Remembering aviation heros

Battle of Britain

This week marks 70 years since the German Luftwaffe came within a day of destroying Britain’s air defenses in the Battle of the Blitz. A tactical error by Nazi Herman Goering and the dogged efforts of outnumbered British Pilots was the inspiration for Winston Churchill’s famous quote, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

Pappy Boyington Field

It’s been many years since I landed at the airfield in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and just about as long since I chatted with Pappy Boyington. He’s the Marine fighter ace and Medal of Honor winner the field is now named for.

I met Boyington at several airshows where he was a guest speaker and aviation celebrity, including one where a panel of Boyington, German ace and Luftwaffe General Adolph Galland, and Japanese ace Saburo Sakai discussed the war from a fighter pilot’s perspective. I had the pleasure of joining those three and a couple of airshow pilots in the VIP tent for more than an hour-long conversation about flying.

Boyington was no angel in his personal life and would be all but forgotten except for the television series Baa Baa Black Sheep starring Robert Conrad. According to this story, renaming Coeur d’Alene was a contentious issue for the town council. Deserved recognition for a real war hero was long overdue. 

The heroic pilots who flew the fighter planes for their countries in World War II are almost all gone now. It was a different time and a different kind of war than in modern times, but the pilots, sailors, soldiers and marines are not forgotten.

Honor is owed to them, just as honor is owed to all who serve their countries in war and peace.


About zingstrom

Journalist, free-lance writer, photographer and aviator.
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