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


for service as set forth in the following CITATION:

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 12 September 1943 to 3 January 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 17 October 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.


Pappy Boyington Related
Footage on
Airport Renaming Ceremony
1976 Interview with
Pappy and Robert Conrad




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