On January 11, 1988, Colonel Gregory "Pappy" Boyington passes away at the age of 75. Born in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, Boyington attended the University of Washington where he was a member of the Army ROTC. While he was later commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Army Coastal Artillery, Boyington later transferred to the US Marine Corps where he would become an aviator and a promotion to 1st Lt. He resigned his USMC commission in August of 1941 to serve with the American Volunteer Group (AVG), the famed Flying Tigers fighting the Japanese in China. It was during this time that Boyington received his first combat experience with at least two confirmed kills with a further 1.5 aircraft destroyed on the ground; however, he left the AVG a few months after the Japanese attack on Pearly Harbor in order to rejoin the Marine Corps and was soon deployed to the South Pacific as the Executive Officer for VMF-112. In September 1943, Boyington was given command of VMF-214, "Black Sheep Squadron." It was during this time that Boyington, flying the Vought F4U Corsair fighter, rose to prominence for his victories against enemy pilots and his bold actions as leader of his fighter squadron.
Shortly after downing his 26th aircraft while engaging in combat over Rabaul, Boyington was shot down and was taken prisoner by a Japanese submarine on January 3, 1944. He was then bounced around between prisoner of war (POW) camps across the Pacific an Japan before being interned at Ōmori Prison Camp near Tokyo, Japan, where he would spend the rest of the war. He was liberated from the camp on August 29, 1944, and finally returned to the United States on September 12. Boyington remained with the USMC until his retirement in 1947, at which point he was promoted to the rank of colonel in recognition of his service. Col. Gregory "Pappy" Boyington also received several awards & decorations for his service, including the Purple Star, the Navy Cross, and the Medal of Honor. The following is the citation for Boyington's Medal of Honor:
"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."