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.
Would I be right in thinking the ‘Jolly Rogers’ went on post war and may even still be going? The Corsair is a fabulous aircraft, stylish in its gull-wing design, and fabulous in the air too. The diorama is great, it shows your model off brilliantly.
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Thank you! And yes, there is a naval squadron today that sports the skull and crossbones, but the quick search your question prompted tells me that it is not VF-17, which was disbanded in the ’50s. Today’s “Jolly Rogers” are VFA-103, flying the F/A-18 Hornet.
This photo is nice because it shows the “Jolly Roger” pedigree on the inside of the port tailfin!
By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Will Hardy – This Image was released by the United States Navy with the ID 180801-N-RG171-1542 (next).
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