The Black Sheep: The Definitive History of Marine Fighting Squadron 214 in World War II

Bruce Gamble, Author Presidio Press $28.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-89141-644-9
Only one U.S. air squadron has ever been featured in a network TV show: Marine Fighter Squadron 214, which, along with its commander, Major Gregory ""Pappy"" Boyington, became familiar through the 1970s series Baa, Baa, Black Sheep. The squadron completed two tours in the Solomon Islands and compiled a distinguished combat record before Boyington re-formed it in August 1943 in response to a temporary shortage of fighter squadrons in the Solomons. The new pilots, Gamble shows, were neither youngsters nor misfits as portrayed in Boyington's memoirs and the TV scripts. Gamble, a retired naval officer, describes the equipment, doctrine, operational conditions and personal relationships that shaped the squadron from its creation in 1942 through its Solomons experiences, to its recommissioning and assignment to the carrier Franklin. The war ended for the squadron when Franklin was crippled by a Japanese bomber in March 1945. According to Gamble, Boyington's achievements as squadron leader were substantial, if not as prodigious as he claimed. Boyington emerges here as an alcoholic egomaniac but also as a first-class pilot who earned the respect, though not always the admiration, of his men until he was shot down and captured in January 1944. A sensitive revision of a controversial legend, this book stands out as one of the best extant squadron histories and as a significant contribution to the literature on air power. 43 b&w photos and five maps. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/01/1998
Release date: 06/01/1998
Open Ebook - 330 pages - 978-0-307-41694-0
Paperback - 498 pages - 978-0-89141-711-8
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