Rabaul - Fly for Your Life
by Robert Taylor
|Desperate for new pilots in the South Pacific, in August 1943 the First Marine Wing appointed the unconventional fighter ace
Major Greg Boyington to pull together a newly formed squadron from a mix of experienced combat veterans and untested novice pilots. The Marine Corps gave him just four weeks to turn this motley group into a fighting force ready for combat - Boyington succeeded beyond all expectations and the rest is history.
Equipped with the Chance Vought F4U Corsair, they called themselves 'The Black Sheep', and under Boyington's leadership, saw action at Guadalcanal, Munda, the northern Solomons,Vella Lavella, Bourganville, and Tokokina;Kahili, and were the first to lead fighter sweeps over the major Japanese base of Rabaul.
In a period of just eighty-four days Boyington's pilots recorded 273 Japanese aircraft destroyed or damaged, 97 confirmed air victories producing eight fighter Aces, sank several ships, destroyed many ground installations and numerous other victories. With typical mastery, Robert Taylor has brought to life an encounter over Rabaul in late December 1943, paying tribute to one of the US Marine Corps'most famous fighter squadrons, and its outstanding leader. With the Japanese airbase at Rabaul visible in the distance, 'Pappy' Boyington and his fellow pilots of VMF-214 tear into a large formation of Japanese Zekes and a series of deadly dogfights have started, one Zeke already having fallen victim to their guns.
|Overall size: 23½" x 36"||Available in the following editions|
|400||Limited edition||Signed by two 'Black Sheep' pilots.||$320|
|350||Black Sheep edition||Signed by seven 'Black Sheep' pilots.||$425|
|Limited edition signatures|
|Bruce Matheson||Harry Johnson|
|Black Sheep edition signatures|
|Bruce Matheson||Harry Johnson||Fred Losch|
|Tom Emrich||Jim Hill||Henry Bourgeois (companion print)|
|Ed Harper (companion print)|
companion print signed by two pilots
|Brig. Gen. Bruce Matheson USMC (main print)
Born in Chicago in 1921, Bruce Matheson enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1942 and joined the ‘Black Sheep’ on 7th. August 1943. On 17th. October 1943 he shot down a Zero over Kahili but was wounded during the aerial combat. He safely landed his badly damaged Corsair at Munda. On 3rd. January 1944 Bruce scored his last aerial victory, he also confirmed Major Boyington’s final aerial victory before ‘Pappy’ was shot down near Rabaul. By the end of the second ‘Black Sheep’ tour Bruce would have three confirmed victories and one and a half probables. For his third combat tour he was transferred along with 14 other ‘Black Sheep’ pilots to VMF-211 on Green Island.
|Major Harry Johnson USMC (main print)
Harry Johnson went to the Pacific in November 1943, joining VMF-214 as a replacement pilot. He destryed a Zero in combat on 6th. January 1944, two days before VMF-214 were disbanded. Serving later with VMF-218 and VMF-253, he flew a total of 84 missions on Corsairs during WWII, and another 69 missions in Korea.
|Lt. Col. W. Thomas Emrich USMC (main print)
Thomas Emrich joined VMF-214 on 7th. August 1943, flying two combat tours with them. On 15th. October he shot down two Zeros in aerial combat over Kahili, but the next day, on a fighter sweep, had to ditch off Vella Lavella and be rescued by a PT boat. He flew 68 missions with the ‘Black Sheep’, then a third tour with VMF-211 with other former ‘Black Sheep’ pilots.
|Lt. Col. James J. Hill USMC (main print)
James Hill was born in Chicago in 1920. He arrived in the South Pacific on June 5th 1943 after completing flight school in Pensacola, and joined VMF-214 on 7th. August 1943. He flew two combat tours with the ‘Black Sheep’. On 18th. October 1943 on a fighter sweep over Kahili aerodrome he shot down a Zero in aerial combat. During his tours with the ‘Black Sheep’ he flew a total of 70 combat missions, and flew a third combat tour with VMF-211 on Green Island.
|Capt. Fred S. Losch USMC (main print)
Hailing from Pennsylvania, Fred Losch joined the ‘Black Sheep’ as a replacement pilot on 10th. Nov. 1943. On 2nd. Jan. 1944 he downed a Zero and damaged another over Rabaul. With VMF-214 he flew 28 combat missions, completing a second tour with VMF-211.
|Lt. Col. Henry M. Bourgeois USMC (companion print)
Henry was the youngest ever Marine officer when he joined VMF-214, and had flown two combat tours with VMF-122 prior to that, with two victories to his credit.. On September 21st. 1943 he lead a division of Corsairs to strafe Kahili Aerodrome where he destroyed two aircraft on the ground; the division accounting for 12 aircraft and an AA position destroyed.
|Col. Edwin A. Harper USMC (companion print)
Born in Canada, Ed Harper joined VMF-214 on 7th August 1943 and flew two tours until January 1944, scoring a victory and two probables on sweeps over Kahili and Rabaul. Wounded on 17th October, the next day he flew a mission and scored a probable. Ed was reassigned to VMF-211 for a third tour after VMF-214 were disbanded in January 1944.