6th grade… 1976… My model-building pals and I were crazy about the show “The Black Sheep Squadron” (which I think we just called “Baa Baa Black Sheep”) starring Robert Conrad. At the time, the show coincided perfectly with the height of our collecting, building and playing with toy soldiers, tanks and airplanes, so we watched it religiously (back when viewers had to toe the broadcasters’ scheduling line). The show was based on the real Marine Corps squadron VMF-214, commanded by Major Greg “Pappy” Boyington. They flew the Corsair. Most airplane enthusiasts admire the Corsair to this day. My ’70s gang and I practically worshiped it.
Because of my childhood connection to the Black Sheep, I was leaning towards dressing up my new 1/72 scale Corsair as Boyington’s plane — but my copilot in the work space, my 7-year-old son Toby, had a different Corsair association, based on the “Skipper” character in the Pixar Planes movies, an elderly Corsair who sported the skull and crossbones of his old “Jolly Wrencher” squadron. The real “Jolly Rogers” were VF-17, a Navy Corsair squadron that took part in the Solomons campaign from island bases throughout much of 1943 and 1944, just as the Black Sheep had. Toby wanted the skull and crossbones on the nose of our Corsair, so that is what we did. Though not mistake-free — I’ll be darned if they ever are! — it turned out to be a beautiful model airplane.