Some of my favorite type of television shows are those that provide historical information through a fictional drama. Many of them are available from streaming subscriptions and for purchase on DVD too. We all know how Downtown Abbey has become a hit show and although it is the sensational drama that brings many of us to the screen, underlying it all is the history. I am going to attempt to highlight one of these programs each Saturday in place of my “What Happened on” post (Sometimes in addition).
Do you have any favorite programs that fit this category? I’d love to hear your ideas and I would be glad to include the program in an up coming post. I also would welcome a guest blogger. If you want to read other posts in this category, there is menu at the top of my cite that will take you to a list of all my History from the Small Screen posts.
Baa Baa Black Sheep (later syndicated as Black Sheep Squadron) is a television series that aired on NBC from 1976 until 1978. Its premise was based on the experiences of United States Marine Corps aviator Greg Boyington and his World War II “Black Sheep Squadron”. The series was created and produced by Stephen J. Cannell. The opening credits read: “In World War II, Marine Corps Major Greg ‘Pappy’ Boyington commanded a squadron of fighter pilots. They were a collection of misfits and screwballs who became the terrors of the South Pacific. They were known as the Black Sheep.”
Greg “Pappy” Boyington is the commanding officer of VMF-214, a group of fighter pilots based in the Solomon Islands during World War II. Pappy often intercedes in altercations at the base, but everyone seems to pull together when they are assigned missions in the air. “Pappy” likes to drink and fight a lot when not flying missions, and owns a Bull Terrier named “Meatball” — which he claims belongs to General Moore in Flying Misfits, but General Moore says “he wouldn’t own an ugly mutt like that.”
The series premise was very loosely based on a portion of the real-life military career of Gregory Boyington, known as “Pappy” due to his “advanced” age compared to the younger pilots under his command. (He was 30 when he took command of VMF-214.) Boyington, who was a technical adviser for the series, commented that this was “fiction based on reality” and that no regular character in the series except for himself actually existed.
Who was the real Pappy Boyington?
Boyington served in China as a member of the American Volunteer Group, the famed Flying Tigers. In 1943 with Boyington as CO and Major Stan Bailey as Exec, the 214 trained hard at Turtle Bay on Espritu Santo. They made their reputation in just 84 days, piling up a record 197 planes destroyed or damaged, troop transports and supply ships sunk, and ground installations destroyed. This is just the most known events in his history. Boyinton’s best day was September 14, 1943 when he claimed 5 kills in one day. From that day through January of 1944 he claimed 22 kills. While this number is in dispute by a few kills, he was still the ace with the most kills. In 1944 he was shot down and spent a year and a half as a Japanese POW. Gregory Boyington was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. He died in 1988 of cancer.