Major Boyington, called "Pappy" by his men, is seen maneuvering for an advantageous position against the Japanese pilot flying a nimble A6M2 type "Zero" fighter aircraft over the Japanese-held bastion at Rabaul on December 27, 1943. On this date Boyington shot down his 25th enemy aircraft, a Zero over Simpson Harbour, Rabaul. This put Boyington within one victory of the two all-time highest-ranking American fighter aces, Eddie Rickenbacker of WWI fame, and Joe Foss, a Marine pilot on Guadalcanal. Boyington reached number 26 on January 3, 1944 - also over Rabaul, and then having gotten separated from the rest of his squadron by bad weather, Boyington and his wingman attacked a large number of Zeros - Boyington downing two more before getting shot down himself while defending his wingman from attacking enemy fighters. Although injured, Boyington was able to make a successful water-landing, was strafed by Japanese fighters still overhead, and was eventually picked up by a Japanese submarine - whereupon he began a period of captivity that would continue until the end of the war in August, 1945.
On the day of the squadron's combat debut, September 12, 1943, they shot down eleven enemy aircraft, five being credited to Major Boyington, and by October 24th, he had 20. During Boyington's tenure as commanding officer of VMF-214 the squadron was credited with a total of 197 enemy aircraft destroyed, probably destroyed, or damaged - while losing 12 pilots either MIA or KIA.