Books: “Once They Were Eagles” by Frank E. Walton

Posted By on September 12, 2023

Once They Were EaglesOccasionally when a good book is finished, it leave you wanting it to continue and hoping for more. That is the case with Frank E. Walton’s book “Once They Were Eagles.” It is the second book in the pile that I’m reading focused on the infamous World War II era’s VMF-214 better remembered at the Black Sheep Squadron. 

As the intelligence officer and keeper of details, Frank Walton had excellent knowledge of the US Marine fighter pilots serving under Major Gregory “Pappy” Boyington. His account of the Solomon Island Campaign and men that helped America advance towards the Empire of Japan was excellent and likely a bit more accurate than Boyington’s, expected from someone with a high IQ (Mensa).

I enjoyed every page of his book as he wrote down the missions that blended with those in Boyington’s book “Baa Baa Black Sheep (1958).” It is amazing just how agressive this squadron of Corsairs responded to the overwhelming number of Japanese “Zekes/Haps/Hamps/Zeros” that were sent up to thwart the American advance and knock down both bombers and fighter aircraft.

The second part of the book highlighted the outstanding men after they returned home and met for interviews years later with Walton. It is amazing how successful so many of these heroes were on their return to civilian life (or some who remained in the military).  If you enjoy being and armchair student of World War II aviation … and in particularly US Marine fighter squadrons in the Pacific Theater … you wil enjoy “Once They Were Eagles (1986)” 

Gamble's Black Sheep

I plan on moving on to the next book in my pile. “The Black Sheep (1998)” was written after the others by aviator, historian and writer Bruce Gamble. It should be an interesting … and perhaps tad bit more accurate portrayal of VMF-214 and the the men that Hollywood semi-disparaged or at least portrayed inaccurately and the questionable account from the colorful Boyington, who may have inaccurately remembered events … or as he himself said to an interviewer: “I’m a psychopathic liar” (Gamble points out that he probably meant “pathologic” liar). 

Map of Solomon Islands


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