Was a member of ROTC while at the University of Washington. Upon graduating with a degree in Aeronautical Engineering in 1934, he served with the Coast Artillery Reserve in Washington State and also worked as a draftsman in Tacoma, Washington at Boeing Aircraft.
Was designated a Naval Aviator flying for the Marine Corp in San Diego in 1937.
Joined the American Volunteer Group (which became known as the “Flying Tigers”) in 1941 to defend the China/Burma road from Japanese Aggression. He became an ace in the Flying Tigers with 6 victories.
Rejoined the Marine Corp once the United States entered World War II and was assigned the position of Commanding Officer of Marine Fighting Squadron 214- a group which was popularly coined the “Black Sheep” squadron.
During World War II, Col. Boyington fearlessly downed 22 enemy aircraft over the Solomon Islands, leading his squadron with the destruction of 126 aircraft over the course of 9 months of continuous combat.
In 1944, he was presumed dead and awarded the Medal of Honor by President Roosevelt. However, he was alive and being held in a Japanese prison which was liberated at the end of the war. Boyington was able to receive the award in person in 1945 from President Truman.