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Baa Baa Black Sheep (1977)

Baa Baa Black Sheep (1977)
Rating
3.96 of 5 Votes: 3
ISBN
0553263501 (ISBN13: 9780553263503)
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English
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bantam
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Baa Baa Black Sheep (1977)
Baa Baa Black Sheep (1977)

About book: Gregory “Pappy” Boyington is credited with destroying 28 Japanese aircraft during World War II, making him the top-scoring fighter ace for the USMC during the conflict (and tied in fourth place for American aces in any of the services). He commanded Marine Fighter Squadron 214, nicknamed “Black Sheep Squadron” because of its renegade, irregular exploits. He was held captive by Japanese forces for twenty months, albeit without official prisoner-of-war status. This book contains his memoirs, written twelve years after the war.I don’t think anybody would be surprised by the straight-talking, down-to-earth, tell-it-like-it-is tone of the book. I always had the impression that Boyington was sharing his opinions and thoughts very honestly. Of course, some of his thoughts on women or on the cultures that he encountered in South-East Asia are similarly unsurprising. However, there is no trace of racism in his description of the Japanese, and Boyington goes to some lengths to explain that there are good people and bad people to be found in every part of the world. I certainly hadn’t expected those views to come out:The years have taught me something I should have known in the beginning: never to generalize authoritatively about races or peoples. Even today some lecturers and some writers who should know better still do this sort of thing. They will imply such thoughts as: “All Russians are …” or “All Frenchmen are …” or “All Englishmen are …” or even “The Japanese are …” Whenever people ask me today about the Japanese, I rather suppose I am expected to hate them, all of them, and largely because of what was done to us captives there in the camp of Ofuna. I know I am expected to brand them as primitive and brutal and stupid. But we can find right here in the United States, almost in any city in the United States, almost in any city block in the United States, people who at heart are as primitive and as brutal and as stupid as those guards with all their baseball bats. All that this type person needs to assert himself is an opportunity. Maybe the opportunity of numbers, or maybe the opportunity of getting away with it. But such people are here, nevertheless. They are all around us.As an aviation enthusiast, I read Boyington’s memoirs primarily for his recollections of flying and of air combat. Actually, there’s precious little of that in the book. He doesn’t go into any great detail about the machines or how he flew them or fought in them; most of the book is more day-to-day than that. However, the relatively few descriptions of air conmbat are related vividly and enthusiastically. Tragically, Boyington’s battles with alcoholism during and after the war occupy more word count than his battles in the air.Nevertheless, even if he wasn’t telling the stories that I came to hear, I found myself charmed by Boyington. Even at his most dated, I found him like the stereotypical “embarrassing old uncle” and there certainly isn’t actual deliberate malice anywhere in here.

I've been told the TV show Baa, Baa Black Sheep was not very good. I don't know. When it was on, I was too busy enjoying it to notice.I think that may be the case here - one thing I can say for sure is that the book was not ghost written. God bless him, but the man was not a gifted writer. He was a gifted flyer and fighter. The book is probably not "good," but I enjoyed it too much to notice.And if you want to round out your vision of the myth with some facts, this book will help you. Flyers were in combat zones for short periods - 6 or 12 weeks or something. He did most of his flying in one half (the second half) of 1943, was shot down in the first days of 1944, and spent the rest of the war in a secret Japanese prison camp where they kept 'special prisoners' that they didn't tell the Red Cross about. Boyington was missing in action, presumed killed, until two weeks after the war ended.He also struggled with booze, and it's clear Alcoholics Anonymous philosophies directed his approach to life at the time he wrote the book.If you love Corsairs, and enjoyed the TV show, and thought it was so cool that the show had actual combat from the wing cameras, this book is pretty much a must-read. If you have an autographed picture of "Pappy" with his squadron because your uncle was in the Marines and served in the Pacific in WW II and knew him, then you already enjoyed this book. I have to bug my wife to let me hang up that picture.
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Reviews
Hanson Rosenquist
Once again the war memoir reigns supreme. History is written by the victors and in order to seek truth one must read many books and find the common elements; and read war memoirs. Most of these old soldier/authors are writing to remember and acknowledge the past and their old comrades, not to glorify themselves. That though is a problem with this book. In maintianing such a high level of humility, Greg Boyington omits important events that occured in his life. I actually learned more from internet searches than from this book, but it is a great history of the war and his time in a Japanese POW camp. An interesting note: Boyington graduated from UW and was stationed shortly at Fort Warden in Port Townsend.
John
This was an impulse buy. I saw the new Medal of Honor memorial at UW, which includes Boyington, and on my way past Magus Books saw the book in their window (along with several others that I bought).I watched the TV show "Baa Baa Black Sheep" as a kid and went through a phase where I read a lot about military aircraft. At age 9, I probably could rattle off the technical details of every WWII military plane, or close to it - American, Japanese, British, German, Italian. My favorite was the Vought F4 Corsair, featured in the book and the show. The gull-winged Corsair still is a favorite, with the P-38 and P-45 close behind.Boyington is more interesting in autobiography than he was on the television show. He comes across as a very flawed person who is aware of his flaws, and also someone who is aware of his strengths. I learned a number of new things about him, that weren't mentioned in the television show. The book is rough and vulgar and tough and determined and to the point, much like its author and subject, whose subject always has been himself. But he offers a little hope at the end, that he is, finally, changing for the better.
J.L. Day
I LOVED this book! He kept it "real" and never took liberties or did any grandstanding or painted himself in a grandiose light as many authors tend to do when telling their own stories. Irreverent and true-blue off the cuff styling, this man is exactly what I was expecting after so many years of watching reruns of the old televisions shows.The only thing they couldn't show on TB was his sense of duty, his courage and honor, the call of duty that compelled him and his unparalleled talent to take those birds up into the air and splash enemies like no one else. He was also a master with Intel and putting the pieces together and knowing what needed to be done, when it needed to be done and DID it even at times when it jeopardized his career.It has been years since I read this, but I still recall the sense of awe that it instilled in me and the respect it gave me for him and the men he flew with.
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