HARLINGEN, Texas -- Gregory 'Pappy' Boyington, commander of the famous American Black Sheep Squadron during World War II, has his 'Baa Baa Black Sheep' book. Now the Japanese flying ace who claims he shot Boyington down has authored his own book, called 'Bye Bye Black Sheep.'
Masajiro 'Mike' Kawato, 58, sells his book at air shows across the United States for $13 a copy. He'll throw in an autographed picture of himself for $6 extra.
Friday Kawato was drawing interest to his 'Kamikaze Squadron Headquarters,' which is what he calls his booth where he is selling Japanese war memorabilia at Airshow 83.
For $3 history buffs can purchase a photograph of Kawato and Boyington together at a 1977 reunion in Los Angeles where both men denied that they harbored any personal animosity over what happened between their two countries.
Boyington, commander of the Black Sheep Squadron at the time his plane was shot down on Jan. 3, 1944, could not attend this year's air show, but Kawato says the two became friends after the Los Angeles reunion.
According to a Los Angeles Times account of the reunion, which Kawato displays at his souvenir booth, both men agreed that it probably was Kawato who shot down Boyington's plane that day over Rabaul, New Britain.
But Boyington, who was unavailable for comment Friday, has said that it was not Kawato who shot him down.
Kawato, who lives in Midland, Texas, said he has not been back to Japan since his 1976 Tokyo-to-Crescent City, Calif., flight dedicated to aviators of the United States and Japan who served in the Pacific during World War II.
Boyington, 70, settled in Fresno, Calif., where he helped produce the television series 'Baa Baa Black Sheep' based on his book published in 1958.
Boyington counted 28 'kills' of Japanese planes during the war before being shot down and spending 20 months in a Japanese prisoner camp. Kawato said he downed 19 American planes and was shot down five times before finishing out the war in an Australian prisoner camp.
Boyington returned home a hero and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Kawato retired from the Japanese Air Force in 1961 and then served as a commercial airline pilot before coming to the United States in 1976.
Kawato said Friday he usually does a brisk business selling pictures of himself by his Japanese Zero fighter, patches with the Japanese rising sun, T-shirts depicting the warplane he flew and a 'Kamikaze Cap.' He humorously notes the items were 'made in Japan.'