Colonel Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, USMC

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Lt Raymond "Hap" Halloran
Colonel Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, USMC, The Black Sheep Squadron
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Hap gave this photo to Rick Feldmann.

Colonel Gregoty "Pappy" Boyington, USMC

I think it is great that you are adding a Greg Pappy segment to your site. He was a good friend since our POW days together in Tokyo in 1945. We traveled a lot together in the Post War years until his death in November 1988. I wrote his Eulogy and delivered same in Arlington National Cemetery.  Rode on Marine plane from Fresno, Ca. (his home)) to WDC. Also had a bronze bust made of Boyington and presented to Marine VMA 214 squadron in Yuma where it still serves as key unit in their Pappy Museum in Yuma,Ariz. If I can assist in any way feel free to call on me.
Best always


Life-size bronze bust of "Pappy" Boyington, Medal of Honor winner, is presented by "Hap" Halloran to Lt. Col. Tom Carstens, commanding officer of VMA-214. A CollectAir photo.


Gregory "Pappy" Boyington (December 4, 1912 - January 11, 1988)

Every one of the Corps' aces had special qualities that set him apart from his squadron mates. Flying and shooting skills, tenacity, aggressiveness, and a generous share of luck — the aces had these in abundance. One man probably had more than his share of these qualities, and that was the legendary "Pappy" Boyington.

Colonel Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, Marine Corps Ace credited with the destruction of 28 Japanese aircraft, was awarded the Medal of Honor "for extraordinary heroism above and beyond the call of duty" while in command of a Marine Fighting Squadron in the Central Solomons Area from 12 September 1943 to 3 January 1944. He was shot down over Rabaul on the latter date, and his capture by the Japanese was followed by 20 months as a prisoner of war.

Gregory Boyington was born in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, on 4 December 1912. He graduated from Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Washington, and majored in aeronautical engineering at the University of Washington, graduating in 1934 with a Bachelor of Science degree. He was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. Always an athlete, he was a member of the college wrestling and swimming teams, and was a one-time holder of the Pacific Northwest Intercollegiate middle-weight wrestling title.

During his summer vacations he worked in mining camp and logging camps in his home state. One summer, he was employed by the Coeur d'Alene Fire Protective Association in road construction and lookout work.

The famed flyer started his military career while still attending college. As a member of the Reserve Officers Training Corps for four years, he became a cadet captain. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Coast Artillery Reserve in June 1934 and served two months of active duty with the 630th Coast Artillery in Fort Worden, Washington. On 13 June 1935 he enlisted in the Volunteer Marine Corps Reserve. He went on active duty that date and returned to inactive duty on 16 July. In the meantime, he had become a draftsman and engineer for the Boeing Aircraft Company of Seattle.

It was on 18 February 1936 that he accepted an appointment as an aviation cadet in the Marine Corps Reserve, and was assigned to the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida, for flight training. Years before, he first flew when he was only eight years old, with Clyde Pangborn, who later flew the Pacific non-stop.

He was designated a Naval Aviator on 11 March 1937, and was transferred to Quantico, Virginia, for duty with Aircraft One, Fleet Marine Force. He was discharged from the Marine Corps Reserve on 1 July 1937 in order to accept a second lieutenant's commission in the regular Marine Corps the following day.

Detached to the Basic School, Philadelphia, in July 1938, 2dLt Boyington was transferred to the 2d Marine Aircraft Group at the San Diego Naval Air Station upon completion of his studies. With that unit he took part in fleet problems off the aircraft carriers USS Lexington and USS Yorktown. Promoted to first lieutenant on 4 November 1940, he returned to Pensacola as an instructor the next month.

First Lieutenant Boyington resigned his commission in the Marine Corps on 26 August 1941 to accept a position with the Central Aircraft Manufacturing Company. CAMCO was a civilian organization formed for the protection of the Burma Road. The unit later became known as the American Volunteer Group, the famed "Flying Tigers" of China. Colonel Boyington said in an interview,"The AVG was paying $675 per month with a bonus of $500 for every confirmed kill. The government knew what they were doing. They set it up. That was when I learned that Admiral Chester Nimitz maintained files of all of the Navy and Marine pilots and ground crews going over. The only catch was that we had to be secret about the whole affair. We went to San Francisco, where we boarded a Dutch ship, Boschfontein, that was carrying 55 missionaries, men and women, to China. That was our cover, and it stated this in our passports, although my personal cover was that I was going to Java to fly for KLM. It didn’t fool anyone, especially the real missionaries on board. Dick Rossi and I were pegged immediately." The American Volunteer Group (AVG) and Boyington as well as many other American pilots would make a name for themselves flying the Curtiss P-40 Warhawks that would become famous as the “Flying Tigers.” The AVGs would fly numerous missions against the Japanese from their bases in Burma and southern China for about one year. In fact, they would continue with their “volunteer” work seven months after the attack at Pearl Harbor. During his months with the "Tigers," he became a squadron commander and shot down six Japanese planes to secure an appreciable lead over other American aces who didn't get into the fight until after 7 December 1941. He flew 300 combat hours before the AVG disbanded.

Flying Tiger P-40 Warhawk

He returned to the United States in July 1942 and accepted a commission as a first lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve on 29 September 1942. He reported to active duty at the Naval Air Station, San Diego, on 23 November 1942 and was assigned to Marine Aircraft Wing, Pacific. He was promoted to major (temporary warrant) the next day.


Major Boyington joined Marine Aircraft Group 11 of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing and became Commanding Officer of Marine Fighting Squadron 214 after a short tour in the Solomons with another squadron. The new squadron was made up of a group of casuals, replacements, and green pilots and was dubbed the "Black Sheep" Squadron.

Discussing a mission!

Before organizing the "Black Sheep," Maj Boyington participated in combat at Guadalcanal in April 1943, as Executive Officer of Marine Fighting Squadron 121, but had added no enemy planes to his score. However, during those two periods of intense activity in the Russell Islands-New Georgia and Bougainville-New Britain-New Ireland areas, and nicknamed "Pappy" because of his older age (31) compared to that of his men, added to his total almost daily. During his squadron's first tour of combat duty, Maj Boyington personally shot down 14 enemy fighter planes in 32 days. On 17 December 1943, he headed the first Allied fighter sweep over impregnable Rabaul. By 27 December his record was 25. He tied the then-existing American record of 26 planes on 3 January when he shot down another fighter over Rabaul.


Boyington took his squadron to Munda on New Georgia in September. On the 16th, the Black Sheep flew their first mission, a bomber escort to Ballale, a Japanese airfield on a small island about five miles southeast of Bougainville. The mission turned into a free-for-all as about 40 Zeros descended on the bombers. Boyington downed a Zero for his squadron's first kill. He quickly added four more. Six other Black Sheep scored kills. It was an auspicious debut, marred only by the loss of one -214 pilot, Captain Robert T. Ewing.

The following weeks were filled with continuous action. Boyington and his squadron rampaged through the enemy formations, whether the Marine Corsairs were escorting bombers, or making pure fighter sweeps. The frustrated Japanese tried to lure Pappy into several traps, but the pugnacious ace taunted them over the radio, challenging them to come and get him.

F4U Corsair

The following day, he launched at the head of another sweep staging through Bougainville. By late morning, other VMF-214 pilots returned with the news that Boyington had, indeed, been in action. When they last saw him, Pappy had already disposed of one Zero, and together with his wingman, Captain George M. Ashmun, was hot on the tails of other victims.

Typical of Maj Boyington's daring feats is his attack on Kahili airdome at the southern tip of Bougainville on 17 October 1943. He and 24 fighters circled the field persistently where 60 hostile aircraft were grounded, goading the enemy into sending up a large numerically superior force. In the fierce battle that followed, 20 of the enemy planes were shot out of the skies. The Black Sheep roared back to their base without the loss of a single aircraft.

On 3 January 1944, 48 American planes, including one division (4 planes) from the Black Sheep Squadron took off from Bougainville for a fighter sweep over Rabaul. Maj Boyington was the tactical commander of the flight and arrived over Rabaul at eight o'clock in the morning. In the ensuing action he was seen shoting down his 26th plane. He then became mixed in the general melee of diving, swooping planes and was not seen or heard from again. Following a determined search which proved futile, Maj Boyington was declared as missing in action. While a prisoner of the Japanese, he was selected for temporary promotion to the rank of lieutenant colonel.

F4U Corsairs

The initial happy anticipation turned to apprehension as the day wore on and neither Pappy nor Ashmun returned. By the afternoon, without word from other bases, the squadron had to face the unthinkable: Boyington was missing. The Black Sheep mounted patrols to look for their leader, but within a few days, they had to admit that Pappy was not coming back.

In fact, Boyington and his wingman had been shot down after Pappy had bagged three more Zeros, thus bringing his claimed total to 28, breaking the Rickenbacker tally, and establishing Boyington as the top-scoring Marine ace of the war, and, for that matter, of all time. 

Pappy and his wingman had been overwhelmed by a swarm of Zeros and had to bail out of their faltering Corsairs near Cape St. George on New Ireland. Captain Ashmun was never recovered, but Boyington was retrieved by a Japanese submarine after being strafed by the vengeful Zeros that had just shot him down. Boyington spent the next 20 months as a prisoner of war, although no one in the U.S. knew it until after V-J Day.

He endured torture and beatings during interrogations, and was finally rescued when someone painted "Boyington Here!" on the roof of his prison barracks. Aircraft dropping supplies to the prisoners shortly after the ceasefire in August 1945 spotted the message and soon everyone knew that Pappy was coming back.

Omori POW Camp "Boyington Here"

During mid-August 1945, following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the subsequent Japanese capitulation, he was liberated from Japanese custody at Omori Prison Camp in the Tokyo area on 29 August and arrived in the United States shortly afterwards.

On 6 September the top ace who had been a prisoner of the Japanese for the past 20 months accepted his temporary lieutenant colonel's commission in the Marine Corps.

At the time of his release, it was confirmed that LtCol Boyington had accounted for the downing of two Japanese planes on 3 January before he himself was shot down. That set his total at 28 planes, which was the highest total for Marines.

Shortly after his return to his homeland, LtCol Boyington was ordered to Washington to receive the nation's highest honor, the Medal of Honor, from President Harry S. Truman. The medal had been awarded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in March 1944 and held in the Capital until such time he was able to receive it. On 5 October 1945, "Nimitz Day," LtCol Boyington appeared at the White House with a number of other Marines and Naval Personnel and was decorated by President Harry S. Truman.


Medal of Honor citation

"The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to



for service as set forth in the following CITATION:

For extraordinary heroism above and beyond the call of duty as Commanding Officer of Marine Fighting Squadron TWO FOURTEEN in action against enemy Japanese forces in Central Solomons Area from September 12, 1943 to January 3, 1944. Consistently outnumbered throughout successive hazardous flights over heavily defended hostile territory, Major 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, Major Boyington led a formation of twenty-four fighters over Kahili on October 17, and, persistently circling the airdrome where sixty hostile aircraft were grounded, boldly challenged the Japanese to send up planes. Under his brilliant command, our fighters shot down twenty enemy craft in the ensuing action without the loss of a single ship. A superb airman and determined fighter against overwhelming odds, Major 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.


On the previous day, he was presented the Navy Cross by the Commandant of the Marine Corps for the ace's heroic achievements on the day he was declared missing in action.

Following the receipt of his Medal of Honor and Navy Cross, LtCol Boyington made a Victory Bond Tour. Originally ordered to the Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, he was later directed to report to the Commanding General, Marine Air West Coast, Marine Corps Air Depot, Miramar, San Diego, California.

Lieutenant Colonel Boyington was retired from the Marine Corps on 1 August 1947 and, because he was specially commended for the performance of duty in actual combat, was advanced to his final rank of colonel.

He visited the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration, and Storage Facility, coincidentally just as the Museum's F4U Corsair left the restoration shop. According to docents who witnessed the incident, Boyington climbed into the cockpit "for old time's sake" and attempted to start the engine. He autographed the Corsair with a magic marker in one of the landing gear wells; saying, in effect, that it was a Corsair in the best condition he'd ever seen. Years later that same Corsair hangs from the ceiling at the NASM Dulles Annex, and Boyington's autograph is visible from floor level to the sharp-eyed.

In August 2007, the Coeur d'Alene, Idaho airport was renamed the "Coeur d’Alene Airport–Pappy Boyington Field" in his honor.

The University of Washington Medal of Honor memorial was completed in time for Veterans Day 2009, and was made possible through private funding. In addition to Boyington, it honors Deming Bronson, Bruce Crandall, John D. Hawk, Robert Leisy, William Kenzo Nakamura, and Archie Van Winkle

Boyington fathered three children with his first wife. One son graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 1959.

Boyington died of cancer on January 11, 1988 at the age of 75 in Fresno, California.


He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery on January 15, 1988, in plot 7A-150 with full honors accorded to a Medal of Honor recipient, including a missing man fly-by conducted by the F-4 Phantom IIs of the Marine detachment at Andrews Air Force Base. Before his flight from Fresno, California, VMA-214 (the current incarnation of the Black Sheep Squadron) did a flyby.

In addition to the Medal of Honor and Navy Cross, Col Boyington held the American Defense Service Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, American Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal.



Pappy Boyington's quote, "Flying is hours and hours of boredom sprinkled with a few seconds of sheer terror."

This link will go to the website with more information about Colonel Gregory "Pappy" Boyington. Click here to check it out!