How Much Do You Know About the Black Sheep Squadron?



By: John Miller

6 Min Quiz

Image: Sgt. D. W. White, U.S. Marine Corps

About This Quiz

War’s terror and drama make it a perfect mixing pot for all of the elements of a Hollywood script. And the Second World War, of course, has generated thousands upon thousands of TV shows, movies, and other works of art, thanks in large part due to famous battles and the heroes who fought them. That leads us to the Black Sheep Squadron, a legendary group of men who took up arms at the edge of the world. In our quiz, we’ll see how much you really know about these men, and the TV show that they inspired!

World War II was filled with epic battles and famous military units. The 82nd Airborne was a major factor in battles all over the European Theater, and the 101st dug in for a timeless standoff against the Nazis at the Battle of the Bulge. But the Pacific Theater was full of fighting, too, and that’s where the Black Sheep Squadron took to the air. Do you know this squadron’s official name?

The Black Sheep were the odd men out during the wicked fighting of the Pacific, hastily assembled in order to help the Marines during their deadly island slog. As those American troops struggled in the jungles, the Black Sheep soared overhead, shooting down Japanese Zeroes with reckless abandon. How much do you know about the Squadron’s real-world performance?

Following the war, Hollywood seized the Black Sheep story and made it into a TV show. Do you know who starred in this show, and how long it was on the air?

The Black Sheep were a force to be reckoned with during WWII. Let’s see how much you really know about these pilots and the TV show that they inspired!

The Black Sheep Squadron was an Air Force unit that became famous during which war?

During WWII, the Black Sheep Squadron (now officially named VMA-214) became known for its exploits in the Pacific Theater of the war, downing many Japanese planes.


What's the name of the television series based on the Flying Tigers?

In the late '70s, Hollywood concocted a TV series based on the Flying Tigers. "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep" was an action/war show that lasted for two seasons.


Maj. Gregory Boyington was the leader of the Black Sheep. What was his nickname?

Maj. Gregory "Pappy" Boyington served with distinction throughout WWII. He was in his 30s during the war, making him a decade older than many of the men under his command.


Why were they called the "Black Sheep"?

The Black Sheep Squadron consisted of "black sheep," pilots gathered from the remnants of other groups. They banded together and eventually became an ultra-deadly squadron.


In an episode titled "Small War," Pappy is shot down by _____.

In "Small War," T.J. inadvertently shoots down his own commander. Pappy parachutes behind enemy lines and must figure out a way to survive on his own.


The Black Sheep promised to shoot down one Japanese Zero fighter for every ______ that was sent to them in the combat zone.

The Sheep were cocky fellows -- they publicly announced that they'd blast one Zero for every autographed baseball cap they received from a World Series pro baseball player. The tally? More than 20 caps, and a whole lot more downed Zeroes.


Of the 28 original Black Sheep pilots, how many had combat experience?

The Black Sheep were cobbled together from other units, and they were very, very green -- just three pilots had combat experience. On paper, these men were not likely to be a very effective fighting force.


In "Baa, Baa Black Sheep," which actor plays the role of Pappy?

Robert Conrad, of "The Wild Wild West" fame, is Pappy in "Baa, Baa Black Sheep." His most recent movie was 1996's "Jingle All the Way."


What was Pappy's reputation in the Air Force?

Pappy was a loose cannon who was often in trouble with his superiors. During one night of heavy drinking, he wrestled with another man and wound up breaking his own ankle, leaving him temporarily without an assigned unit.


Pappy was a party animal and rabble rouser. What was he like as a pilot?

It's no wonder that Pappy helped to inspire a TV show. He was a real character, drinking all night and then causing misery for the Japanese all day. He was an excellent pilot.


In an episosde called "High Jinx," the Black Sheep are told to run away from certain Japanese aircraft. Why?

In "High Jinx," we learn that the Japanese have upgraded some of their Zeroes to make them deadlier, and Air Force commanders don't want the Black Sheep to be shot down. The pilots, of course, are not happy about this development.


In "Up for Grabs," which celebrity plans to stop by and say hello to the men?

In "Up for Grabs," General MacArthur is scheduled to pay a visit to the Black Sheep. But the Japanese show up and cause all sorts of ruckus in hopes of kidnapping the American leader.


What sort of recognition did the Black Sheep earn during the war?

Thanks to savvy public relations and a swashbuckling leader in Pappy, the papers loved the Black Sheep, detailing their exploits in breathless accounts. Millions of Americans recognized Pappy and his men as heroes.


In reality, what were the Black Sheep like?

The Black Sheep weren't especially nuts -- at least, not any more than other Air Force units. They were a regular squadron that happened to be very good at their jobs.


In "Anyone for Suicide," Pappy signs on for a very dangerous mission. How many of his men volunteer to join him?

Normally, the Black Sheep have their leader's back, but this mission seems to be guaranteed suicide. No one volunteers to join Pappy, a fact that angers him.


In the TV show, Pappy has a little dog named ____.

Pappy is fond of his little bull terrier. Meatball is sometimes mocked as "ugly," but he's actually cute as a button.


How did Pappy train his men?

Pappy's leadership was legendary -- he wanted his men to stay alive. The pilots often gathered to discuss dogfighting tactics, a fact that eventually made the Black Sheep a cohesive fighting unit.


What are the Black Sheep required to do in "Operation Stand-Down"?

In "Operation Stand-Down," the men are told that they much re-qualify for combat, and that they must do so using detailed political rules instead of the real rules of war that have already formed their tactics and strategies.


The Black Sheep were known for flying which planes?

The Black Sheep flew the Vought F4U Corsair, a fighter known for its speed, but not for its climbing ability. The Corsair was a carrier-capable fighter that saw action until the end of the Korean War.


A new pilot joins the team in "Forbidden Fruit." What's special about the pilot?

The new pilot in "Forbidden Fruit" is way too young to be serving in the war. But he's so good at his job that no one wants to stop him.


How many enemy planes did the Black Sheep damage or destroy in their first combat tour?

In their first tour, the roughly 30 pilots of the Black Sheep went wild, destroying or damaging more than 200 Japanese planes. And their war was not yet over.


In the "Deadliest Enemy of All: Part 2" how is Pappy grievously injured?

In the "Deadliest Enemy of All: Part 2," Pappy's heart is broken. He finds out that the nurse he loves is actually already married.


On a 1944 mission, Pappy was shot down during a mission. What happened to him?

The Black Sheep were outnumbered more than two-to-one when Pappy went down in flames. He survived but was captured a Japanese submarine and then remained in a prison camp until the end of the war.


After Pappy's capture, what happened to the Black Sheep?

Pappy's captured signaled the end of the Black Sheep. The unit was disbanded and the pilots were redeployed into other units.


In "Poor Little Lambs," three of the Black Sheep are shot down and stranded behind enemy lines. What complicating factor arises?

Pappy and two other pilots are stranded behind enemy lines just before the start of a major American offensive. They have to survive while also pondering the fate of civilians in the area.


True or false, did the the Black Sheep eventually see more more action after Pappy's capture?

Pappy's capture temporarily disbanded the unit, but it reformed for more combat duty near the Japanese mainland.


What event finally (permanently) ended the Black Sheep unit's combat duty during WWII?

In March 1944, a Japanese bomber blasted the USS Franklin, killing nearly 800 servicemen, including dozens of Black Sheep. Between the loss of men and airplanes, the Black Sheep were done for.


"The Fastest Gun" is an episode that amounts to ______.

In "The Fastest Gun," Pappy faces off with a single Japanese pilot. The two fight in what looks like an Old West gunfight in the skies.


True or false, are the Black Sheep still active?

The Black Sheep reformed and relocated almost immediately. They've seen action all over the world, from the Korean War to the modern-day war on terror.


How many air victories did Pappy claim during WWII?

Pappy was a true ace during WWII. He shot down at least 28 Japanese planes and his expertise and leadership earned him the Medal of Honor.


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