BAA BAA BLACK SHEEP
Colonel Gregory " Pappy, Gramps " Boyington ( December 4th, 1912 - January 11th, 1988 ) was born in Coeur d'Alene ( Idaho, United States ). He moved with his family to the logging town of St. Maries ( Idaho ) at the age of 3, and lived there until the age of 12. He took his first flight at St. Maries when he was 6 years old, with Clyde Pangborn ( 1895 - 1958 ), who later became the first pilot to fly over the Pacific Ocean non - stop. He then lived in Tacoma ( Washington, United States ), where he was a wrestler at Lincoln High School.
After graduation in 1930, Gregory Boyington attended the University of Washington ( Seattle ) and joined the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. Within this establishment, he began his military training as a member of the A.R.O.T.C. ( Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps ), and became a Cadet Captain. He was on the Husky wrestling and swimming teams, and for a time he held the Pacific Northwest Intercollegiate Middleweight Wrestling Title. He graduated in 1934 with a B.S. in Aeronautical Engineering. Gregory Boyington married Helen Clark, 17 years old, shortly after and worked as a draftsman and engineer for Boeing in Seattle.
In June 1934, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Coast Artillery Reserve, and then served two months of active duty with the 630th Coast Artillery at Fort Worden ( Washington ). In the spring of 1935, he applied for flight training under the Aviation Cadet Act, but he discovered that it excluded married men. Having grown up as Gregory Hallenbeck, he obtained a copy of his birth certificate, he learned that his father was actually Charles Boyington, a dentist, instead of Ellsworth J. Hallenbeck. His parents had divorced when he was an infant. Considered as " single " then, he enrolled as a U.S. Marine Corps Aviation Cadet using the name Boyington.
Here is the list of his subsequent assignments and appointments :
- Transferred to the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve ( June 13th, 1935 ).
- Returned to inactive duty ( July 16th, 1935 ).
- Appointed as an Aviation Cadet in the Marine Corps Reserve ( February 18th, 1936 ).
- Flight training, Naval Air Station, Pensacola ( Florida, United States ).
- Designated a Naval Aviator ( March 11th, 1937 ).
- Duty with Aircraft One, Fleet Marine Force, Quantico ( Virginia, United States ).
- Discharged from the Marine Corps Reserve ( July 1st, 1937 ).
- Commissioned Second Lieutenant in the regular Marine Corps ( July 2nd, 1937 ).
- The Basic School, Philadelphia ( Pennsylvania, United States, July 1938 - January 1939 ).
- Assigned to the 2nd Marine Aircraft Group, Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego ( California, United States ).
- Promoted to First Lieutenant ( November 4th, 1940 ).
- Instructor, Naval Air Station, Pensacola ( December 1940 ).
- Resigned his commission in the Marine Corps ( August 26th, 1941 ).
Following his resignation, Gregory Boyington accept a position with the Central Aircraft Manufacturing Company ( CAMCO ), a civilian firm that contracted to staff a Special Air Unit to defend China and the Burma Road against the Japanese : the American Volunteer Group ( A.V.G. ), well - known as the " Flying Tigers " ( equipped with the Curtiss P - 40 B Warhawk ). Gregory Boyington joined the unit and became a Flight Leader. Although he was frequently in trouble with the commander, Brigadier General Claire L. Chennault ( 1893 - 1958 ), he was officially credited with 2 aerial victories and 1.5 aircraft destroyed on the ground*.
In April 1942, he broke his contract with the A.V.G. and returned on his own to the United States. On September 29th, 1942, Gregory Boyington rejoined the Marine Corps and took a Major's commission. His military career continued in this way :
- Assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 11 of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing ( early 1943 ).
- Deployed to the South Pacific as Executive Officer of Marine Fighter Squadron 122 ( VMF - 122 ), operating from Guadalcanal ( until April 1943 ).
- C.O. of Marine Fighter Squadron 112 ( VMF - 112, July - August 1943 ).
- C.O. of Marine Fighter Squadron 214 ( VMF - 214 ), better known as the " Black Sheep Squadron " ( equipped with the Vought F4U Corsair, September 1943 ).
Nicknamed " Gramps ", then " Pappy " ( he was aged 31 ), Gregory Boyington managed to add many victories to his total. By December 28th, 1943, his record had climbed to 21 confirmed kills and 4 probables.
On January 3th, 1944, forty - eight American fighters, including four planes from the " Black Sheep Squadron ", were sent on a Sweep over Rabaul ( New Britain, Papua New Guinea ). Gregory Boyington shot down three enemy fighters before he was himself shot down. Declared missing in action ( M.I.A. ), he had been picked up by a Japanese submarine and became a prisoner of war ( P.O.W. ). He spent the rest of the war ( some 20 months ) in Japanese prison camps :
- Truk ( present - day Chuuk Lagoon, Chuuk State, Federated States of Micronesia ).
- Ōfuna Camp ( Kamamura, Japan ). Interned with the former Olympic distance runner, Second Lieutenant Louis Zamperini ( Bombardier, 1917 - 2014 ).
- Ōmori Prison Camp ( south of Shinagawa, Tokyo, Japan ). Selected for temporary promotion to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
- Liberated on August 29th, 1945.
Major Gregory Boyington returned to the United States at Naval Air Station Alameda ( California, September 12th, 1945 ). Shortly after his return, he accepted his temporary Lieutenant Colonel's commission, and was awarded the Navy Cross ( October 4th ) and the Medal of Honor ( October 5th ). Promoted to Colonel, he retired from the Marine Corps on August 1st, 1947.
As an author, Gregory Boyington wrote his autobiography, Baa Baa Black Sheep ( 1958 ), as well as a novel about the A.V.G. : Tonya ( a spy story ). Known from the mid - 1970s television show Baa Baa Black Sheep ( portrayed by Robert Conrad, 1935 - 2020 ), Gregory Boyington stated that the show was fiction and only slightly related to fact, calling it " hogwash and Hollywood hokum " ( rubbish and nonsense ).
Known as a tough, hard - living character, Gregory Boyington was married four times, and had four children. A heavy smoker for years, he died of cancer in Fresno ( California ), at the age of 75. Colonel Gregory Boyington was buried in Arlington National Cemetery ( Arlington County, Virginia ), on January 15th, 1988.
* A.V.G. records suggest that he may have been owed an additional ground " kill ". Gregory Boyington afterward claimed 6 victories as a " Tiger " ( each one detailed in his autobiography ), but there is no substantiation for that figure, and aircraft destroyed on the ground normally do not count as victories.
( sources : Wikipedia, Ciel de Gloire )