Synopses & Reviews
From a humble beginning in mid-1942, VMF-214 became the most famous U.S. fighter squadron of World War II. The pilots’ reputation grew as they transitioned from flying Wildcats to the iconic gull-winged Corsairs and became the Swashbucklers, going head-to-head with the skilled pilots of the Imperial Japanese Navy during the early days of the Solomon Islands campaign. The squadron’s fame really took off when Maj. Gregory Boyington, a hard-drinking former Flying Tiger, formed an all-new unit from a group of hand-picked pilots. They chose a new nickname: the Black Sheep. During two combat tours spanning eighty-four days, the Black Sheep established a blistering record against the tenacious Japanese—first in the skies over the fabled islands of New Georgia and Bougainville, and later over the stronghold of Rabaul, New Britain. Tangling in dogfights that sometimes involved as many as two hundred planes, the Black Sheep were officially credited with ninety-seven aerial victories and another thirty-five enemy planes probably destroyed. No fewer than nine Black Sheep became aces, including Greg Boyington, who earned a Medal of Honor on his way to becoming the Marine Corps’ top gun. Black Sheep expert Bruce Gamble draws on years of research and personal interviews with VMF-214 veterans for Swashbucklers and Black Sheep, as well as wartime diaries, reports, and photographs, including rare color shots of the squadron. Dramatic paintings, some specially commissioned for this book, capture the squadron in action in the air and their camaraderie on the ground. Swashbucklers and Black Sheep also provides an overview of the squadron’s post–World War II service, from Korea to Vietnam to numerous deployments in the Middle East, making this the definitive illustrated history of the squadron.
"When we're still learning things about the Civil War 150 years later, it should be little surprise to find new material from World War II. But Bruce Gamble's fabulous treatment of the Black Sheep sets a new standard for 'above and beyond' his previous definitive treatments of VMF-214. Combining insightful text with a fabulous collection of photos and high-quality art, this book raises the bar in a field that routinely sees new material and fresh interpretations. An absolute treasure." - Barrett Tillman, author of Enterprise:America’s Fightingest Ship and the Men Who Helped Win World War
"...a magnificent account of the most famous U.S. Marine squadron of the second world war. It is a delight to own, to look at, and (best of all) to read. And since Gamble is first of all an author, the text isn’t just an afterthought, it’s a well-written history of VMF-214, both before and after the squadron became famous." - Smithsonian Air and Space magazine"... a comprehensive illustrated history of the squadron..." - Pacific Flyer
"This is an excellent book appropriately produced during the Marine Corps Aviation Centennial. The photographs and text pay tribute to a proud squadron, its history and to the men who served in it since 1942. This is a book Marine Corp fans will enjoy." - Tailhook Association Magazine The Hook
Swashbucklers and Black Sheep is a comprehensive illustrated history of Marine Fighting Squadron 214 from its formation to their second commander, Greg “Pappy” Boyington, and service beyond World War II.
Swashbucklers and Black Sheep is a comprehensive illustrated history of the squadron from its formation and first two combat tours on Guadalcanal as the Swashbucklers, which included their transition to the iconic gull-winged Corsair, to the arrival of their second commander, Pappy Boyington, after which they became the Black Sheep. The squadron’s combat over Bougainville and Rabaul and the story of Boyington being shot down are covered, as are the squadron’s exploits in the latter part of the war (while Boyington was a POW), which culminated in the heavy losses suffered aboard the carrier USS Franklin. The squadron’s service in Korea, Vietnam, and the Global War on Terror complete the storied history of VMF 214.
The Black Sheep pilots under Greg “Pappy” Boyington were America’s most famous fighter squadron of World War II. The press paid close attention to them in 1943 as Boyington vied for the existing record of twenty-six aerial victories. On the same day he tied the record, Boyington was shot down and spent the rest of the war as a prisoner of the Japanese. The Boyington era was later popularized by the television series Baa Baa Black Sheep
. Although Boyington himself served as an advisor, the show was entertainment, not history. Nevertheless, it brought wider attention to Boyington and the squadron, introducing new generations to their exploits in the South Pacific. But there was more to the Black Sheep than their record under Pappy Boyington. The squadron’s reputation was already growing before his arrival, when they were the Swashbucklers. After Boyington was lost, the squadron was assigned to the carrier Franklin
and endured its tragic bombing near Japan. Swashbucklers and Black Sheep
provides the first-ever pictorial record of these fighting Marines, with spectacular photos, full-color aircraft profiles, and fine art from several of America’s top aviation studios. It also includes a tribute to the squadron’s combat history from the Korean War to the present day.
“A stunning portrait of incredibly courageous men and their awesome flying machines.”—Alex Kershaw, author of The Few
Marine Fighting Squadron (VMF) 214 is the world’s most famous fighter squadron. Its second wartime squadron commander was the legendary Greg “Pappy” Boyington. Boyington and the squadron were the loose inspiration for the late-seventies NBC television series Baa Baa Black Sheep
, which was later syndicated under the name Black Sheep Squadron
. Swashbucklers and Black Sheep
is a comprehensive illustrated history of the squadron from its formation and first two combat tours on Guadalcanal as the Swashbucklers, which included their transition to the iconic gull-winged Corsair, to the arrival of their second commander, Pappy Boyington, after which they became the Black Sheep. The squadron’s combat over Bougainville and Rabaul and the story of Boyington being shot down are covered, as are the squadron’s exploits in the latter part of the war (while Boyington was a POW), which culminated in the heavy losses suffered aboard the carrier USS Franklin.
The squadron’s service in Korea, Vietnam, and the Global War on Terror complete the storied history of VMF 214. In addition to a rich collection of historical photography, Swashbucklers and Black Sheep
features combat aviation artwork from four of America’s top aviation artists: John Shaw, Jim Laurier, Craig Kodera, and Bob Rasmussen.
About the Author
Since the publication of his first book in 1998, Bruce Gamble (Lynn Haven, FL) has rapidly gained recognition as one of the most respected authors writing on the war in the Pacific. His narrative style and depth of research have earned critical acclaim in such publications that include Publishers Weekly and Booklist. In addition to writing popular history books, Gamble has given numerous public presentations and has been the featured historian in documentaries produced by the History Channel, Fox News Channel, PBS, and the Pritzker Military Library. The winner of two literary awards in 2010, Bruce is a member of the Authors Guild and holds life memberships in the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation and Paralyzed Veterans of America. He is the author of The Black Sheep and Black Sheep One (both from Presidio Press) as well as Zenith Press titles Swashbucklers and Black Sheep, Invasion Rabaul (originally published as Darkest Hour), Fortress Rabaul, and Target: Rabaul.
Table of Contents
IntroductionAcknowledgments Chapter 1: Out of the Ashes Chapter 2: On Hallowed Ground Chapter 3: Bent-Wing Birds Chapter 4: The Swashbucklers at Munda Chapter 5: Legends in Waiting Chapter 6: Gunfights Over Bougainville Chapter 7: Sojourn Chapter 8: Slugfest Over Rabaul Chapter 9: New Sheep Chapter 10: Big Ben Chapter 11: The Legacy of Heroes AppendicesBibliographyIndex