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  F4U-1A Corsair Bureau Number 17915 Code 915
"Black Sheep"

Pilot  Major Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, 5254 (POW, survived) Coeur d'Alene, ID
Crashed  January 3, 1944 at 8:45am

Aircraft History
Built by Vought. Delivered to the U.S. Navy (USN) as F4U-1A Corsair bureau number 17915. Fuselage code 915 (last three digits of the bureau number). Disassembled and shipped overseas to the South Pacific (SOPAC) and reassembled.

Wartime History
Assigned to the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) to Marine Air Group 11 (MAG-11), Marine Fighting Squadron 214 "Black Sheep" VMF-214. No known nickname or nose art.

Mission History
On January 3, 1944 at 6:30am took off from Torokina Airfield on Bougainville piloted by Major Gregory "Pappy" Boyington on a fighter sweep over Rabaul. Boyington was in tactical command of 46 fighters, including 8 F4Us from VMF-214, 12 F4Us from VMF-211 and 16 F6F from VF-33 flying from Ondonga Airfield. After take off, several planes aborted the mission due to mechanical failures, including three Corsairs from VMF-214.

Arriving over the target area at an altitude 20,000' to 24,000' the formation spotted a group of A6M Zeros and dove to intercept. Likely, this was 29 A6M Zeros from the 253 Kōkūtai. Also airborne were 27 A6M Zeros from 204 Kōkūtai that joined the dog fight.

During the combat, Boyington shot down a Zero from dead astern (his 20th victory) claiming it went down burning, and was confirmed by several other witnesses. Afterwards, Boyington's wingman F4U Corsair 02723 piloted by Captain George M. Ashmun was overwhelmed by attacking Zeros and lost.

Boyington then got the brunt of the Zero attacks and was hit by a 20mm cannon shell that exploded in the belly of his plane, wounded him in the leg, head, ear and forearm. Severely damaged, he leveled off over Saint Georges Channel, flew for a half mile until his fuel tank caught fire. At approximately 8;45am Boyington bailed out at low altitude with his parachute opening moments before he hit the water. When this aircraft failed to return, it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).

Fate of the Pilot
Boyington landed in Saint Georges Channel and floated for eight hour. Boyington was spotted and picked up by Japanese submarine I-181 then transported to Rabaul.

Prisoner of War
As a Prisoner Of War (POW), Boyington was interrogated at Imperial Japanese Navy Headquarters and suffered from festering wounds, beatings and malaria.

On February 15, 1944 Boyington and fifteen other Allied Prisoners Of War (POWs) were to be flown from Rabaul but the flight was aborted due to an air raid warning. On February 17, 1944 Boyington was one of six Allied prisoners transported aboard a G4M1 Betty bomber from Rabaul to Truk. That same day, transported aboard a L2D Tabby (DC-3) from Truk to Saipan then Iwo Jima and on March 7, 1944 arrived in Japan. Transported to Ofuna Camp near Yokohama where he was detained as a prisoner until the official surrender of Japan on August 15, 1945. On September 12, 1945 he was last reported at Tokyo POW Camp (Shinjuku) Tokyo Bay Area 35-140 then transported across the Pacific back to the United States arriving at Oakland.

Boyington passed away January 11, 1988. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery at section 7A, site 150.

Navy Serial Number Search Results - F4U-1A Corsair 17915
"17915 (VMF-214) shot down Jan 3, 1944 with Maj Gregory Boyington. Made POW."
USN Overseas Aircraft Loss List January 1944 - F4U 17915
NARA Records of World War II Prisoners of War - Gregory Boyington
Flying Aces "War Flyers In The Headlines" April 1944
Pacific Air Combat WWII (1993) by Henry Sakaida Chapter 13: The Man Who Did Not Shoot Down Pappy Boyington pages page 74-80
The Siege of Rabaul (1996) by Henry Sakaida page 20-21, 23-24, 93 (Rabaul's Military Prisoners - Boyington)
The Black Sheep (2000) pages 335 -- 341
Black Sheep One (2000) pages 306 - 317
FindAGrave - COL Gregory H. “Pappy” Boyington (photos, grave photo)

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Last Updated
November 30, 2022

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