Wednesday, February 15, 2006

University of Washington should honor 'Pappy' Boyington

Below is the text of an open letter I am composing in regards to the recent decision by the University of Washington's student government to quash a proposal to erect a small monument to Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, a WWII Marine Corps legend.

My goal is to get marine veterans to sign the letter which I will submit to the university president, student government president and campus newspaper. [Hat tip: Grant Jones at the Dougout]

An open letter to the students, faculty and staff of the University of Washington:

According to the University of Washington student government, university alumnus Gregory "Pappy" Boyington should not be honored with a memorial on campus because as a Marine Corps officer, he was a "rich white man" who killed the enemies he fought, and was not a person university students should strive to emulate.

As veterans of the Marine Corps who have dedicated our lives to the defense of America, we find the student government's position deeply offensive and hypocritical. The exchange of ideas that is the hallmark of an American academic institution is the product of America's protection of the freedom of the mind. Without that freedom, the university itself ceases to exist.

Yet during the Second World War, the freedom of the mind was under deliberate attack by the forces of fascism and military dictatorship. American victory was only achieved because of the great courage, skill, and commitment of those who fought-a group of men and women who often won their battles at a great personal cost.

Few better personify the history of this struggle than Colonel "Pappy" Boyington. A maverick leader, Boyington assembled one of the most effective air wings in the Pacific theater of battle and was personally responsible for twenty-eight aerial victories over Japanese fighters. As commander of the famous "Black Sheep" squadron, Boyington led a formation of twenty-four Marine fighters over a Japanese airbase where sixty hostile aircraft were grounded. There, Boyington and his men persistently circled the airdrome and shot down twenty Japanese fighters without the loss of a single American aircraft. Later shot down himself and captured by the Japanese, Boyington endured twenty harrowing months as a prisoner of war.

Yet in final victory, Boyington bore no hatred toward his former enemy, and even credited a Japanese woman for saving him from death by starvation while he was a prisoner. A grateful nation choose to honor Boyington with the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross, America's two top awards for heroism and valor under fire.

In the face of such achievement, it is inconceivable to us that the students of today's University of Washington would throttle an attempt to honor one of their university's most famous and illustrious alumni. The university community stands in part due to the deeds of this giant, yet today it seems all Boyington's memory receives from the university is malice and false witness.

Worse, these curses against Boyington's name come at a time when a new generation of Americans are locked in a life-and-death struggle with an enemy no less as tyrannical then the one Boyington had to face. Will this new generation of American servicemen and women be denied the inspiration of the University of Washington's great alumnus because a handful of students blanch at the thought of killing an enemy who is trying to kill us and are wedded to a pet ideology that slanders courage?

We, the undersigned hope not. We urge our fellow Americans to remember Boyington as a unique American hero, worthy of emulation, and we urge the students of the University of Washington to redress the injustice its student government has committed against a great hero's memory.

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