On January 11, 1988 legendary Marine Corps pilot Gregory “Pappy” Boyington died at the age of 75. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his service during World War II.

Pappy Boyington saw his first experiences in combat as a fighter pilot with the Flying Tigers in China flying the P-40 Warhawk. The Flying Tigers was the nickname for the 1st American Volunteer Group, an all volunteer unit of pilots put in place by the US government to assist China in their fight against Japan. Boyington served in the Flying Tigers from late 1941 and some of 1942.

Watch Pappy Boyington After His Rescue from Japanese Prison Camp

After re-joining the Marine Corps, Pappy was deployed to the South Pacific. In September 1943 he was named Commanding Officer of Marine Fighter Squadron 214 better known as the ‘Black Sheep Squadron’. In 1976 NBC aired a television series called Baa Baa Black Sheep based on the exploits of Pappy Boyington and the Black Sheep Squadron. The show starred Robert Conrad as Pappy Boyington.

Watch the Opening of Baa Baa Black Sheep Television Show

Boyington earned the nickname ‘Gramps’ because at the age of 31 he was much older than most of the other fighter pilots. Later the nickname was changed to ‘Pappy’.

The Black Sheep Squadron amassed an impressive record of victories against the Japanese. Pappy Boyington was credited with 26 victories, until he was himself shot down over the Pacific and captured by the Japanese. He spent 20 months as a Prisoner of War, and was listed as Missing in Action for the duration of the war.

Upon his liberation from the prison camp at the end of the war, he returned stateside and was greeted as a hero.  He informed the Marines that on his final mission he downed two enemy aircraft, and his wingman downed one before he was too was shot down.  His wingman, Capt. George Ashmun was killed. – Pappy Boyington Biography

Pappy was credited with downing 26 enemy planes. Reports are that he had two more ‘air to air kills’ during his time with the Flying Tigers but those are not counted in his official Marine Corps records.

On January 3, 1944, he tied World War I ace Eddie Rickenbacker’s record of 26 enemy planes destroyed, before he was himself shot down. On that mission, forty-eight American fighters, including four planes from the Black Sheep Squadron, were sent on a sweep over Rabaul.

Boyington was tactical commander of the flight and arrived over the target at eight o’clock AM. He was seen to shoot down his 26th plane, but he then became mixed in the general melee of dogfighting planes and was not seen or heard from during the battle, nor did he return with his squadron. – Wikipedia

Official Portrait of US Marine Corps (USMC) Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Gregory “Pappy” Boyington taken at Marine Corps Headquarter, Washington D.C., October 5, 1945.

Watch Pappy on the Television Show ‘To Tell The Truth’

Featured Image via Wikimedia Commons