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pacific, the island of new georgia had been seized from the japanese. munlda has a reputation for being a malaria hell hole. what was it like? >> miserable. >> terrible. >> did you get malaria? >> no. i got hepatitis. it was nice, because it was the first time i really saw those nurses, giving alcohol back rubs and all that stuff. >> at munda, the only females they saw were the insects and i will -- and liz sards. >> the welcoming committee arrived at 0100 in the form of a bombing raid. >> they would send bombers at night to drop bombs on the americans so they couldn't sleep. >> three times that evening alone. by 0400, the exhausted squadron was out on the flight line for another day's run.
ed harper earned himself the nickname the mole for his ability to dig into the side of his foxhole. he would soon learn another. >> the nickname was the sleeve. the sleeve was a target that the aerial planes pooled. >> boyington gave me that title after i got shot up the first time. >> it was october 17th. the black sheep were over the japanese air base. >> i was tailing charlie and i got off by myself. i found a zero down below me and started making runs on him. every time i got close to him, he would do a split s. what i didn't realize is all the way down he must have been hollering, because all of a sudden i had a lot of extra company. instead of being on the offense, i was suddenly on the defense trying to stay alive. after playing that game for a while, you dive out of the bottom of the cloud and go home. not a big deal, except i had
over 100 holes in my airplane when i got home. so i started the reputation of being a sleeve. >> eager to get his units some state side recognition, frank walton invited a newspaper reporter to interview boyington and the pilots. >> frank walton had a talent for sending out news presses to every squadron member's hometown. >> and why not? in their first month of combat, the black sheep were credited with 57 kills and 19 probables. and as their fame grew, so did the pressure on pappy to get more victories. >> and the press would be all around and jump up in the cockpit and so forth. you saw a mechanic when you came in and shut the engine down. >> by the end of the first tour,
spurred on by his competitive nature, he tried a new tactic. now instead of waiting for them to attack, he would fly over their bases opportunitying them to -- taunting them to attack over the radio. >> boyington got overhead, saw no aircraft and challenged the japanese to come on up and fight. >> it wasn't long before the enemy began talking and fighting back. >> they would call up in broken english and say, major boyington, what is your position? >> did he ever answer them sp >> yeah, he would say, come on, i'm right over you, come on up. >> you would go up to their airfield, circle around, the bastards come up and you start fighting. >> and as the black sheep moved ever closer to the japanese
strong hold of rabaul -- >> it's never a good thing to do your fighting over their air foeld, because if you're shot down, there's a poor chance of getting back. >> the japanese and military, the cold was kill or be killed. no mercy. if an american pilot bailed out, it was common for japanese pilots to come in and try to shoot him in the parachute. >> boyington continued to lead the black sheep on fighter sweeps. in mid october, a dispatch arrived from admiral halsey. it road, you are retired to stud, your steeplechase is over. the first combat tour had ended. the squadron packed up for sydney, australia. so october '43, first trip to australia, what is it like? >> australia? well, the girls were really nice to welcome us the way they did. >> they loved marines. >> yes, they did.
>> boyington and 19 new black sheep to train. pappy wanted to find a harder targeted. he suggested rabaul. >> he had the idea of taking corsairs and hell cats and going up and hitting the japanese as they were taking off. >> once again, it was his old friend nuts moore who gave him the go ahead. on december 17th, 1943, boyington led the first single engine fighter sweep. >> they had fire airfields there. they could put 60 airplanes in the air easily. when you were 30 miles away, you would see the dust come up and knew they were taking off.
>> the japanese forces had steadily been worn down, but the black sheep still faced more than 200 zero pilots who knew how to fight the marine corsairs. >> he was an experienced pilot. he would try to come in from behind and slightly above and he would shoot into the cockpit like this and kill the pilot. he said if you try to shoot them from straight back, the bullets would bounce off. >> the japanese really scored against the black sheep on that second tour. they had six pilots shot down on just two consecutive flights. >> the black sheep were scoring, too. with 24 kills to his credit, boyington was just two away from the all-time record, jointly held by joe faus and eddie rickenbacker. >> he was getting a lot of pressure to break a record. he was pretty uptight. >> where was that pressure coming from?
from himself or from the press? >> a lot of press meeting him after every flight asking him what happened and how did it go? >> on december 23rd, 1943, after knocking down four zeros in a single day, press microphones were waiting for boyington as he taxied to a stop. >> did any japanese planes come out to fight you today? >> yes, a number of planes came up and we entangled all that we could in dogfights. i saw eight other planes destroyed besides the four i destroyed myself. >> the next night at a christmas eve party, he made a startling prediction. >> he said don't worry about me, they can't kill me. he said if you ever see me with 30 zeros on my tail, i'll be all right. i'll meet you six months after the war in a bar in san diego
and we'll all have a drink for old time's sake. >> ten days later, major boyington would be shut down in a running gun battle. but he didn't go quietly. before he disappeared, he was seen shooting down another zero, his 26th. he tied the record for aerial victories, but what about that promise to meet his fellow pilot promise to meet his fellow pilot
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♪let me always be with you ♪come let me love you ♪come love me again on january 3rd, 1944, pappy boyington disappeared while leading a fighter sweep over rabaul. either of you flying with him when he was shot down? >> no. when he didn't come home, we asked to go on a search party and they wouldn't let us. the following morning, they let
four of us to look for him. >> but he wasn't found. they had no idea where to look. >> boyington's disappearance created a press frenzy. "the new york times" even reported that boyington was alive on an island hidden by natives and waiting to rejoin the squadron. all of the stories proved to be untrue. what was the effect on the squadron when he got shot down? >> we had been shot up pretty badly by that point. so we were getting a bit ragged on morale. >> the reaction was, if somebody like boyington could be shot down, it affected how the rest of them felt about their own mortality. it was really at the end of the combat tour any way. only three days later, their tour was done. >> the black sheep squadron was disbanded in march of '44, its fearless leader was still missing. >> they were together for just four months, from september the
12th, 1943 to january the 6th of 1944. they did accomplish a lot during a short period of time. >> we had no idea we were going to set records. we were going to do pretty good, we thought and we were having reasonable success, but we didn't expect the attention we received along the way. >> the tight knit unit soon scattered. with the tours over, some went back to the states. for others like bolt and harper, there was still lots of fighting to be done in the south pacific. >> i was shot on my last mission on the last day before the squadron returned to the states. and it was over rabaul. a bullet came in the side of the canopy. >> he yelled, "i'm hit," and we pulled off the target and started taking it back. we couldn't see the round that had hit him. >> it went through my lungs, hit my spine and paralyzed my legs
and screwed me up thoroughly. >> his back muscle was shot away. you could put your fist through the hole in his back. he was grounded for three, four years. >> ed harper recovered and went on to a distinguished military career, retiring as a colonel in 1969, and then worked for mcdonald aircraft in st. louis. but he never thought what pappy taught him during those 12 weeks in the south pacific. >> he made young fighter pilots brave. he made me feel aggressive. he gave me confidence. he was an honest-to-god leader. >> john bolt would go on to achieve the extraordinary feat to become an ace in world war ii and korea. in april of '44, president roosevelt awarded pappy boyington the medal of honor. in the summer of '45, pappy was once again front page news. that's next on "war stories."
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august 1945. two atomic bombs on japan bring an end to the war in the pacific. but for thousands of half starved and tortured allied prisoners, the long road to recovery was just beginning. >> the japanese were very, very severe with the captured enemy airmen. they would frequently get beaten during interrogation. they were medically neglected. >> among the gaunt and drawn faces of the released captives, one healthy example stood out. greg "pappy" boyington.
>> no one knew that he hadn't been killed until the end of the war. >> it was like the prodigal son. he was thought to be lost and dead. >> released from the japanese prison camp on august 29th, 1945, boyington had not only survived, he managed to thrive during his 19 months in captivity. >> probably made him more of a hero to be found alive in this p.o.w. camp. >> promoted to lieutenant colonel, he made his way to san francisco on 12 september 1945. >> the press came out in droves and the black sheep were all there to hoist him up on their shoulders and carry him triumphantly into the terminal. >> welcome home after liberation from jap captivity. pilots he commanded hail ace pappy boyington. >> i was shot down between rabaul and new ireland over the st. george channel.
i was about 200 feet over the water when my main gas tank blew up. >> the evidence shows that he ditched. that it wasn't a big fire in his fuel tank. a fiery crash is always a lot more dramatic than just plain ditching. >> he was picked up by the japanese submarine 181, and he was brought into rabaul, and he was interrogated by a japanese-american from hawaii named edward honda. the guy spoke perfect english, knew all the american lingo. >> i didn't realize a man could be hit with a baseball bat so many times, being swung with all a man's might. >> it wasn't honda that did it. eddie honda wanted out of rabaul and pappy and a few other prisoners were going to be his ticket home. >> eddie honda told his
superiors, major boyington and some of these guys have very important and valuable military information and they have to be sent to tokyo for further interrogation. had major boyington not gotten out of rabaul, he would have been executed. >> during the trek to tokyo, he was saved again. while being strafed, honda let his captives run for cover. >> he pushed them out as they were being strafed and threw them into a trench. >> boyington managed to make the most of his situation. >> they gave him a job working in the kitchen and he gained weight. i think he's got to be the only allied prisoner to ever gain weight at a camp, because he was able to steal food and so forth. >> aa month after his return, president truman officially presented his medal of honor. despite the lack of evidence
substantiating his claims of shooting down two cleans, the marine corps declared him their all-time leading ace and put him on a national war bond tour. >> it was bad for him personally, because he just couldn't cope with that sort offagelation. >> greg boyington told me they expected me to be the swaggering hero that they read about. if that's what they wanted to see, i acted the part as pappy boyington, the swash buckling hero. >> everywhere he went, somebody was sticking a bourbon and coke in his face and encouraging him to go back to his ways. >> and he did. within two years, his bad habits ended his military career. >> he again became just too big of a liability because of his drinking problem. and they found a way to more or less railroad him out of the service. he was retired with a medical disability in 1947. after that, he couldn't hold a
job for more than a few weeks or months at a time. >> despite penning his autobiography in 1958, pappy was on a somingly endless downward spiral. >> he bounced from one job to another. he was on wife two at this point in time. he w he worked as a wrestling referee. he works for a brewery of all things. >> greg was this incredible hero that had a screw loose. there was no quit in him at all, zero. >> life in obscurity ended for boyington in 1976, when a hollywood producer launched the television program "ba ba black sheep." >> we were in the vain of fiction. it was not like anything that was going down in the south pacific. all of the characters in the show were characters that i
created. >> to lend it realism, pappy boyington was hired as a consultant. it ran for two years. >> anything accurate about it? >> yes. three things. the squadron designation was 214. the commanding officer was greg boyington. and the airplane was a corsair. we never saw nurses. i didn't run around in starch khaki, did you? >> no. >> henry stayed in the marines until he retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1961. for 18 years he started navigational systems. >> i'm proud of the time i put in the corps. >> alan retired in 1966 as a marine colonel. tom emrick would go on as a 30-year pilot for twa. and the black sheep squadron would take its rightful place in marine aviation history. was there something unique about this guy that made this squadron
special? >> he was the right guy at the right time. we were at the right place at the right time and we all felt that we were very lucky to be in a squadron by boyington. >> on 11 january, 1988, at the edge of 75, pappy boyington died of cancer at a hospice in fresno, california. he credited his fourth wife josephine with helping him win his battle with the bottle. his battle with the bottle. for the last few years of his
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achievement was the effect they had on a war weary nation, hungry for good news, the black sheep provided a steady stream of it. theirs is a war story that deserves to be told. i'm oliver north. good night. >> tonight on war stories investigates -- >> we awoke to this war on 9/11. but the roots of this jihad runs deeper than most realize. >> we represent everything they hate. >> they can watch "american idol" at night and the next morning there is suicides going. >> that's next on war stories investigates, jihad.