Boyington & his Black Sheep

Gregory 'Pappy' Boyington

Gregory ‘Pappy’ Boyington

The brashest, most publicized pilots of the Pacific Theater belonged to the appropriately named Black Sheep Squadron.  They were rowdy, profane, hard-drinking, fun-loving and credited with so many Japanese aircraft that they became legends in their own time.

The leader of this wild bunch was Major Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, a former Flying Tiger with 6 kills to his credit.  The boozing, brawling commander downed 28 enemy planes – more than any other Marine pilot.  He was born 4 December 1912 and in Coeur d’Alene, IA he took his first flight at 6 years old with barnstormer, Clyde Pangborn.  Boyington grew up thinking his step-father was his biological father and went by the name Hallenbeck.  It wasn’t until he graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in aeronautical engineering that he learned his real name.

35.jpgBlack sheep patch

Black Sheep Squadron patch.

Boyington formed the Black Sheep in the summer of ’43 when he noticed scattered pilots and aircraft unattached and unused by other units, despite the US forces need of more squadrons.  They flew their first mission 14 September in Chance Vought F4U Corsairs.

So confident of their success against the enemy, Boyington and his cohorts made a startling announcement in October 1943.  Having run out of baseball caps – their traditional headgear – they promised to shoot down a Japanese Zero for every cap sent to them from a major league baseball team.  In December, when the St. Louis Cardinals forwarded 20 caps, the daredevils more than kept their end of the bargain – 48 aircraft downed; 14 of them by Boyington himself.

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On 3 January 1944, the Black Sheep lost their commander.  During a fighter sweep over Rabaul, Boyington parachuted from his flaming plane into St. George Channel, just after bagging his 28th enemy aircraft.  He was picked up by a Japanese submarine and brought to Rabaul where he was interrogated and sent to Japan.  He remained a prisoner until 29 August 1945.  During his time as a POW, he was made a temporary Lt. Colonel and awarded the Medal of Honor and Navy Cross.   A TV series, staring Robert Conrad, Baa Baa Black Sheep, aired 1976-78, depicting Boyington and his crew’s antics and bravery.

Gregory Boyington passed away 11 January 1988 and was buried at Arlington Cemetery.

R.I.P.

R.I.P.

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Military Humor – 

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge ol’ Sad Sack.

made by Dennis the Vizsla's father.

made by Dennis the Vizsla’s father.

“I think Auntie (she wasn’t ‘Auntie’ then, of course) sent me the ‘Keep Smiling’ card. I got shipped to Crailsheim Germany because the Rehab Center needed two social workers, but six months later they closed it and I got reassigned to a hospital in Muenchweiler. They had no active psych. unit so I ran the PA system, paging people, and reading lots of books.

Dennis’s website is HERE.

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Farewell Salutes – 

Tom Abrash – Windsor, CAN; RC Navy, WWII

Ray Brendemuehl – Milwaukee, WI; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Natoma BayKXAC000A

Albert ‘Sonny’ Erickson – San Jose, CA; US Army, WWII, ETO

John Gunselman – Ephrata, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Div.

John Jones – Gloucester, NJ; US Navy, WWII, Korea, SeaBees

Jim McQueen – Auckland, NZ; RNZ Air Force # 404466, WWII, ETO, POW

George Ogden – Broad Channel, NY; US Navy, WWII

Trevor Riordan – Sydney, AUS; RA Air Force # A222011, Vietnam, 9th Squadron

Melvin Strople – Gloucester, MA; US Army (Ret. 21 years), WWII & Korea

Steven Talamantez – Laredo, TX; US Army, Iraq, 1st Cavalry Div., Sgt., KIA

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on February 1, 2016, in Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 129 Comments.

  1. Reblogged this on PT Boat Red and commented:
    I am very pleased to reblog this post from GP Cox who has developed a terrific blog dedicated to his father, Everett “Smitty” Smith who served in WWII as part of the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division. This recent post from his blog features background information on Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, Commander of the legendary Black Sheep Squadron from WWII–one of the most daring and decorated squadrons of fighter pilots in the South Pacific, and one of my all-time heroes from WWII. Over the course of writing my blog, I have received great support and inspiration from the fine work of GP Cox and I am very grateful to him. I am sure that the readers of PT Boat Red will enjoy this fine blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. One of the great. No accolades due “Papa” justice. I wonder how the Black Sheep would function in today’s political correct environment.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Off the top of your head – how many charges do you think would be brought against them? :/ Unfortunately, we have become far too politically correct to ever see anything like this bunch again!

      Like

  3. I remember that TV series.

    Like

  4. I was a big fan of Baa Baa Black Sheep and its star Robert Conrad. I always wondered how accurately it portrayed Boyington and that time and place in history.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My NCOIC, MGySgt Peavy served with the Black Sheep Squadron after WWII.

    Like

  6. The Black Sheep Squadron will long be remembered as it should be!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I don’t remember the series but if they captured their spirit I believe it would have been fun to watch!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. interesting post, as always 🙂

    Like

  9. Pappy Boyington doesn’t look like the classic hero , or the ideal chisel-jawed Marine officer . That makes me like him even more .

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  10. What an amazing group of men with an outstanding leader. He was a true American Hero. Thank you for sharing his story.

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  11. Very interesting and also remember the tv series. Good thing I checked my reader since didn’t get a email about this post!

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  12. Another extremely colourful character, who certainly put his money where his mouth was! A Japanese demolition squad!

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  13. Definitely a colorful and memorable character. I enjoy the television show and wrote about it two years ago https://mholloway63.wordpress.com/2014/04/05/history-from-the-small-screen-baa-baa-black-sheep-black-sheep-squadron/

    Like

  14. Great story. I’m going to ask my uncle Tom, who was also a Marine in the Pacific, what he knows about the Black Sheep Squadron.

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  15. I recall enjoying the TV series on the Black Sheep. Brought back some memories.

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  16. That was one show I didn’t see, unfortunately. This looks like an interesting documentary on his life. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yyZY1aauxk

    Liked by 1 person

  17. As I read the story, I thought good for the St Louis Cards. –Curt

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  18. I was just a young boy at the time of the TV series. Now I know what its all about

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  19. It sounds a little perverse, perhaps, but I’m always so pleased to hear that these war heroes have survived, say, being a prisoner of war in Japan, to pass away at home, more than forty years after the end of the conflict.

    Like

  20. Saw Conrad interviewed. He was a pilot but “they”, the show’s bosses, would not let him actually fly a Corsair. Apparently the Corsair is a bit twisty (torque) from the big engine if you don’t know what you are doing.

    Like

    • Being allowed to do your own stunts costs a studio quite a bit in insurance money, I understand. But by being a pilot himself, he was familiar with the and comfortable with the lingo, etc – made for a great show!

      Liked by 1 person

  21. I would like to add the text of this to my Profiles post on the black sheep; consistent with the uncertainty of YouTube, the video I had was gone – the YT channel account was closed.
    I do have some photos you might like from that post. https://profilesincourage.wordpress.com/2015/02/24/the-black-sheep-squadron/

    P.S. Thanks for the copy of The Silent service. A little mystery: the enclosed invoice (from the UK division of Alibris sent to Alibris in the U.S.) stated the book ordered was “Everything But the Flak, by Martin Caidin.
    I use Bookfinder to locate images from sellers for my sidebar. It takes awhile to find an image, let alone the particular edition I had, or have in my library. Call it a labor of love…

    Like

  22. I learned about them through the TV series years ago. Your post creates a realistic perspective of their amazing bravery.

    Like

  23. My dad used to watch the Black Sheep Squadron re-runs. That’s how I learned about Pappy. I never really watched the show, so I had no idea about the baseball caps. Thanks for the post!

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  24. I remember watching reruns of the television show, not realizing that it was all based on real-life.

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  25. That is one amazing photo, GP. Sort of said it all about the man, even before I got to read the post.

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  26. Great diary. We watched the tv show when we were kids. Nice to know more of his history. Pappy sounds like he had a somewhat charmed life.

    Marcey

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  27. They were real heros.

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  28. I really enjoyed the TV series. But I suppose no military could survive if it was full of “I do not follow orders” and “I’ll do it my way” commanders. I do wonder, however, how much of that defiant attitude was rooted in fact.

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    • We can only go by the people who knew him and it seems to be true according to them. Of course the show emphasized the crazy stunts, there were days of inactivity and the usual military stuff. (But that would sell on prime-time TV.)

      Like

  29. I have never seen the TV show, which I don’t think was shown over here in the UK. But I can well imagine someone like Errol Flynn portraying such a hard-drinking, hard-fighting flier like Gregory. They made them tough in those days!
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Like

    • Flynn probably would have been chosen if he had been in his prime, Robert Conrad had to do, especially since he led a rough-and-tumble life himself. It was about a rough bunch of guys, but there were plenty of parts that would get you rolling on the floor!

      Like

  30. Yup… I’ll be 51 this year and I’ve watched most of the TV series in the 70s. Baa Baa Black Sheep, wild wild west, star trek, starsky and hutch, six million dollar man, wonder woman, mork and mindy, and even the mickey mouse club!

    Like

  31. Boyington had a pretty rough post war time of it. My father and he had a mutual friend and Dad met Boyington on just a couple occasions when Pappy was piloting shortly for their friend’s smalll charter airline in the late 50’s / early 60’s.

    The story that Boyington’s health actually improved while a prisoner of war is true.

    Like

  32. Loved the show…loved the quality of the real characters. I have always been drawn to people who did things differently!

    And, oh did I have a crush on Robert Conrad! 😉

    Like

  33. I remember the black sheep… On TV. The Baa Baa Black Sheep! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Another unsung hero we never heard of. Social grants are better news than guys who fought for our freedom that made the grants possible. Thanks for this.

    Like

  35. It’s so cool to learn the history behind the legend. I hope I don’t end up feeling like Sad Sack at the end of this week. It’s starting out looking similar to his.

    Like

  36. I just loved that show!

    Like

  37. Reblogged this on Lest We Forget II and commented:
    Great tribute!

    Like

  38. I hope your readers enjoy the link!

    Liked by 1 person

  1. Pingback: Baa, Baa Black Sheep | The Arts Mechanical

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