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Aces of Aviation

Chance Vought F4U-1A Corsair of Gregory M. Boyington

Chance Vought F4U-1A Corsair of Gregory M. Boyington

Chance Vought F4U-1A Corsair from the VMF-214 "Blacksheep" Squadron of the US Navy, commanded by Colonel Lieutenant Gregory M. Boyington, in September 1943.

Wingspan: 12.48 meters.

Length: 10.17 meters.

Height: 4.59 meters.

Engine[s]: Pratt and Whitney R-2800 of 2000 horsepower.

Maximum speed: 668 kilometers/hour.

Service ceiling: 11280 meters.

Range: 1633 kilometers.

Armament: Six Browning M2 12.7-millimeter machine guns.

Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, born in 1912 in Idaho, became the fighter pilot with the highest record of victories of the whole elite of the US Marine Corps, service which was entrusted to him prior to being twenty years old. He was one of the first "Flying Tigers" of the American Volunteer Group led by Chennault and in 1941 he destroyed his first six Japanese fighters over Burma and China, before returning to the Marine Corps in November 1942.

Since Boyington had been absent from regular service, a combat position was not immediately assigned to him, but he was embarked in route to the Solomon Islands as Operations Officer, and later the took the position of Commanding Officer of the VMF-222 Navy Fighter Squadron. Despite having carried out numerous escort missions, the squadron barely had any encounter with the enemy aviation, and after suffering the fracture of an ankle during a quarrel in a bar the exalted pilot found himself out of active service again.

In 1943, after having recovered from his injury and having asked repeated times a combat position, the 7th August Boyington achieved permission for forming the provisional unit VMF-214. In September, piloting the Vought F4U Corsair, the new squadron moved to Russell Island and from the very beginning it plunged in the crudest of the aerial battle. The 16th day, during a escort mission to Ballale, Boyington alone destroyed five Japanese fighters and during the following six weeks his record reached twenty enemy aircraft destroyed (including his victories with the American Volunteer Group).

After a brief rest season outside the theater of operations, the VMF-214 returned to the front in December. The 3rd January 1944, however, Boyington and his wingman were left for missing in action and several weeks passed without knowing that the chief of the squadron had been captured by the enemy. It was known also that in his last combat he had destroyed another two Japanese fighters.

Boyington returned to United States after escaping from the prisoner camp and was awarded the Medal of Honor and the Naval Cross. However, he had many personal problems after the war, before being able to fully recover from his alcoholism. His book "Baa Baa Black Sheep" was a best-seller and later he directed an homonymous television series. The VMF-214 "Blacksheep" is still an active Navy Squadron which pays honors to his first Commander-in-Chief.