Remembering an “Old Black Sheep”

By Guest Contributor December 6, 2016 10:34

pappy-boyington-autographRemembering an “Old Black Sheep”

By Bill Edwards

On October 23rd, 1976, I was shuffling papers on my desk in the headquarters of the California wing of the Civil Air Patrol, an auxiliary of the United States Air Force. I was the logistics officer for the wing, a lieutenant colonel, and was charged with the oversight of all CAP aircraft, vehicles, and equipment in the state of California.

The prime mission was to conduct search and rescue missions for lost aircraft and lost persons, usually in the Sierra Nevadas, in conjunction with local law officials in those areas.

From time to time I would accompany Major Boyington, the Air Force liaison officer to Edwards Air Force Base to look for vehicles and equipment which could be utilized in the wing by the CAP.

Major Boyington walked up to my desk and asked if I would like to have lunch with him and his dad, who was to meet us at the restaurant. I said, “Sure, which restaurant?”

He said, “The air terminal restaurant at the Fresno airport.” He had at his disposal a twin-engine Cessna aircraft furnished by the Air Force which we used when flying into Edwards AFB.

I had not made the connection till then that his dad was the famous “Pappy Boyington,” the Marine colonel whose memoirs included the popular TV show “Baa Baa Black Sheep” in 1976, starring the movie actor Robert Conrad.

I just happened to have a copy of his autobiography book in my bookcase, so I took it along. We had a very interesting lunch during which he graciously autographed my copy of his book.

Before Pearl Harbor, “Pappy” resigned his commission as a Marine fighter pilot so he could see some “live” action with China’s Flying Tigers led by Claire Chennault, who was fighting the Japanese invaders.

When the United States entered WWII with Japan, he reapplied for reinstatement with the Marine Corps, but found himself “disgraced” for leaving the Marines during a national emergency. He spent three months parking cars in Seattle and telegraphed the Under Secretary of the Navy, who reinstated him.

He was assigned to a squadron of Marine “misfits” in the South Pacific who were flying the Vought-Chance gull-winged “Corsairs,” instead of the Curtiss P-40s flown by the Flying Tigers. It was known as the Black Sheep Squadron.

He downed 28 enemy aircraft, winning the Navy Cross and the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was never popular with his naval officers due to his feisty nature. He was still a “feisty old black sheep.”

bill-edwards-photo-for-readers-journal-copyBill Edwards, 86, is a Tuolumne resident and pilot who has “walked away” from two airplane crashes, earning him the nickname “Crash”.

By Guest Contributor December 6, 2016 10:34
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