Today in History, January 3, 1944:
Moments after he became the top fighter ace in the Pacific Theater by shooting down his 26th enemy plane, USMC Major Gregory “Pappy” Boyington was himself shot down over the Japanese base of Rabaul.
He would be captured by the Japanese and held prisoner, brutally treated until rescued from a Japanese prisoner of war camp.
Boyington had been one of the American servicemen to resign their commissions to serve in the AVG, the American Volunteer Group, or “Flying Tigers” in China prior to America’s entry into the war. After Pearl Harbor he rejoined the Marines and fought in the Pacific.
Boyington was a Medal of Honor recipient. A warrior. And a drunk. In his good will tours after the war, he stated bluntly, “Show me a hero, and I’ll show you a bum.”