World War Two U.S. Marines air ace Gregory “Pappy” Boyington was desperate to get one more confirmed kill. Hit the target and it would bring his total number of enemy planes downed to 26, equaling the record total by any American fighter pilot. Boyington’s chance came in January 1944 over the Pacific. But things didn’t turn out well for him.
Gregory Boyington was born in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, in 1912. His biological parents divorced while he still very young, and Boyington’s mother married her second husband Ellsworth J. Hallenbeck when her son was just three. Hence, the infant was brought up as Gregory Hallenbeck. In fact, Boyington was not to learn that Hallenbeck was not his natural father until later in life – a fact that he was able to turn to his advantage, as we shall see.
Boyington spent much of his boyhood in St. Maries, ID. It was here, aged just six, that he received an inkling of what the future might hold for him. Renowned pilot Clyde Pangborn, who would later become one of the first two men to fly nonstop across the Pacific, was in town one day and Boyington managed to find the $5 needed to go up for a flight with him. It seems the youngster caught the flying bug at a very tender age.