down one plane, disabled another comin straight at him. More Hellcats arrived, but Dungan was in a wild fight for his life.  He shot down another adversary, who he says saluted him before going down.

One of the enemy pilots later said that the American that dove down on them was “either the most stupid pilot in the world or the bravest.”  

Most bet it was pure bravery. Buck earned the Distinguished Flying Cross that day.

Only two weeks later, on July 4th, Buck was deep in it again over another island. There he shot down four enemy aircraft and assisted in sinking a destroyer. During the battle, he took a bad bullet wound but made it back to his carrier. For his actions, he was awarded the Navy Cross and Purple Heart.

You can see his Navy Cross, Air Medal, Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross below. And yes, in the middle, that’s the bullet he took in that last wild dogfight of his life.

Buck’s Medals and Bullet

 

Buck in later years