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 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 required 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, 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. At his decoration ceremony he was presented with the Medal of Honor by President Harry Truman.
Medal of Honor citation
His citation reads in full:
The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to
MAJOR GREGORY BOYINGTON
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS RESERVE
for service as set forth in the following CITATION:
:/S/FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT
Pappy Boyington Related
Footage on YouTube.com
Airport Renaming Ceremony
1976 Interview with
Pappy and Robert Conrad