Between 1976 and 1978, Black Sheep Squadron (also known as Baa Baa Black Sheep) was one of the coolest shows on television. Yours truly was then in the 3rd and 4th grade, and I never missed an episode when I could help it. This was the show that we all talked about on the playground during recess.
Black Sheep Squadron dramatized the exploits of U.S. Marine aviator Greg “Pappy” Boyington in the Pacific during WWII. The show starred Robert Conrad (who died earlier this month), but the real Greg Boyington made cameo appearances in several episodes. (See the video embedded above.)
Black Sheep Squadron was not a serious show, in the sense that it made no attempt to depict the real-life horrors of World War II combat, or combat in general. This was war as entertainment. But when you’re nine years old and a show has cool scenes involving American Vought F4U Corsairs shooting down Japanese zeroes, you can make allowances for such crimes of dramatic license.
I recently caught a few old episodes of Black Sheep Squadron on cable. Watching the show at the age of 52 (as opposed to 9), I still find it entertaining. But it’s a far cry from HBO’s The Pacific.