Major Gregory "Pappy" Boyington
U. S. Marine Corps, VMF-214 "Black Sheep" F4U Corsair Pilot
Gregory "Pappy" Boyington was born December 4, 1912 in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. He enlisted in the U. S. Marine Corps (USMC) with serial number 5254.
By 1941, he achieved the rank of First Lieutenant by 1941 but resigned to join the American Volunteer Group (AVG). In China, he claimed six victories against Japanese aircraft. After the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941, he rejoined the Marine Corps and was quickly promoted to the rank of Major and became the Commanding Officer (C.O.) of VMF-214 "Black Sheep". In the Solomon Islands, Boyington claimed an additional 20 aerial victories. Often, he flew F4U Corsair Number 86 or F4U Corsair Number 883.
On January 3, 1944 Boyington took off at 6:30am piloting F4U Corsair 17915 from Torokina Airfield on Bougainville on a fighter sweep over Rabaul commanding 46 fighters including 8 F4Us from VMF-214, 12 F4Us from VMF-211 and 16 F6F from VF-33. Several planes aborted due to mechanical failures (three from VMF-214).
The fighters reached Rabaul flying from 20,000' to 24,000' spotting Zeros below, they dove to intercept (probably 29 Zeros from the 253 Kōkūtai). Also, twenty-seven A6M Zeros of the 204th Kōkūtai already in the air, joined the dog fight. Boyington shot down a Zero from dead astern (his 20th victory), send it down and burning, and confirmed by several other witnesses. He and his wingman, F4U Corsair 02723 piloted by George Ashmum was overwhelmed and went Missing In Action (MIA). Damaged, Boyington ditched F4U Corsair 17915 into the Saint Georges Channel and was captured by a Japanese submarine and transported to Rabaul.
Prisoner Of War (POW)
Boyington was detained as a Prisoner Of War (POW) at Rabaul. He was interrogated by Japanese interpreter Edward Chikaki Honda (aka "Ed Honda"). On February 17, 1944 Boyington was one of six prisoners loaded aboard G4M1 Betty on a flight to Truk and landed at the beginning of "Operation Hailstone" and took cover as U. S. Navy (USN) carrier aircraft attacked and destroyed the bomber they had just arrived aboard. That night, the prisoners were held in a jail then boarded a L2D Tabby (DC-3) and flown to Saipan then to Japan. Detained at Omori POW Camp until the end of the Pacific War.
|Medal of Honor Citation (12 September 1943 to 3 January 1944)
Citation: "For extraordinary heroism and valiant devotion to duty as commanding officer of Marine Fighting Squadron 214 in action against enemy Japanese forces in the Central Solomons area from 12 September 1943 to 3 January 1944. Consistently outnumbered throughout successive hazardous flights over heavily defended hostile territory, Maj. Boyington struck at the enemy with daring and courageous persistence, leading his squadron into combat with devastating results to Japanese shipping, shore installations, and aerial forces. Resolute in his efforts to inflict crippling damage on the enemy, Maj. Boyington led a formation of 24 fighters over Kahili on 17 October and, persistently circling the airdrome where 60 hostile aircraft were grounded, boldly challenged the Japanese to send up planes. Under his brilliant command, our fighters shot down 20 enemy craft in the ensuing action without the loss of a single ship. A superb airman and determined fighter against overwhelming odds, Maj. Boyington personally destroyed 26 of the many Japanese planes shot down by his squadron and, by his forceful leadership, developed the combat readiness in his command which was a distinctive factor in the Allied aerial achievements in this vitally strategic area."
In total, Boyington claimed 26 aerial victories in World War II. For his actions between September 12, 1943 until January 3, 1944 he earned the Medal of Honor and also earned the Navy Cross.
Returning to the United States, he participated in the Victory parade in New York on October 9, 1945 and for publicity tours. He retired from the Marine Corps with the rank of Colonel and struggled with alcoholism and wrote his autobiography Baa Baa Black Sheep published in 1958. His story was adapted into the television series Baa Baa Black Sheep (Season 1) and Baa Baa Black Sheep (Season 2) where he was portrayed by actor Robert Conrad that aired between 1976-1978. Boyington was technical advisor for the entire series and appeared as fictional Gen. Harrison Kenlay in three episodes and got writing credit for one episode. During the late 1970s and 1980s, he often participated in air shows and events.
Boyington passed away on January 11, 1988 from cancer. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery on section 7A, site 150.
Navy Serial Number Search Results - F4U-1A Corsair 17915
"17915 (VMF-214) shot down Jan 3, 1944 with Maj Gregory Boyington. Made POW."
Flying Aces "War Flyers In The Headlines" April 1944 page 35
Associated Press (AP) "Pappy' Boyington Is Dead at 75; Hero of the Black Sheep Squadron" January 11, 1988
Pacific Air Combat WWII (1993) by Henry Sakaida Chapter 13: The Man Who Did Not Shoot Down Pappy Boyington pages page 74-80
The Black Sheep pages 335-341
Sheep One pages 306-317
The Siege of Rabaul page 20-21, 23-24
FindAGrave - COL Gregory H. “Pappy” Boyington (photo, grave photo)
Fold3 - Gregory Boyington
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