Ed Driscoll

Men Without Chests

In the 1970s, Greg Boyington was the subject of an NBC TV series devoted to his legendary exploits in World War II. But sadly, he can’t seem to catch a break at his alma mater today:

Gregory “Pappy” Boyington became a legend fast. He was dubbed Pappy by the younger pilots of his famed “Black Sheep” fighter squadron because of his “advanced” age. He was, after all, 31, and most of them were in their young 20s.

Pappy Boyington led by example in the air war over various Pacific islands. During one period, in 1943, he shot down 14 Japanese planes in 32 days. On October 17, 1943, Pappy led a force of 24 Marine fighters over the Japanese fighter base at Kahili, on the island of Bougainville. They circled the base repeatedly, daring the 60 Japanese fighters on the field to come up. When the Japanese responded, Pappy’s boys shot down 20 of them before scooting back to base without losing a plane.

He displayed extraordinary leadership, extraordinary acumen as a pilot, and extraordinary courage, no matter what the odds against him. On January 3, 1944, during a huge fighter action over Rabaul, Pappy shot down his 28th Japanese plane and was himself shot down in the wild aerial melee.

Unseen by his fellow pilots, he bailed out, dropped into the ocean, and was soon picked up by a Japanese submarine. The Japanese did not report his capture and while he spent 20 months of torture and near starvation in prisoner of war camps, he was listed by the U.S. as missing in action.

In March 1944, Boyington was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. His comrades thought it was a posthumous decoration. But Pappy survived the prison camp, was freed at the end of the war, and stood in the White House on October 5, 1945, still recovering from the physical and psychological effects of his imprisonment, as President Harry S Truman draped the nation’s highest award for bravery around his neck.

Flash forward 61 years. A move is afoot, naturally enough, one would think, to honor Greg Boyington, Class of 1934, at his alma mater, the University of Washington. A resolution comes before the august Student Senate for a statue honoring the Medal of Honor winner. Not “a large statue, but rather something on a small scale” (according to the minutes of the senate).

Ahem.

A distinguished “Senator,” Jill Edwards moves to table the matter. Discussion ensues on who this Boyington is and why he should be honored. One student says he had read about Boyington and thought the university should be proud of him.

Distinguished Senator Jill Edwards questions “whether it was appropriate to honor a person who killed other people.”

She further wonders whether “a member of the Marine Corps was an example of the sort of person UW wanted to produce.”

Another distinguished Senator, Ashley Miller, “commented that many monuments at UW already commemorate rich white men.”

Student Senator Karl Smith casts some oil on the troubled waters by suggesting that the resolution honoring Boyington be stripped of any mention of “destroying 26 enemy aircraft.” Perhaps, in this way, Colonel Boyington’s “service” could be acknowledged, but “not his killing of others.”

Discussion then ensues on the finer point that “a destroyed aircraft was not necessarily indicative that a pilot had died.”

We will spare you the rest of the deliberations and ruminations of the UW student legislative body, filled as it is with pious parsing and handwringing and ahistorical thumbsucking over how to mention that embarrassing Medal of Honor in some way that would leave no trail back to the fact that it was won in a war, where killing took place, to stop an aggressor bent on subjugating at least one half of the globe.

If you are an alumni of UW, you should be pissed or ashamed or both.

If you are not an alumni you should at least be embarrassed at the fact that this kind of “thinking” is too, too normal from the present generation of college students (and professors) all over this country.

Not to mention city supervisors in large Pacific northwest cities.

Update: Not surprisingly, things are even sillier in Canada, as Tim Blair notes:

Over in Canada, plans proceed to honour draft dodgers with a creepy hippie statue:

The proposal calls for a sculpture of two Americans, a male and a female, crossing an imaginary border where a Canadian figure is waiting to welcome them.

As Clear and Present Danger reports: