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Movie review: 'Pappy Boyington Field'

By Lance Cpl. Bryan G. Carfrey | | June 10, 2009

He had little trouble shooting down 28 Japanese aircraft, he had little problem leading his squadron to 97 confirmed kills over a three month period in 1943-1944, he had little issues with accepting a Medal of Honor and a Navy Cross,  but he had a hard time winning the hearts and minds from his hometown.

Col. Gregory “Pappy” Boyington was one of the most decorated and prestigious fighter pilots in the world during WWII.

Boyington, born and raised in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho, was awarded the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross for his actions in the Solomon Islands from Sept. 12, 1943, through Jan. 3, 1944, as commanding officer of, Marine Fighting Squadron 214.

The aerial battles going on over the Solomon Islands, a group of islands east of New Guinea, played a major role in the war in the pacific. The Japanese had seized control of much of the region and began fortifying the area with several naval and air bases. Boyington’s squadron played a big factor in taking back this region.

The story reached first time film maker and former Marine Kevin E. Gonzalez. In turn, he made the documentary “Pappy Boyington Field.”

The film documents the struggle of getting a local airport in Coeur D'Alene named after the war hero.  After all, he was awarded the Medal of Honor and a Navy Cross … should be a simple task right? Not so fast.

As the film shows, plenty of hurdles and resistance were in the path for the Marine Corps League’s Pappy Boyington Detachment, who led the charge in this mission.

The documentary opens with a segment entitled "War in the Pacific,” and has four vignettes of WWII Marines recounting their experiences; a Marine who was part of the landing force at Iwo Jima, a Marine who was injured during a Kamikaze plane attack, a Marine who was part of the Guadalcanal campaign, and a Marine who was captured by the Japanese and held in a prisoner of war camp for over three years.  The scene brings the audience immediately into the WWII era.

It consists of interviews with many former Marines from the WWII time frame as well as Boyington’s family members including his son, a retired colonel from the Air Force, and his grandson, currently serving in the Marine Corps.

The film also includes some good archived video from the war and an interview with actor Robert Conrad who played Boyington in a popular 1970’s television series titled “Baa Baa Black Sheep.” The television show was based on and named after Boyington’s best-selling book written in 1958.

The film documents some of Boyington’s struggles as well, like eventually being shot down and captured in January 1944 by the Japanese and being held as a prisoner of war for the duration of WWII.

It’s about half way through the 65-minute film the reasons for the hesitancy to name this airport after him is mentioned. To know these reasons watch the documentary.

The film is one in which all Marines should find time to watch. It’s an interesting story of a Marine Corps hero, rich in history and tradition.