A totally enthralling and often brutally candid account by one who was there.
Gregory "Pappy" Boyington is a legend of World War 2 aviation. He personally shot down 28 Japanese planes and won the Congressional Medal of Honour and the Navy Cross.
First published in 1958, this book describes his time in China with the Flying Tigers under General Claire Chennault, then later in the Pacific with his "Black Sheep" squadron. Particularly of interest to me was the frank portrayal of his own character defects, his alcoholism being something he dealt with long after the war was over.
" My definition of bravery is when a person does what he honestly believes is the best thing for him to do at any particular time... little wonder then, that so many true acts of bravery go unheralded, while the spectacular or daredevil antics are played up.
The majority of pilots (lost) in the war were not shot down by the enemy, they were killed in operational accidents, in taking off.... in getting lost in the fog...
I mentioned once before how I liked to sleep.... ( in the tropics) .. during these missions into enemy territory I used to envy the bomber pilots, who had automatic pilots in their plane... so ... I would take along rubber bands and bits of string, and I would rig these up on the instrument panel... and have them all fixed up so that I could sleep most of the way.... I would loosen my safety belt ... and doze off.
I don't know what happened to my plane at the time. Evidently my craft didn't hit the Nip's engine when his plane flew apart. But I did have dents all over the engine cowling and leading edges of my wings...
With this unorthodox procedure Moe and I were finally separated... certainly this wasn't the procedure we followed in the 3 week training course.!
" - Gregory "Pappy" Boyington