American Valor Quarterly Issue 3 - Summer 2008 - Page 14

Australia – stole the number, really, as I found out after the war, and many people were very bitter about that. Boyington was placed in charge as the commander, and we went into combat as VMF-214, nicknamed Black Sheep. We were still bastards because we had no ground echelon. We had no ground troops of our own because there weren’t any for us. So we were forced during our two combat tours to kind of prevail on whoever was around to help us with such things as refueling, rearming, repair, that sort of thing. So we went through our entire two tours as a kind of a bastard outfit. Pell: Where were you permanently based? You had to have a place to park your planes. “Pappy” Boyington speaks with other Marines of VMF-214. With 97 confirmed air-to-air kills and eight fighter “aces,” the Black Sheep became one of the most recognizable air units of World War II, earning the Presidential Unit Citation. Years later, the squadron would be portrayed in the television series Baa Baa Black Sheep (later syndicated under the name Black Sheep Squadron) with Robert Conrad playing Boyington. BG Matheson: We were permanently based on some of the forward airstrips. For instance, when we started out combat, we started at a little island called the Russells, which is north of Guadalcanal. We flew strikes from there, up north into the Solomons. Then when Munda was captured by the Americans, they completed the airfield that the Japanese had started and made it usable, and we flew from Munda Air Strip for the balance of our six-week tour. By the time we returned from our first R&R in Sydney, BG Matheson: I came into the squadron pretty much like we came back to the New Hebrides to reform, retrain, and everybody else, as one of a large replacement pool. It really was absorb new pilots for replacements for the people we lost. That comprised of two sorts of folks – folks like me, brand new 2nd made the squadron a little bit bigger. The next permanent base, as you might call it, for six weeks was a place called Vella Lavella Lieutenants literally just off the boat who had never seen combat, and a group of people who had one or two or more combat tours behind them and were looking to fly a third tour. The requirement out there was three combat tours and then you went home. So we were in this replacement pool which was in the past used to feed pilots into the squadrons as the need arose, either as people got sick, shot down, killed, wounded, whatever. The time we arrived out there, however, there was sort of a lull in the war, and we didn’t need many replacements, so this pool built up until eventually we had 20 or 30 people built up. At the same time, the war looked to be gaining momentum in that they intended to invade Bougainville. So the call went out to see what we could do to strengthen our forces. The obvious solution to the generals in charge was, “Why don’t we do something with these replacement VMF-214 continued to serve beyond World War II, becoming the first Marine squadron to see action during the Korean War in which they participated in the Inchon landing pilots? Rather than dribble them out one at a time, and the withdrawal from Chosin Reservoir. maybe we could form them into a squadron.” And this was done. In 1957, VMF was redesignated VMA (for “attack” as opposed to “fighter”). VMA-214 We took the squadron number “214” from a squadron which at the time was on R&R in Sydney, was deployed to Vietnam, and continues on today, having been twice deployed to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Pictured above are AV-8Bs of VMA-214 stationed aboard the USS Peleliu in 2005. AMERICAN VALOR QUARTERLY - Summer 2008 - 14