A World War II fighter ace and Medal of Honor recipient, Col. "Pappy" Boyington (1912-1988) shot down a total of 28 Japanese aircraft during his wartime service. Initially in Army ROTC, he joined the Marine Corps in 1935. In August 1941, however, he resigned his Marine commission in order to join the Flying Tigers (1st American Volunteer Group), organized by Gen. Claire Chennault to assist the Chinese Air Force. Boyington rejoined the Marines in 1942 and commanded the "Black Sheep" squadron (Marine Fighting Squadron 214) in the South Pacific. On January 3, 1944, he was shot down, captured and then held in a Japanese prison camp for 20 months. Boyington's 1958 memoir, "Baa Baa Black Sheep," inspired the 1970s television series of the same name.
Medal of Honor citation:
"For extraordinary heroism and valiant devotion to duty as commanding officer of Marine Fighting Squadron 214 in action against enemy Japanese forces in the Central Solomons area from 12 September 1943 to 3 January 1944. Consistently outnumbered throughout successive hazardous flights over heavily defended hostile territory, Maj. 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, Maj. Boyington led a formation of 24 fighters over Kahili on 17 October and, persistently circling the airdrome where 60 hostile aircraft were grounded, boldly challenged the Japanese to send up planes. Under his brilliant command, our fighters shot down 20 enemy craft in the ensuing action without the loss of a single ship. A superb airman and determined fighter against overwhelming odds, Maj. 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."