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In this scene, battle-weary Corsairs and pilots of VMF-214’s “Black Sheep” cool down as its leader Gregory Boyington describes a successful mission. The Black Sheep became the stuff of legend in the Solomon Island campaign in late 1943.
Its famous, often controversial leader, “Pappy” Boyington, became a household name in America during this time. A former Flying Tiger, Boyington was given command of a pool of Marine pilots, some of whom were already blooded combat veterans, some of whom who had no combat experience at the point they entered VMF-214.
Under his informal and often brilliantly unorthodox leadership, Boyington led his Black Sheep to become undeniably the most famous Marine aviation unit in history. Believed to be killed in action, Boyington was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, only to surprise the world by emerging alive (and relatively well) from a Japanese POW camp after the war.
The Black Sheep became household names in America once again in the 1970s, when a popular TV program, starring Robert Conrad as Boyington, aired for several years, much to the chagrine of the original Black Sheep pilots. Most maintained that the show was “ridiculous”, but on a positive note, were glad that it once again brought some moments of fame to their group from their days in the South Pacific.
The painting Black Sheep Squadron was completed in 1998, and is in the collection of a private individual collector of Military paintings. The personnel depicted in the scene are as follows: (from left to right) Intelligence Officer Frank Walton, Flight Surgeon James Ream, Pilots Chris Magee, John Bolt, Boyington, Bruce Matheson and Ed Olander, at their base located on the island of Vella Lavella.