Monday, October 17, 2011

TFH 10/17: Major Gregory Boyington, USMCR

Gregory Boyington was born on December 12, 1912 in Coeur d'Alene, ID. In 1930 he began studies at the University of Washington, graduating in 1934 with a degree in aeronautical engineering and went to work for Boeing. His military service began through ROTC while in college. In 1936, he volunteered for the United States Marine Corps aviation cadet program, received a commission, and served until August of 1941.

Boyington's service to the battle against tyranny began before the USA's entry into World War II. His resignation from the Marine Corps was so that he could join the American Volunteer Group, also known as the "Flying Tigers". He flew many missions in Curtiss P-40 Warhawk fighters, and was credited with at least 3.5 kills of Japanese aircraft over mainland China.

Upon returning to the United States in 1942, he reentered the Marine Corps and was assigned with the rank of Major to VMF-121 at Guadalcanal. He was then posted as the commander of VMF-214, the "Black Sheep" squadron flying the Vought F4U Corsair.

From September 1943 to January 1944 as the VMF-214 commander, he was credited with shooting down 26 enemy aircraft. His leadership and skill in combat earned him our Nation's second-highest honor, the Navy Cross.

On October 17, 1943 he led a mission against Kahili in the Solomon Islands that contributed to his recognition with our Nation's highest honor. From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II:


Rank and organization: Major, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Marine Squadron 214. Place and date: Central Solomons area, from 12 September 1943 to 3 January 1944. Entered service at: Washington. Born: 4 December 1912, Coeur D'Alene, Idaho. Other Navy award: Navy Cross. Citation: For extraordinary heroism and valiant devotion to duty as commanding officer of Marine Fighting Squadron 214 in action against enemy Japanese forces in the Central Solomons area from 12 September 1943 to 3 January 1944. Consistently outnumbered throughout successive hazardous flights over heavily defended hostile territory, Maj. 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, Maj. Boyington led a formation of 24 fighters over Kahili on 17 October and, persistently circling the airdrome where 60 hostile aircraft were grounded, boldly challenged the Japanese to send up planes. Under his brilliant command, our fighters shot down 20 enemy craft in the ensuing action without the loss of a single ship. A superb airman and determined fighter against overwhelming odds, Maj. 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 January 3, 1944 he was shot down and listed as missing in action. The Japanese captured Major Boyington, and he was liberated from a Japanese POW camp near Tokyo on August 29, 1945.

While in captivity, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. Upon retirement from the Marine Corps on August 1, 1947 he was promoted to full Colonel as a final recognition for his wartime heroics.

The 1970's TV Series Baa Baa Black Sheep, dramatizing the exploits of Boyington and his VMF-214 "Black Sheep" comrades, was created from his memoirs. He passed away on January 11, 1988 and rests in Arlington National Cemetery. The airport in Coeur d'Alene, ID is named for him, and he is also honored on the University of Washington's monument to their six alumni who have received the Medal of Honor.

To him, and to all others who have fought for liberty over tyranny on land, sea, and air, we are forever grateful for their service and sacrifices.

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