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11 septembre 2010 6 11 /09 /septembre /2010 23:22


Colonel Gregory R. "Pappy" Boyington

Medal of Honor Recipient

Gregory R. Boyington was born in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, in 1912, to parents of part American Indian ancestry. His ambition to be a pilot began at the age of eight, when he took his first airplane ride from the famous Clyde Pangborn, who in 1931 became the first to fly non stop from Japan to the U. S.

To say Boyington was the most colorful character to pin on the eagle, globe, anchor, and gold wings would be an understatement. The partying, "tell it like it is," irreverent, Boyington was loved by his subordinates and contemporaries while being hated by some of his superiors.

Judging the way he lived, one might presume he got where he was by clawing his way up the ranks the hard way. In fact, he graduated with a degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Washington in 1934.

He was a member of the Huskies swimming and wrestling teams and one year was the Northwest Intercollegiate middleweight wrestling champion. Following graduation, he served briefly as a reserve officer in the Army's Coast Artillery before joining Boeing Aircraft in Seattle as an aeronautical engineer.

 In February 1936, Boyington quit his job at Boeing and enrolled in the new Naval Cadet program. Although cadets were required to be single, the maverick Boyington was secretly married throughout flight training. He received his wings and commission on March 11, 1937 at Pensacola. He served with Aircraft One at Quantico before attending Basic School at Philadelphia.

Boyington's next assignment was with VMF-2 at San Diego. As the best pilot in the squadron, he defeated the Navy's best pilot in the annual gun camera competition. He acquired the nickname "Rats" due to his resemblance to a cartoon character of the time called eneral Ratoff. Some of his old friends referred to him as "Rats" for the rest of his life.

Next Boyington was sent to Pensacola as an instructor. Due to his hell raising, high living lifestyle, his expenses exceeded his pay. Claire Chennault visited Pensacola in the summer of 1941 recruiting pilots for the American Volunteer Group. Since Boyington hated administrative work, he saw his career in the Marine Corps going nowhere. He also considered the AVG as an opportunity to get out of debt, so he joined up. The AVG became known as the Flying Tigers in China. Boyington became an ace by shooting down six Japanese planes.

When the Army arrived in China in the middle of 1942, the AVG disbanded. Although the Flying Tigers were the most experienced American combat pilots, they received shameful treatment from the U. S. Army.

When the Navy and Marine pilots signed up with the AVG in 1941, their secret contracts stated they could return to their former services in the event the U.S. entered the war. Chennault reneged on his promise. The Navy and Marine pilots of the AVG were given the choice of joining the Army or paying their own way home. Boyington chose the latter when he was offered a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Army Air Forces. Needless to say, Boyington's opinion of Chennault after that was unprintable. He did not leave China with an overwhelming admiration for Chiang Kai-shek either, coming to the conclusion that Madame Chiang was the real power and the Generalissimo was just a figurehead.

When Boyington returned to the U.S. in July 1942, he was treated even worse. Marine headquarters told him to go home to Seattle and await orders. Boyington was in limbo. He exhausted all his savings getting home and was not yet on the Marine payroll. In desperation, he took one of his old college jobs parking cars at $.75 an hour to make ends meet.

After three months passed, he went over everyone's head and sent a letter to the Under Secretary of the Navy informing him of the situation. Three days later he received orders and a promotion to major. A year later, he learned the reason for the delay. He and the other nine Marine members of the AVG were being stonewalled by a high ranking Marine officer who unearthed an old order, dated in 1939, that stated anyone who leaves the Marine Corps in time of national emergency could be classified as a deserter. Boyington described this officer as: "a renowned son-of-a-bitch, who attained his promotions by other means than endangering his life.

This officer was well known in the Marine Corps for the sure-fire method of his own personal promotion, by cleverly and continuously knifing any officer who shows signs of some ability."

In short order, Boyington received refresher training and was sent to Espiritu Santo as assistant operations officer of the Marine airstrip. In May 1943, he joined the F4F equipped VMF-222 where he escorted dive-bombers but failed to encounter any enemy aircraft. While VMF-222 was being re-equipped with the Corsair, Boyington broke his ankle in a football game.

While recovering from his injury, he performed various administrative duties for several squadrons. He then persuaded the group commander, the legendary Col. Sandy Sanderson, into letting him reorganize VMF-214 with replacement and unassigned pilots. ' At 30 years of age, Boyington was the oldest Marine commanding officer of a fighter squadron.

His pilots, therefore, referred to him as "Grandpappy" or "Gramps" which was shortened to just "Pappy" by the press. Boyington liked the nickname. His reputation was legendary and his pilots named the squadron "Boyington's Bastards." When the press pointed out this name could not be printed back home it was changed to "Boyington's Black Sheep." Meanwhile, a new group commander who did not like Boyington replaced Sanderson. Boyington had a run-in with this overweight officer during flight training in Pensacola and referred to him as "Col. Lard." The first thing Col. Lard did was to forbid Boyington to drink during the squadron's deployment to the forward combat area.

In VMF-214's first aerial combat on September 12, 1943, the squadron shot down 11 aircraft with Boyington getting five. Before the squadron went into rest and recreation leave in Australia on October 24, Boyington's total had risen to 20.

When VMF-214 returned to combat at the end of November, Col. Lard relieved Boyington as C.O. BGen. "Nuts" Moore, the wing commander, interceded in Boyington's behalf, countermanded the order, and gave Col. Lard a severe chewing out in the process. On December 27, Boyington shot down his 25th aircraft - one short of the then present U.S. record jointly held by Eddie Rickenbacker in World War I and fellow Marine Joe Foss.

On January 3, 1944, after getting his 26th victory, Boyington and his wingman were separated from the rest of the squadron by weather. Boyington downed two more Japanese before he and his wingman were both shot down by an overwhelming number of Japanese fighters. He was wounded in the shoot down, taken prisoner and spent the rest of the war in captivity. During Boyington's leadership of VMF-214, the squadron was credited with 197 Japanese aircraft destroyed, probably destroyed, or damaged at the cost of 12 pilots missing in action.

Incredibly, Boyington had not received one major decoration up to his capture - his superior, Col. Lard, had not recommended him for any. The Army had tried to award him the Silver Star for defending Army bombers, but this was rejected by Marine higher ups who told the Army that the Marines were quite capable of decorating their own. No Americans had witnessed Boyington being shot down and he was reported as missing and presumed dead.

He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross. Even that did not come until the Ed Sullivan radio show brought his exploits to the public's attention. Following the end of the war, Boyington was found alive in Japan. Enroute home, a special board promoted him to LCol. Back in the States, he went on an extensive Victory Bond Drive and received the Medal of Honor from President Harry Truman.

The 20 months of mistreatment in Japanese captivity left him in poor physical condition. He was medically retired as a full colonel from the Marine Corps in 1947, only receiving a small pension due Medal of Honor holders. Although Boyington's war with the Japanese was over, his battle with the demons of alcoholism continued. For many years, he held a number of undistinguished jobs far below the potential of a man with his education. He even worked as a professional wrestling referee.

During these bad times, he also had a couple of failed marriages. In 1958, his best selling, candid autobiography, Baa Baa Black Sheep was published. A few years later, he narrated the 1960's television series Danger Zone. The heavy smoking Boyington suffered from emphysema and almost died in 1966. In the 1970s, a TV series based on his book aired as The Black Sheep Squadron. Following the publicity gained, the now sober Boyington became a regular on the speaking and air show circuit.

Boyington had four wives. One of his three children was an Air Force pilot who flew the F-4 Phantom in Viet Nam - a fact he was quite proud of. He was a great combat leader and pilot, remaining as the highest-ranking Marine ace of all time with 28 confirmed victories. Living his life out in Fresno, California Boyington died in 1988 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In the final line of Baa Baa Black Sheep he wrote: "If this story were to have a moral, then I would say: `Just name a hero and I'll prove he's a bum.' " That statement could not have been further from the truth.







Marine Fighter Squadron 214 was originally commissioned on July 1, 1942, at Marine Corps Air Station Ewa, on the Island of Oahu. Initially called the "Swashbucklers", they participated in the Solomon Islands campaign, flying out of Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. They were disbanded following their combat tour and the squadron designation was given to the Marine command on Espiritu Santo.

In August 1943, a group of twenty-seven young men under the leadership of Major Gregory "Pappy" Boyington (who was later awarded the Medal of Honor) were joined together to form the original "Blacksheep" of VMF-214. Major Boyington had just returned from a year's tour in China as a member of the American Volunteer Group, the "Flying Tigers". In China, he had downed six enemy planes and became, through actual experience, one of the originators of American fighter tactics against the Japanese.

The call sign "Black Sheep" was chosen by the squadron to commemorate the unusual way in which the squadron had been formed. Originally the squadron called itself "Boyington's Bastards" after its commander, but this label was considered unacceptable by the press. The pilots ranged from experienced combat veterans, with several air-to-air victories to their credit, to new replacement pilots from the United States.

Major Boyington and Major Stan Bailey were given permission to form the unassigned pilots into a squadron, with the understanding that they would have less than four weeks to have them fully trained and ready for combat. They were very successful.

They chose for their badge the black shield of illegitimacy, the bar sinister, a black sheep superimposed, surrounded by a circle of twelve stars, and crowned with the image of their aircraft, the F4U Corsair. What these men accomplished has become Marine Corps history. The Black Sheep squadron fought for eighty-four days. They met the Japanese over their own fields and territory and piled up a record of 203 planes destroyed or damaged, produced eight fighter aces with 97 confirmed air-to-air kills, sank several troop transports and supply ships, destroyed many installations, in addition to numerous other victories. For their actions, the original Black Sheep were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary heroism in action.

The Black Sheep ended their second combat tour on January 8, 1944, five days after Major Boyington was shot down and captured by the Japanese. The original Black Sheep were disbanded and the pilots were placed in the pilot pool in Marine Aircraft Group 11. Exploits of this incarnation of the unit were loosely fictionalized in the 1970s television series Baa Baa Black Sheep (later renamed The Black Sheep Squadron), starring Robert Conrad as Boyington.

VMF-214 was reformed on January 29, 1944 at Marine Corps Air Station Santa Barbara near Goleta, California. They deployed aboard the USS Franklin (CV-13) on February 4, 1945 to join on-going operations on Okinawa. On March 19, a Japanese bomber hit the USS Franklin. The explosion and resulting fire caused 772 deaths aboard the Franklin including 32 Black Sheep members. Many Black Sheep aircraft were launching for a strike on mainland Japan at the time. One, First Lieutenant Ken Linder, was given half credit for shooting down the Japanese bomber that struck the Franklin. This ended VMF-214 involvement in World War II.

In April 1945, the Black Sheep were relocated to Marine Corps Air Station El Centro, California, and then to MCAS El Toro, CA in October 1945. In the next few years, the Black Sheep deployed for operations on board the USS Rendova (CVE-114), the USS Bairoko (CVE-115), the USS Badoeng Strait (CVE-116), and the USS Boxer (CV-21).


The aircraft the Vought delivered was significantly different from the prototype. The cockpit was moved back three feet. This allowed the fuel tanks to be removed from the wings and placed in front of the pilot. This in turn allowed the installation of three .50 calibre machine guns in the each wings. The cockpit canopy was slightly improved, giving more space for the pilot to move. The under wing anti-aircraft bombs were replaced by two small bomb racks for normal bombs. Finally, the engine was changed to the Pratt & Whitney XR-2800-8, giving 2,000 hp. The top speed rose to 425 mph. These changes did delay the production of the aircraft, but made it a much more potent fighter.

The Navy ordered 584 Corsairs. However, when the production aircraft arrived the Navy decided that it was not safe for carrier operations. In addition to the problems in the prototype, the new cockpit position reduced visibility when landing. Accordingly, the first Corsairs were allocated to the Marines and to land based Navy squadrons.

The Royal Navy also received a large number of Corsairs, and almost immediately began operation them from carriers. The Corsair was first used in action from a carrier on 2 April 1944, when aircraft based on HMS Victorious took part in an attack on the German battleship Tirpitz. The British had a couple of advantages when using the early Corsair from carriers. The first was that accident – the aircraft hangers in the British carriers were not as tall as those in American ships, and so eight inches had to be chopped off the wings of the Corsair. One side-effect of this was to make the aircraft easier to handle in a stall, and thus easier to land on a carrier. More significant was that British carriers such as the Victorious had armoured flight decks. This eliminated one major problem with the Corsair on American carriers – it was eventually discovered that the arrestor hook was acting as an axe, cutting its way through their wooden flight decks.


This was not an official designation, but is now often used to describe late production F4U-1s. These aircraft replaced the “birdcage” canopy with a much cleaner blown-hood canopy. In addition, the pilot’s seat was raised by 9 inches, improving the view over the long nose and making deflection shooting rather easier. A side-effect of this change was that the pilot was almost standing – the rudder pedals were only raised by half an inch. The majority of wartime Corsairs had no cockpit floor (partly because the original design had included a window in the base of the fuselage to allow the pilot to aim the anti-aircraft bombs) so the new posture could make some pilots slightly nervous.

The F4U-1 and 1A were also produced by Goodyear as the FG-1 and by Brewster as the F3A-1. Goodyear eventually produced nearly as many of the dash one Corsairs as Vought. Brewster never achieved the same success, and their aircraft were most often used in training establishments. The three manufacturers produced aircraft that were almost, but not quite, identical, often requiring slightly different spare parts.


The F4U-1C was produced at the same time as the 1D. The main difference between the models was that the 1C carried two 20mm cannon in each wing instead of the six machine guns. The 1C and 1D used an improved blown canopy, with two more struts removed, further improving the view. Only 200 of this variant were produced. It entered combat in Spring 1945.


The F4U-1D was the first version of the Corsair to serve on-board U.S. carriers. By now Vought had managed to correct the bounce and the dip to port at slow speeds.  The first units moved on-board in December 1944, and the Corsair quickly replaced the Grumman F6F Hellcat as the fighter of choice for carrier operations.

The 1D used the Pratt & Whitney R-2800-8W engine. The W signifies that this engine was equipped with a water-methanol injection system, allowing the pilot to boost horsepower for a short period.

The 1D carried the standard six-gun wing armament. In addition it was given an increased capacity to act as a fighter-bomber. Four rocker launch stubs were fitted to each wing, allowing the aircraft to carry eight five inch HVAR rockets. The wing-root bomb racks were altered to allow the Corsair to carry two 1,000 lb bombs or two 154 gallon drop tanks (or one of each). The 1D entered combat in the spring of 1944 with ground based squadrons. It was also produced by Goodyear as the FG-1D.



  Base model:








  Designation System:

U.S. Navy / Marines

  Designation Period:


  Basic role:


  Modified Mission:

Miscellaneous modifications




33' 4"

10.1 m


16' 1"

4.9 m



12.5 m

  Wing area:

314.0 sq ft

29.1 sq m

  Empty Weight:

8,982 lb

4,073 kg

  Gross Weight:

14,000 lb

6,349 kg

  No. of Engines:



Pratt & Whitney R-2800-8

  Horsepower (each):



1,015 miles

1,634 km

  Cruise Speed:

182 mph

293 km/h

158 kt

  Max Speed:

417 mph

671 km/h

362 kt


2,890 ft/min

880 m/min


36,900 ft

11,247 m


F4U-1 In Color

Mascot: English Bulldog

The inspiration that led to the adoption of the English bulldog as the official Marine Corps mascot came from World War I-era German soldiers. Legend has it that the Marines were referred to as “teufel-hunden,” (“devil-dogs”), the vicious, wild mountain dogs of Bavarian folklore, because of the Marines’ relentless method of attack that turned the tide as the German Army approached Paris. In June 1918, the Marines repeatedly repulsed the Germans in Belleau Wood, ending the offensive to take the city. Soon afterward, a Marine recruiting poster painted by artist Charles B. Falls appeared depicting a dachshund, attired in a spiked helmet and Iron Cross, fleeing from an English bulldog wearing a helmet bearing the Marines’ globe and anchor insignia. The painting’s inscription read, “Teufel-Huenden—German nickname for U. S. Marines—Devil Dog Recruiting Station.”

The first officially enlisted Marine Corps mascot was an English bulldog christened Jiggs. Brigadier General Smedley D. Butler inducted him into the Corps as Private Jiggs with a formal ceremony on 14 October, 1922, at Quantico, VA. Eventually promoted to ultimate Marine rank, Sgt. Major Jiggs presented the Marine colors throughout the world, and was featured in the 1926 Lon Chaney film “Tell It To The Marines.” Upon his death in 1927, SgtMaj. Jiggs was interred with full military honors. His satin-lined coffin lay in state in a hangar at Quantico, surrounded by flowers from hundreds of Corps admirers.

• For decades, official mascots were called “Smedley” to honor their first inducting sponsor, Gen. Smedley D. Butler.
• “Chesty” became the most used named beginning in the 1950's, to honor legendary Lt. General Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller Jr.
• Chesty III was awarded the Good Conduct Medal for his behavior with children.
• Present mascot Corporal Chesty XI enlisted Aug. 24, 1995.




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