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The turbulent life of Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, the top U.S. Marine ace of the Pacific, is captured in memorable detail by the acclaimed author of One Square Mile of Hell: The Battle of Tarawa. Wukovits pulls no punches in describing the controversial World War II fighter pilot, who was a hero to some, and a villain to others in the Corps. Boyington was a little of each as this biography of the legendary but complex figure shows.
The book details the Marine's early life with abusive parents and frequent moves and his early military career and service with the Flying Tigers in Burma and China. His feats as a Corsair pilot in the South Pacific and his time in Japanese prison camps are also given full coverage. Wukovits contends that Boyington performed miserably when shunted to the sidelines and amassed a spotty record with the Flying Tigers because they treated him as an outsider. He excelled, however, when others looked to him for advice. When put in command of the Black Sheep Squadron, where the men considered him a teacher and leader, he triumphed, making his squadron the most effective in the Pacific. Called one of the preeminent historians of the Pacific War, Wukovits paints a complete portrait of Boyington that allows readers to understand the colorful World War II ace as never before.
John K. Wukovits is a military expert specializing in the Pacific Theater of World War II. He is the author of many books, including Eisenhower: A Biography; Pacific Alamo: The Battle for Wake Island; and American Commando: Evans Carlson, His WWII Marine Raiders, and America’s First Special Forces Mission. He has also written numerous articles for such publications as WWII History, Naval History, and World War II. He is a resident of Trenton, MI.
Praise for Black Sheep
"Wukovits’s depth and breadth of research into the life of Pappy Boyington are remarkable. Rather than solely focusing on his subject’s exploits, the author paints a picture of the man from all angles. It is no secret that Boyington had his faults, but one must first understand them in order to appreciate his successes. Wukovits pulled stories of Boyington from a variety of first-person accounts, both complimentary and caustic—an analysis that this reviewer considers completely objective. Readers can draw their own conclusions and judge him without any implied bias from the author. Furthermore, Wukovits makes the book easy to read by dividing Boyington’s story into manageable, digestible vignettes."
— Air & Space Power Journal
“Well-researched and well-written, Black Sheep presents a balanced account of Pappy Boyington. He was one of America’s top aces, but a greatly flawed hero nonetheless. The book is highly recommended.”
— The Journal of America’s Military Past
“A valuable contribution to the literature on Boyington and mainly his famous Black Sheep squadron. Wukovits brings the real Boyington into focus. His clean and clear prose engages readers from page one and keeps them on board.”
— Marine Corps Gazette
“…A provocative biography...Wukovits delivers a vivid, split portrayal of Boyington…”
— Military Officer
“Pacific War expert Wukovits gives us a deeply personal window on the life of a Marine Corps aviation icon….This book strips away the myths behind the man, yielding an unbiased, unflinching, but sympathetic portrait of a true war hero, with “warts and all.”
— Dr. Bob Schneller, Top Ten Navy Reads blog
“. . . .Will appeal to serious Marine aviation fans. Wukovits expertly sifts fact from myth and shows why Boyington inspired and infuriated in equal measure. Above all, he reminds us that, when leading men in combat, “Black Sheep One” not only had the right stuff—he was one of the very best.”
— World War II
“Military expert John Wukovits is well-known to Leatherneck readers for his books, American Commando: Evans Carlson, His WWII Marine Raiders, and America’s First Special Forces Mission and Pacific Alamo: The Battle for Wake Island which received positive reviews. In his latest Black Sheep: The Life of Pappy Boyington, the author offers his finest writing yet. Thanks to his intense immediacy, we know that the pilot was essentially a nice person, strong without having to prove it.”
“Along with being a biography, the book is nearly a primer for World War II fighter combat.”
— Air & Space Magazine
"The leading popular historian of the Pacific War adds to his laurels with this fine biography of famous and notorious WWII marine ace Gregory Boyington. . . Wukovits has done something extraordinary in this book. Besides his usual thorough research and clear writing, he has produced a balanced portrait of a not entirely sympathetic protagonist that is certain to engage, at least, the reader's interest."
—Booklist, starred review
“Black Sheep is enthusiastically recommended as a vibrant and unforgettable portrait of a gifted World War II ace.”
— The Midwest Book Review
“Well researched, well written, and best of all unbiased, this sympathetic account of a flawed hero will please both amateurs and experts as it lays out the controversial life and great achievements of the flamboyant, mercurial, and in many ways, sad, pathetic, Pappy Boyington.”
—Col. Walter J. Boyne, USAF (Ret.), National Aviation Hall of Fame member, author of Hypersonic Thunder
“Intensely researched and splendidly written, Black Sheep is a scrupulously honest treatment of the damaged and intense character that was Gregory ‘Pappy’ Boyington. Wukovits strips the cheap varnish that has distorted the Boyington legend for too long, and then reapplies a well-considered patina that fairly and accurately describes the man’s faults and merits.”
—Lt. Col. Jay A. Stout, USMC (Ret.), author of The Men Who Killed the Luftwaffe
“A deeply personal and revealing look at one of the Marine Corps' enduring aviation icons, a troubled but equally gifted combat-proven fighter pilot.”
—Peter B. Mersky, author of U.S. Marine Corps Aviation Since 1912
“John Wukovits cracks the myths that have surrounded the life of a great warrior and fighter ace—not just what Boyington did, but more importantly, the whys in the up-and-down life of this Jekyll-Hyde character. Little wonder so much misinformation has persisted about Boyington, for as Wukovits deftly exposes, the great ace’s reputation rests on just who is telling the story, and at what stage in his life they knew him. This is a fascinating and balanced study; a tribute to a man who was a winner in war, yet a loser in the battle with his own personal demons.”
—Col. Denis J. Kiely, USMC (Ret.), senior editor, Naval Aviation Museum Foundation
“Pappy Boyington was one of those rare military figures––colorful, unconventional, undisciplined, obstinate, disdainful of rules and regulations, a true maverick. Although an infuriating antagonist to his superiors, he was beloved by his men, who would have flown by his side if he had decided to attack Hell. John Wukovits' brilliantly insightful biography has allowed us to penetrate the myth and discover the real man. A joy to read, Black Sheep will become the final word on Boyington.”
—Flint Whitlock, editor, WWII Quarterly
Click here for John Keenan, editor of Marine Corps Gazette, interview with John Wukovits.