Jack Carr’s take on Gregory ‘Pappy’ Boyington, born on this day, Dec. 4, 1912: ‘Larger-than-life hero to me’

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Gregory “Pappy” Boyington was born on this day, Dec. 4, 1912.  

He was, and remains, a larger-than-life hero to me. 

“Pappy” Boyington was a fighter. 

A Marine Corps aviator, he resigned his commission to join the American Volunteer Group, flying the P-40 Warhawk under Claire Lee Chennault out of Burma and China with the Flying Tigers in 1941 and 1942 against Imperial Japan.  

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He then returned to the United States Marine Corps as a major to command the Black Sheep Squadron in the Pacific Theater.  

Officially VMF-214, they flew the F4U Corsair, the same plane as my grandfather. 

Their original squadron name of “Boyington’s Bastards” was denied, but a savvy public affairs officer suggested that “Black Sheep” had a similar meaning. 

The Black Sheep would go on to destroy 203 Japanese planes with 97 air-to-air kills.  

Nine of the pilots would become aces, including Greg Boyington.  

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He was shot down on Jan. 3, 1944, after downing his 26th Japanese plane. 

He was captured by the crew of a Japanese submarine and spent the next 20 months in POW camps.  

Gregory (Pappy) Boyington

Upon his release at the end of the war, a party was thrown in his honor at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. 

I have read that Life Magazine covered the celebration and it was the first time they ever published photos of people drinking alcohol. 

It’s entirely fitting that Pappy Boyington broke the mold. 

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One of my favorite stories about Boyington is that during his time in captivity, his health actually improved because he couldn’t drink. 

He was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Harry Truman in 1945. 

Jack Carr in 2 closeup shots

I was able to meet him shortly before his death. 

He signed his book, “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” for me at an air show and I told him about my grandfather who didn’t make it home.  

The encounter is seared in my memory.   

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Less than a year later, I would cut his obituary from the paper and pin it to the wall of my room.  

He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, close to legendary boxer Joe Lewis.  

Wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery

It is rumored that at his funeral, a friend looked at the boxer’s headstone and remarked, “Ol’ Pappy wouldn’t have to go far to find a good fight.”

(Follow Jack Carr on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/jackcarrusa.)

More about Gregory ‘Pappy’ Boyington

Born in Idaho, Boyington moved with his family to the logging town of St. Maries at age three.

He lived there until age 12, according to the Associated Press.

He was partly of Brulé Sioux descent.

Boyington began his military training in college as a member of the Army ROTC and became a cadet captain.

Boyington wrote his autobiography, “Baa Baa, Black Sheep,” published in 1958.

Following the receipt of his Medal of Honor and Navy Cross, Boyington made a Victory Bond tour, the U.S. Marine Corps reported. 

He retired from the Marine Corps on Aug. 1, 1947 — and because he was specially commended for the performance of duty in actual combat, he was promoted to colonel.

Boyington wrote his autobiography, “Baa Baa, Black Sheep,” published in 1958.

He also wrote a novel about the American Volunteer Group, “Tonya,” a spy story with characters based on real individuals.

Boyington passed away at age 75 in January 1988. 

Fox News Digital staff contributed reporting.

For more Lifestyle articles, visit www.foxnews.com/lifestyle.



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