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Pappy Boyington

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Episode No. 97: Pappy Boyington

Date: February 12, 2010

Notes:  A conversation with Kevin Gonzalez (USMC) on his film about Pappy Boyington.

About the Guest
Kevin Gonzalez served a four-year enlistment in the U. S. Marine Corps, and then graduated from the University of Southern California.  He is the writer, producer and director of Pappy Boyington Field: A Campaign to Honor a Hero.

About the Film

Kevin Gonzalez says of the film, “Strap into the cockpit for an inspirational story about duty, honor, and courage. “Pappy Boyington Field” tells the story of the grass-roots effort to honor a WWII Hero in the town of his birth.  For many years a controversy brewed over the proposal to add a commemorative name to an airfield in a small town in Idaho. The film follows members of the community who battled against the bureaucracy, and weaves in their stories during the campaign.  "Pappy" Boyington was born in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho in 1912, and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his exemplary service during WWII.  Personal insights into Pappy Boyington’s life are provided by his son Greg Boyington Jr., as well as actor Robert Conrad who portrayed Pappy in the television series “Baa Baa Black Sheep.” Aerial film footage of the vintage F4U Corsair is showcased, as well as Jet aircraft flown by today's Marine Corps fighter pilots.  Additionally, the music of The United States Marine Band “The President’s Own” is featured in the film.”

About Pappy Boyington

According to the website, “Gregory Boyington was born in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho on December 4, 1912.  He spent his childhood in the northern panhandle of Idaho, and eventually his mother moved to Tacoma, WA and later he graduated from Lincoln High School.  He attended the University of Washington, where he graduated with a B.S. in Aeronautical Engineering. He would then go on to work for the Boeing Company  as a draftsman and engineer.

He would eventually enter the U.S. Marine Corps, and after completion of the Officer Training he went on to flight training. He possessed natural abilities that distinguish him in the cockpit early on, but his lifestyle was not without controversy.

Boyington was offered a position with a group that would eventually become the American Volunteer Group (AVG), better known as the Flying Tigers. He resigned his commission in the Marine Corps and set off to China to fly against the Japanese.  At the outbreak of WWII, after making his way back from China, he managed to return to the Marine Corps with a Major’s commission. As he was already an experienced fighter pilot with victories against the Japanese, his skills were much needed in the war effort.  From Guadalcanal he would eventually assume command of a group of pilots who were not already assigned to a squadron, and they would go on to be known as the “Black Sheep Squadron”. Because he was older than the other pilots, they would call him “Gramps” and eventually that let to “Pappy” and it stuck. (He was 31 years old).

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.  The paperwork for his award of the Medal of Honor was already working through the system when he was shot down, it would be approved by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  With his status listed as missing and presumed dead, his award was held in the capitol until the end of the war.”

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