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Black Sheep: The Definitive Account of Marine Fighting Squadron 214 in World War II Hardcover – June 9, 1998


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Presidio Press (June 9, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0891416447
  • ISBN-13: 978-0891416449
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #378,855 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Only one U.S. air squadron has ever been featured in a network TV show: Marine Fighter Squadron 214, which, along with its commander, Major Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, became familiar through the 1970s series Baa, Baa, Black Sheep. The squadron completed two tours in the Solomon Islands and compiled a distinguished combat record before Boyington re-formed it in August 1943 in response to a temporary shortage of fighter squadrons in the Solomons. The new pilots, Gamble shows, were neither youngsters nor misfits as portrayed in Boyington's memoirs and the TV scripts. Gamble, a retired naval officer, describes the equipment, doctrine, operational conditions and personal relationships that shaped the squadron from its creation in 1942 through its Solomons experiences, to its recommissioning and assignment to the carrier Franklin. The war ended for the squadron when Franklin was crippled by a Japanese bomber in March 1945. According to Gamble, Boyington's achievements as squadron leader were substantial, if not as prodigious as he claimed. Boyington emerges here as an alcoholic egomaniac but also as a first-class pilot who earned the respect, though not always the admiration, of his men until he was shot down and captured in January 1944. A sensitive revision of a controversial legend, this book stands out as one of the best extant squadron histories and as a significant contribution to the literature on air power. 43 b&w photos and five maps.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Marine Fighting Squadron 214 has gone down in history as the Black Sheep, thanks to the colorful memoirs of its best-known commander, the ace Gregory "Pappy" Boyington. Exuberantly unreliable, those memoirs covered only one of the squadron's three incarnations. In the first, the squadron, cobbled together in the war's desperate early days, was known as the Swashbucklers and saw combat at Guadalcanal. In the second phase, the group of respectable replacements was assigned the squadron number and made a mighty name as the Black Sheep under Boyington, despite his drinking and brawling. Version three was a late-war collection of marine pilots that was knocked out of action on its first day in combat by the damage to its carrier, the USS Franklin. A model, warts-and-all unit history, Gamble's retires all previous books on squadron 214, showing that Boyington was not the only oddball in it and that the early Corsair fighter was nearly as dangerous to its pilots as to the Japanese. World War II, marine, and aviation collections--acquire! Roland Green

More About the Author

A disabled veteran and cancer survivor, Bruce Gamble has used an ultra-light wheelchair for much of his adult life, but it hasn't slowed him down. He's also an award-winning author and historian who travels widely, whether conducting research and interviews for his nonfiction books, giving public presentations, or sitting in front of the camera for a documentary.

Raised in Pennsylvania, Bruce served as a Naval Flight Officer from 1980 to 1988, deploying aboard aircraft carriers in the Pacific and Indian Oceans during the closing years of the Cold War. Diagnosed with a malignant spinal cord tumor, Bruce underwent a complicated surgery and was medically retired in 1989. Soon thereafter he began volunteering at the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Florida, and later worked part-time for the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation. After several years as the staff historian, Bruce made the leap to freelance writing and published his first book, The Black Sheep (Presidio Press), in 1998.

With six titles now in print, Bruce is rapidly gaining recognition as one of the most respected authorities on World War II in the Pacific. His narrative style and depth of research have earned critical acclaim in numerous publications. Bruce also does a substantial amount of public speaking and is listed among the distinguished historians in the American History Forum. In addition, he is featured in documentaries produced by the History Channel, Fox News Channel, PBS, and the Pritzker Military Library.

The winner of two literary awards in 2010 and a Florida Book Award in 2013, Bruce is a member of the Authors Guild and holds life memberships in the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation and Paralyzed Veterans of America. Cancer-free for more than 25 years, he lives near Panama City, Florida.

Customer Reviews

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Very well researched.
James thompson
This book is a perfect companion to Boyington's, Baa Baa Black Sheep or Frank Walton' s, Once They Were Eagles.
Rang6@aol.com
This book is a must read for WWII buffs who can't get enough of the aviation war in the Pacific.
Paul Bazemore

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Scott Anderson VINE VOICE on January 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This study of Marine Fighting Squadron 214 really hits home to a fellow follower of the televison series. I too stayed up late to watch the series and waited with great anticipation to see "Pappy" and the gang take on everyone and everything and win the battle.
I never read Boyington's book and would like to pick up a copy to check his facts against those listed in this book. As a student of the Civil War I've come to realize, that the older men get, the more fierce the battles they fought.
Within these pages Mr. Gambles eye for detail sheds new light on the air war over the Solomons. My only concern is the finite level of detail used to put forth this work. One can tell the level of research was exhausting, however, it should not be as exhausting to go through the book. Also, the repetitive nature of Boyington's faults needs not to appear quite so often. 20/20 hindsight is not only usefull for statistical research but damaging as well, so let's not forget the men of the 214 that went to battle and lost their lives for the very liberties we now enjoy!
Take Boyinton's accounts with a grain of salt and allow the man his glory. He gave America hope during a time in which we needed a hero.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Rang6@aol.com on October 12, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Bruce Gamble's account on the History of the famed VMF-214 provides a detailed look into the lives of Marine fighter pilots during the Pacific War in WWII. From the formation of the squadron thru to it's most recent history, you really get a sense of what it must have been like. This book is a perfect companion to Boyington's, Baa Baa Black Sheep or Frank Walton' s, Once They Were Eagles. Gamble's extensive research includes numerous interviews with surviving members of 214. Having read Boyington's and Walton's books, I expected that Gamble would address the 'story telling' that Boyington was know for, and he does. The Black Sheep were not the bunch of untried misfits that they have been made out to be and Gamble goes the distance in clearing that up. My only problem with his work is that, at times, he seems to take pleasure in proving out Boyington to be a liar. I think most of us would accept that Boyington was telling his story, as he saw it. Certainly he added details to 'enhance' his exploits in the war, but so what? Gamble is right to point out differences when he sees them but the final judgement should be with the reader. Greg Boyington has been credited with 28 air victories during the war. Gamble, and others, have shown that three of his Flying Tiger kills did not likely take place, fair enough. Gamble goes further to say that Boyington's final two victorys should also not count since they were not witnessed, or supported by Japanese records. If that requirement was applied to other aces of the war then there scores would suffer as well. It is enough to say that Boyington most likely had 25 kills, but has claimed and been credited for 28. Let the man rest in peace. Once you get past that, Bruce Gamble's book is a must read for WWII aviation fans.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I remember my parents allowing me to stay up late on school nights to watch Baa Baa Black Sheep on TV. Being an 8 year-old boy, the planes were the biggest draw for me; but the portrayal of Pappy and the Black Sheep left a mark in my memory. In high school I read Boyingtons book but could find no others on the squadron worth reading so my view of the VMF-214 was admittedly a skewed one. Until now.
Mr. Gamble does a fine job putting the Black Sheep into perspective. His level of detail shows the depth of research he undertook yet his writing style flows smoothly and does not bog down the story. I learned much and enjoyed every chapter. My only complaints would be that he seemed a bit vindictive at times towards Boyington and more pics showing the differences in aircraft that he describes throughout the text would have been appreciated.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Gergellor on March 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Dear MR. Gamble: I hope you continue in your career writing about NAval (or Army) air units in WW II, because what you did in this book is amazing. The history is great, researched to the end. It gives us not only information about VMF-214 and Pappy, but also about Navy aviation in the War. Amazing!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Chris Serb on May 25, 1999
Format: Hardcover
A good history should focus on the extraordinary events and the good meaty stories, then surround them with details and everyday events and ordinary happenings. All of Gamble's good stories get buried. By drudging up all the minutiae and every little detail, Gamble may be historically accurate, but he's also boring as hell. It seems like time waiting in the chow line gets as many pages as some of the heroic battles. Also, Gamble keeps harping on Boyington, going back to how his claimed kills don't match the Japanese records, his alcoholism, his insubordination, yadda yadda. Bringing these subjects up once, even twice, is appropriate, but Gamble keeps harping on them. And his theory that Boyington didn't suffer while a POW is ludicrous--that he's less of a hero than some others because he didn't lose as much weight? Please. By grinding his own axe, he loses the reader in the process.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bunkman22 on June 2, 2009
Format: Mass Market Paperback
As a Navy pilot and self proclaimed aviation historian, I found Bruce Gamble's work very interesting. I like books that get through all the BS and give factual information in a well written and developed story. Granted there will always be personal interpretation of what actually happened all those years ago in VMF-214 being the auther was not there and must gather info from readings, interviews, etc. At times, some of the information...the details...was a bit overwhelming but it was nice to see a little bit of the man behind the myth. Nothing will ever take away that Boyington led a Marine fighter squadron in time of war, shot down quite a number of enemy aircraft, was seemingly fearless and a true warrior. As has been discovered by other researchers, as John B. Lungstrom, not all kill claims are valid....on both sides of the line. Not all of our aces are aces or top aces. It doesn't take away from the fact that the men of 214 were patriots and warriors who served their country honorably in time of war. I don't see where Gamble harps on Boyington as others have said. He attempts to tell it like it is, something I would rather see than make believe. Sometimes the true story is more remarkable than fiction.
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