26 August 2009

58. Baa Baa Black Sheep

Baa Baa Black Sheep - Gregory "Pappy" Boyington

This is the autobiography of a Medal of Honor recipient, the Commanding Officer of the Black Sheep Squadron (VMA-214), a member of the Flying Tigers and a World War II ace fighter pilot.

I knew a little bit about this man due to the old 1970's television show starring Robert Conrad. That was about all I had to reference concerning the life of this man. I had heard the television show was based on this book. It probably was, but I would consider it a pretty loose interpretation of actual events. Typical Hollywood.

The book on the other hand went into so much more than a misfit squadron of fighter pilots lead by a hard-nosed Marine Major.

This book told of his days with the Flying Tigers as a member of the AVG (American Volunteer Group) in Burma and China. This was before the attack on Pearl Harbor. This group was made up of "civilians". They were actually military men who had "resigned commissions" to take part in the group. It was pretty interesting to learn of this group. I had heard the name and seen the aircraft. They are the ones with the shark teeth painted on the nose. I had no idea what the real deal was. It was fascinating.

From there it lead to the Black Sheep Squadron in the Solomon Islands in the Pacific and the fight against the Japanese. This was also very interesting, but not for the reasons I expected. I thought there would be a lot more of the defiance of authority and doing things outside of regulations. What I found was more of a man that was on the fringe of cracking up due to his admitted alcoholism. He was a problem child...who had an awesome talent to fly a fighter plane and to lead other people.

What I did not know was that Pappy Boyington was shot down and ended up a POW for almost two years. During this time he was pronounced dead and was buried. Our country was not informed of his being alive or in captivity. He was not classified as a POW, but as a "captive". Semantics can make a HUGE difference. POWs were treated better.

I really enjoyed reading this man's story. Don't go reading it for the prose. He is not a literary genius by any means, but the events that are taking place and the insights of a man who has been there are worth the read.

No comments:

Post a Comment