Baa Baa Black Sheep (TV series)

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Baa Baa Black Sheep
Logo from the program
GenreMilitary drama
Created byStephen J. Cannell
Directed by
Narrated byRobert Conrad
Theme music composer
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes36 (list of episodes)
Executive producerStephen J. Cannell
ProducerPhilip DeGuere
Production locationChannel Islands of California
  • Jerry Dronsky
  • Harvey Stambler
Running time48 min
Production companies
Original release
ReleaseSeptember 23, 1976 (1976-09-23) –
April 6, 1978 (1978-04-06)

Baa Baa Black Sheep (renamed Black Sheep Squadron for the second season) is an American television series that aired on NBC from September 23, 1976, until April 6, 1978. It was part period military drama, part comedy. In the final seven episodes, the character list was revamped, dropping some squadron pilots, adding a 16-year-old pilot and four nurses.

Its original premise was based on the experiences of United States Marine Corps aviator Greg Boyington and his World War II "Black Sheep Squadron". The series was created and produced by Stephen J. Cannell. The opening credits read: "In World War II, Marine Corps Major Greg 'Pappy' Boyington commanded a squadron of fighter pilots. They were a collection of misfits and screwballs who became the terrors of the South Pacific. They were known as the Black Sheep."


Major Greg "Pappy" Boyington is the commanding officer of VMF-214, a Marine squadron of "misfit" fighter pilots based on the Solomon Islands campaign and Bougainville campaign from 1943 to 1945 during World War II. Pappy often intercedes in altercations of the pilots at the base, but everyone seems to pull together when they are assigned missions in the air. Pappy likes to drink and fight a lot when not flying missions. He owns a Bull Terrier named "Meatball" — which he claims belongs to General Moore to get the dog on the base against regulations in "Flying Misfits", but General Moore says he "wouldn't own an ugly mutt like that."

The series premise was very loosely based on a portion of the real-life military career of Gregory Boyington, known as "Pappy" due to his "advanced" age compared to the younger pilots under his command. (He was 30 when he took command of VMF-214, but in the series pilot, he is stated to be 35.) Boyington, who was a technical adviser for the series, commented that the show was "fiction based on reality" and that no regular character in the series except for himself actually existed, although in his book of the same name there is a General "Nuts" Moore who has similar characteristics to General Moore in the series. Also in the book is Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Smoak, on whom Colonel Lard is based. Lard has almost the same animosity for Major Boyington in the TV series as Smoak does in the book. In the documentary film Pappy Boyington Field, Robert Conrad shares personal insight about Pappy from their time together during the television series. The squadron has many successful combat missions using their Vought F4U Corsair planes against the experienced Japanese pilots using their Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter planes. The combat missions took place around the Japanese military base in Rabaul during Boyington's September 1943 to January 1944 tour of duty.

Pappy was an ace pre-World War II combat pilot and has the most air victories, or "kills", of any pilot in the squadron. In the pilot episode, Boyington has six kills from his combat tour in China before World War II with the Flying Tigers. His count climbs into the mid-20s as the series progresses. The real-life Boyington had 14 kills in 32 days during his first tour of duty with VMF-214, and finished with 28 confirmed victories.

The TV show's squadron makes its base on the fictional island of Vella la Cava. There is an actual island called Vella Lavella in the New Georgia Group of the Solomon Islands, but in the initial episode "Flying Misfits", Vella la Cava was represented on an aviation sectional chart by the real Kolombangara Island. Under Boyington's command, VMF-214 flew out of Barakoma Airfield on Vella Lavella during the Solomon Islands campaign.

Main characters[edit]

Robert Conrad as Major Gregory "Pappy" Boyington in 1976
  • Captain James "Jim" Gutterman (Pilot/Executive Officer) (1976–1977). Played by James Whitmore, Jr., who did not appear in the second season.
  • First Lieutenant/Captain Lawrence "Larry" Casey (Pilot/Executive Officer) (1976–1978). Played by W. K. Stratton. Casey was promoted to the rank of Marine Captain in the Season 2 episode "The 200 Pound Gorilla".
  • First Lieutenant Jerome "Jerry" Bragg (Pilot) (1976–1978). Played by Dirk Blocker.
  • First Lieutenant Thomas Joseph "T.J." Wiley (Pilot) (1976–1978). Played by Robert Ginty, who left after the sixth episode of the second season.
  • Second Lieutenant Robert "Bob" Anderson (Pilot) (1976–1978). Played by John Larroquette, who left after the sixth episode of the second season.
  • First Lieutenant Donald "Don" French (Pilot) (1976–1978). Played by Jeff MacKay.
  • First Lieutenant Robert A. "Bob/Bobby" Boyle (Pilot) (1976–1978). Played by Jake Mitchell in the two-hour pilot, and by Larry Manetti from episode 1.02 onward.
  • Second Lieutenant Jeb Pruitt (Pilot) (1978). Played by Jeb Stuart Adams.
  • Master Gunnery Sergeant/Warrant Officer/Captain Andrew "Andy" Micklin (Chief Mechanic) (1977–1978). Played by Red West. Micklin was promoted to warrant officer at the start of the episode "The 200 Pound Gorilla", and was made a temporary captain by Boyington while sitting in the brig for punching out a major in a bar fight, resulting in his reduction in grade/rank back to master gunnery sergeant. In the season 2 episode "Fighting Angels", Micklin's background as a mud marine in China was referenced, and he has been described by Boyington as being "part commando, part Indian tracker, and 100 percent mean".
  • Sergeant John David "Hutch" Hutchinson (Chief/Assistant Chief Mechanic) (1976–1977). Played by Joey Aresco. Hutch is killed in Season 1, Episode 21 ("Last One for Hutch") by an enemy strafing run during an attack on Vella La Cava. He was replaced as chief mechanic by master sergeant Andy Micklin (Red West), who had joined the squadron a few episodes earlier in "Devil in the Slot".
  • Colonel Thomas A. Lard (Executive Officer, Espritos Marcos) (1976–1978). Played by Dana Elcar. Lard, modeled on one of the real Boyington's actual superiors, USMC Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Smoak, is a strictly-by-the-book staff officer.[1] A highly competent career Marine who has seen action in China, Lard is offended by Boyington's frequent disregard for regulations and policies, and the two men rarely get along personally. (The real Boyington and Smoak were bitter personal enemies, and Boyington never forgave Smoak or made any kind of peace with him.)[2] However, Lard sees a lot of promise in Boyington, though he does not admit it, and he often puts aside his opinions to further the mission.
  • Brigadier General/Major General Thomas Moore (Commanding Officer, Esprito Marcos) (1976–1978). Played by Simon Oakland. Moore is impressed by Boyington's initiative in "stealing" the 214th and then by the results obtained by the Black Sheep, so he keeps Lard in check as much as possible. Moore was promoted from brigadier general to major general in the second-season episode "The 200 Pound Gorilla". (The actual general officer who provided the real Boyington with support where needed was named James T. Moore, and was nicknamed "Nuts". He and the real Boyington had been "drinking buddies".)[3]

Notable recurring characters[edit]

1976 cast photo
  • Imperial Japanese Navy Capt. Tomio Harachi (Pilot) (1976–1978). Played by Byron Chung.
  • First Commando/Capt. Ishima/Japanese Officer (1976–1978). Played by Marcus Mucai.
  • Maj. Red Buell (Pilot, Former Commanding Officer, VMF-214) (1976–77). Played by Charles Napier.
  • Third Commando/Ensign Kira (1977). Played by James Saito.
  • Lt. Ted Carter (Pilot) (1976–77). Played by Frederick Herrick.
  • Lt. Cmdr. Gladys Hope (Head Nurse) (1977). Played by Anne Francis.
  • Lt. Caroline Holden (Nurse) (1977). Played by Linda Scruggs Bogart.
  • Lt. Nancy Gilmore (Nurse) (1977–78). Played by Nancy Conrad.
  • Lt. Cmdr. Dottie Dixon (Head Nurse) (1977–78). Played by Katherine Cannon. Dixon was killed in action during the season 2 episode "Fighting Angels" while defending Vella La Cava against an invasion by Japanese forces.
  • Lt. Alma Peterson/Pretty Nurse/Lt. Susan Ames (1977–78). Played by Brianne Leary.
  • Ensign Barret (1978). Played by Ron Roy.
  • Lt. Ellie Kovaks (Nurse) (1978). Played by Kathy McCullen.
  • Doc Roberts/Sgt. Dutch Savage (1976–78). Played by John Durren.
  • Col. Tokura/Lt. Miragochi (1977). Played by Soon-Tek Oh.
  • Stan Richards/Mechanic/Radio Operator (1977–78). Played by Steven Richmond.
  • Lt. Samantha "Sam" Greene (Nurse) (1977–78). Played by Denise DuBarry. She is the daughter of General Moore, as established in the season 2 episode "Forbidden Fruit". To avoid the treatment that comes with being a general's daughter, she uses her mother's maiden name.


Season 1 (1976–77)[edit]

Episode # Title Original Airdate Director Guest Stars Notes
1.00 Flying Misfits Sept. 21, 1976 Russ Mayberry Peter Donat
Sharon Gless
George Gaynes
Charles Napier
Retired Marine Corps Major Greg Boyington is working with the Flying Tigers American Volunteer Group in China when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brings America into World War II. He rejoins the Marines and, after refusing a desk job, forms his own fighter squadron in the South Pacific from a group of disciplinary cases and misfits, teaching them the Thach Weave to counter the Zero's tighter turning radius. (Two-hour pilot, which was split into two one-hour episodes for syndication.)
1.01 Best Three Out of Five Sept. 23, 1976 Lawrence Doheny Charles Napier Pappy visits Col. Lard in Espritos Marcos, and learns that Lard plans to remove the Black Sheep from combat duty due to excessive rules violations. When Pappy returns, he finds Major Red Buell, the man from whom he stole the Corsairs, taking charge of a new squadron on Vella la Cava.
1.02 Small War Sept. 28, 1976 Walter Doniger René Auberjonois After Pappy is accidentally shot down by Wiley and parachutes to a Japanese-occupied island, he is rescued by an Australian Navy man who has been hiding there for two months. Meanwhile, Gutterman has serious doubts about his ability to command with Pappy gone, prompting a visit from General Moore.
1.03 High Jinx Oct. 5, 1976 John Peyser Donald Petrie With the Japanese air fleet now including modified Zeroes, Pappy and Casey do some dealing to try and secure armor-piercing ammo. Pappy also brings a new pilot into the squadron whom Gutterman says is considered a jinx.
1.04 Prisoners of War Oct. 12, 1976 Jackie Cooper Clyde Kusatsu An English speaking Japanese pilot is shot down and captured, but then bonds with the men of the squadron.
1.05 Presumed Dead Oct. 26, 1976 Lawrence Doheny Kent McCord
James Hong
Norman Burton
An American pilot believed shot down is found floating on a raft, but exhibits strange behavior. Boyington discovers he's been brainwashed and sent on a secret mission by the Japanese.
1.06 The Meatball Circus Nov. 9, 1976 John Peyser Stewart Moss
Robert Clarke
Boyington tries to come up with an alternative to a plan for a secret mission that's sure to be suicide.
1.07 Up for Grabs Nov. 16, 1976 Ivan Dixon George Takei
Yuki Shimoda
A Japanese commando force invades the island where the 214 is stationed in an attempt to capture Gen. MacArthur, who's due to visit.
1.08 Anyone for Suicide? Nov. 23, 1976 Jackie Cooper Boyington, just recovered from malaria, gets no volunteers for a dangerous mission after Doc Lindsay tells the Black Sheep to ground Pappy or he'll send him stateside. Pappy decides to fly the mission anyway, with four strangers. After bad weather keeps the replacements from flying in, the mission is scrubbed. To get back into Pappy's good graces, the Black Sheep decide to fly with Pappy, but the mission doesn't go as planned.
1.09 New Georgia on My Mind Nov. 30, 1976 Jeannot Szwarc James Luisi A Marine colonel rubs Pappy the wrong way when he lands his paratroopers on Vella la Cava and announces he's taking charge of the squadron's next mission.
1.10 The Cat's Whiskers Dec. 7, 1976 Russ Mayberry Frank Maxwell Hoping to gain favor with the court martial board in an upcoming hearing, Pappy makes plans to attack a seemingly impregnable Japanese radar base.
1.11 Love and War Dec. 14, 1976 William Wiard Leslie Charleson Two of the squadron pilots fall for the same nurse, who happens to be from Bragg's home town.
1.12 The War Biz Warrior Jan. 4, 1977 Lawrence Doheny James Darren
Ford Rainey
A famous actor joins the squadron, but the Black Sheep start to resent the media attention piled on him.
1.13 The Deadliest Enemy of All: Part 1 Jan 11, 1977 Barry Shear Anne Francis A recently injured Pappy falls for a new nurse who seems to be avoiding his advances. (First episode with Larroquette, Manetti, and MacKay in the opening credits.)
1.14 The Deadliest Enemy of All: Part 2 Jan 18, 1977 Barry Shear Anne Francis
Greg Boyington
Pappy finds out the nurse he's falling for is still married, albeit to a soldier who has been listed as missing for over a year.
1.15 Devil in the Slot Jan 25, 1977 Edward Dein Red West As the squadron deals with a stubborn new head mechanic, Gutterman cracks after being shot down by Japanese ace Tomio Harachi, Pappy's nemesis.
1.16 Five the Hard Way Feb. 1, 1977 Jackie Cooper Kenneth Mars French gets reckless in the pursuit of his fifth kill, after his father, a newspaper publisher, sends a reporting team to cover his son becoming an ace.
1.17 The Last Mission Over Sengai Feb. 8, 1977 Jackie Cooper Red West A new pilot from a politically powerful family claims he was ordered by Boyington into a ground attack that accidentally strafed United States Marines, forcing Pappy to face a court-martial.
1.18 Trouble at Fort Apache Feb. 15, 1977 Edward Dein Joel Fabiani
James Keach
Les Lannom
An Army general begins operating his "flying fortress" bombers out of Vella la Cava. He constantly refuses to have the 214 provide fighter cover, but Pappy insists after receiving orders from General Moore to do so.
1.19 Poor Little Lambs Feb. 22, 1977 Jackie Cooper Sorrell Booke
Lilyan Chauvin
Soon-Teck Oh
A compass malfunction causes Pappy, Boyle and Anderson to parachute to an unknown island, where they find a Catholic orphanage coexisting with Japanese occupiers. When a nun tells Pappy where they are, he realizes the island is targeted for a United States invasion in 36 hours.
1.20 W*A*S*P*S Mar. 1, 1977 Dana Elcar It's an all-out battle of the sexes when the Women's Air Service Patrol (WASPs) take up residence on Vella la Cava, and their leader bans fraternizing with the Black Sheep pilots.
1.21 Last One for Hutch Mar. 8, 1977 Lawrence Doheny Japanese attacks on Vella la Cava cause the death of Hutch and damage enough equipment to ground the Black Sheep. With the squadron about to be split up and reassigned, Pappy has to come up with a plan that will force command to keep them together.
1.22 The Fastest Gun Mar. 15, 1977 Lawrence Doheny The squadron learns that Harachi survived being shot down by Wiley and is gunning for Boyington, just as Pappy is feuding with Micklin over the condition of his plane. Meanwhile, an efficiency expert has an eye-opening experience when he covers the 214 to figure out what makes them the most successful squadron in the South Pacific.


Season 2 (1977–78)[edit]

Episode # Title Original Airdate Director Guest Stars Notes
2.01 Divine Wind Dec. 14, 1977 Lawrence Doheny Scott Hylands The Black Sheep face the first kamikaze attacks, as a visiting chaplain tries to help Anderson confront his premonitions of death.
2.02 The 200 Pound Gorilla Dec. 21, 1977 Dana Elcar Micklin instigates a bar clearing brawl to keep from being promoted to warrant officer. With the 214 fighters experiencing faulty ammunition, the Japanese begin raids on Espritos Marcos.
2.03 The Hawk Flies on Sunday Dec. 28, 1977 Robert Conrad Sean Garrison The Black Sheep join forces with an Army Air Forces squadron on a top secret mission to shoot down Adm. Isoroku "The Hawk" Yamamoto, head of the Japanese fleet. Wiley has a romance with a young Eurasian woman who is hiding a secret.
2.04 Wolves in the Sheep Pen Jan 4, 1978 Edward Dein Tim Matheson A Navy squadron temporarily stationed on Vella La Cava – with their pet wolf Sheba – causes much tension as the two units collaborate to destroy a Japanese radar ship.
2.05 Operation Stand-Down Jan. 11, 1978 Philip DeGuere Michael Durrell An officer visits to re-qualify the squadron for combat duty, but his "by the book" testing standards are far different from the Black Sheep's combat experience.
2.06 Ten'll Get You Five Jan. 18, 1978 Robert Conrad Greg Boyington
Scott Colomby
With the military supply chains in crisis, the squadron turns to a shady sergeant who deals in black market goods.
2.07 Forbidden Fruit Feb. 22, 1978 Robert Conrad A talented new pilot joins the squadron, but there are serious doubts about his age. Arriving at the same time, a new nurse causes tension when it's revealed she is General Moore's daughter.
2.08 Fighting Angels Mar. 1, 1978 Lawrence Doheny As Japanese commandos attack Vella La Cava, the Black Sheep scramble to fend off approaching naval forces, leaving Colonel Lard, the mechanics and the nurses to defend the Marine base.
2.09 The Iceman Mar. 8, 1978 Dana Elcar Richard Jaeckel Boyington has to fight an attempt to have him transferred from combat duty when word gets out that a top Japanese pilot who hunts enemy aces has targeted him.
2.10 Hotshot Mar. 15, 1978 Lawrence Doheny Frank Converse A top scoring Army Air Forces pilot is temporarily assigned to the squadron and causes friction with his efforts to increase his number of kills.
2.11 The Show Must Go on...Sometimes Mar. 23, 1978 Dana Elcar Joe Santos After their runway is damaged by rain and Japanese bombing runs, the squadron has to trick a Navy Seabee unit into building them a new one by promising them a USO show.
2.12 Sheep in the Limelight Mar. 30, 1978 Lawrence Doheny James T. Callahan After the Black Sheep save Eleanor Roosevelt's plane from being shot down, the squadron gets much unwanted media attention.
2.13 A Little Bit of England Apr. 6, 1978 Donald P. Bellisario Peter Frampton Boyle gets shot down and comes under the protection of a coastwatcher from England. The squadron races against time to rescue him before he's captured by the Japanese.

Critical response[edit]

The day of the show's debut, The Washington Post called Baa Baa Black Sheep a "war-is-swell series [aimed] at anyone who remembers World War II as a rousing, blowzy, fraternity turkey-shoot."[4]

Production notes[edit]

Although the title Baa Baa Black Sheep comes from a nursery rhyme, the song heard at the beginning of the opening credits is actually the chorus to "The Whiffenpoof Song", written in 1909 as a homage to Rudyard Kipling's poem "Gentlemen-Rankers". One of the squadron's real-life members, Paul "Moon" Mullen, adapted "The Whiffenpoof Song" for the squadron's use.

"We are poor little lambs,
Who have lost our way.
Baa, Baa, Baaaaa."

The name of the island where the real-life Black Sheep were stationed was Vella Lavella in the Solomon Islands of the southern Pacific, known as "The Slot"; this was changed to Vella la Cava in the series. The same was done for the Rear Area Allied Command island of "Espiritu Santo" (Espritos Marcos). The Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California provided an adequate substitute backdrop for flying scenes. Filming of airfield scenes was primarily done at the now-closed Indian Dunes Airport in Valencia, California.[5]

Some air-battle scenes were actually short clips from the 1969 film Battle of Britain, and German markings on the planes can clearly be seen.[original research?] Other flying scenes pioneered the technique of mounting cameras on helmets worn by pilots, thus providing a pilot's-eye view never before seen in films featuring single-seat aircraft.[citation needed] Because of reflections from the Plexiglas canopies, many close-ups were shot with the canopies removed.

The Vought F4U and FG-1 Corsair fighter planes [6] were leased to Universal Studios by private owners. Many scenes showing repairs on the aircraft were filmed during actual preventative maintenance.[citation needed] "Japanese" aircraft used in the series were actually North American T-6 Texan World War 2 trainer planes, which had been modified to resemble Japanese planes for the film Tora! Tora! Tora! and later purchased by collectors. The Grumman J2F Duck float biplane belonged to stunt pilot Frank Tallman and his Tallmantz Aviation museum in Santa Ana, California. Tallman often stated that this was his all-time favorite plane to fly, with the Corsair in a near-tie.[citation needed] Tallman provided or arranged for most of the aircraft used in the series.

At an aviation history symposium in 2002, members of the real VMF-214 were asked about the authenticity of the TV series.[7] Retired Colonel Henry A. McCartney said the list of errors was too long to repeat. Boyington himself referred to the series as "... inaccuracies, hogwash, and Hollywood hokum,"[8] although he did serve as technical advisor on the show, and had cameo appearances in three episodes. A 2001 History Channel documentary, History Undercover: The True Story of the Black Sheep Squadron, depicted some of these differences in greater detail.[9]

As the show originally started during family viewing, CBS asked NBC to edit out the offending material found in the show.[10] A year later, NBC initially cancelled the show,[11] only for the network to reverse decision as a compensation to cancel the sitcom Off the Wall.[12]

Home media[edit]

Universal Pictures has released the complete first season on DVD in Region 1 in 2 volume sets. They also released volume 1 on DVD in the UK.

In Germany, ZYX Music GmbH released the entire series on DVD.

On December 7, 2015, it was announced that Shout! Factory had acquired the rights to the series in Region 1 and would release the final season on DVD on May 17, 2016.[13][14]

On June 13, 2017, Universal Pictures re-released season 1 in a full season set.[15]

Boxset DVD release date
Region 1 Region 2
Baa Baa Black Sheep, Volume 1 May 24, 2005 July 17, 2006
Baa Baa Black Sheep, Volume 2 July 3, 2007 N/A
Baa Baa Black Sheep, Season 1 June 13, 2017 N/A
Baa Baa Black Sheep, Season 2 May 17, 2016 N/A


  1. ^ Gamble, Bruce (2000). Black Sheep One. Novato, CA: Presidio Press, Inc. p. 225. ISBN 0-89141-716-8.
  2. ^ Gamble, Bruce (2000). Black Sheep One. Novato, CA: Presidio Press, Inc. pp. 277–81. ISBN 0-89141-716-8.
  3. ^ Gamble, Bruce (2000). Black Sheep One. Novato, CA: Presidio Press, Inc. p. 261. ISBN 0-89141-716-8.
  4. ^ Shales, Tom (1976-09-21). "'Black Sheep': Oh, What An Unlovely War". The Washington Post.
  5. ^ [1] Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields:Indian Dunes Airport (4CA4), Valencia, California
  6. ^ "Poor Little Lambs". Warbird News. Retrieved 25 September 2017.
  7. ^ "CORSAIR!". Dayton Daily News. 2002-09-12. p. Z3-10. Retrieved 2007-06-24. The Gathering of Corsairs and Legends at the Indianapolis Air Show in Mount Comfort, Ind. ... Numerous Navy and Marine pilots who few Corsairs in combat attended the show, where they participated in a symposium and signed autographs.
  8. ^ Bates, Tom, "Black Sheep of the South Pacific," SOF's Action Series, Volume II. #6 (Valor), December 1986, Omega Group, Ltd, p. 57.
  9. ^ "2001 History Channel documentary on the differences between the TV show and the real VMF-214"
  10. ^ "CBS Accuses NBC's 'Baa Baa Black Sheep' of Violating Family Viewing". The New York Times. October 6, 1976. Retrieved November 8, 2023.
  11. ^ "Fall line-ups now complete; emphasis is on comedy and specials" (PDF). Broadcasting. May 9, 1977. p. 27. Retrieved November 8, 2023.
  12. ^ "In Brief" (PDF). Broadcasting. June 13, 1977. p. 33. Retrieved November 8, 2023.
  13. ^ 'The Final Season' is Confirmed for DVD!!! Archived 2015-12-10 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ We'll All Have to Wait Just a Bit Longer for 'The Final Season' Archived 2015-12-13 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Robert Conrad Stars in a Complete 'Season 1' DVD Set! Archived 2017-03-29 at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]