Marine Corps History: Colonel Gregory “Pappy” Boyington

Carl | March 6, 2013 

Black Sheep Squadron Fighter Ace

Gregory Boyington earned both a Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross for his extraordinary heroism as a WWII Marine pilot and leader of the Black Sheep Squadron. While his Medal of Honor Citation was awarded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in March 1944, he was not decorated until October 5, 1945, due to his captivity by the Japanese.

Boyington is best known for flying the Vought F4U Corsair in squadron VMF-214. During his first tour, he shot down 14 enemy fighter planes in 32 days. With intense activity in the Russell Islands-New Georgia areas, Boyington tallied his downed Japanese plane total almost daily. By December 27, 1943, his record had climbed to 25.

He tied the American record of 26 downed planes on January 3, 1944, over Rabaul, but became mixed in a general melee of diving, swooping planes and went missing, ultimately spending the rest of the war, some 20 months, in Japanese prison camps. He was liberated from Japanese custody at Omori Prison Camp on August 29, 1945.

Gregory Boyington earned the nickname “Pappy” because, being just over 30, he was a decade older than many of his fellow Black Sheep Squadron pilots.

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