Captain John “Jack” H. Boyum USN

Because my father is one of the main characters in Journals From The Edge  the reader may ask how did it happen that he was born in such an exotic location.

My grandfather, Erik Edward Boyum was born in Fillmore County Minnesota  from Norwegian parents in 1875.  His sister married JP Foster, a noted agriculturalist who hired young Erik to work with him in the business of sugar beets in the area near Bismarck North Dakota.  Erik married Louise Hoag from Spirit Lake Iowa.  In 1895 JP Foster moved to Jennings Louisiana to escape brutal winters and manage the sugarcane operation in that area.  Erik Boyum followed and while working in Jennings he and Louise had two children, Thelma and Sevath.  In 1906 Erik moved his family to the island of Maui in the Territory of Hawaii where JP Foster had been hired to be superintendent by the Maui Agricultural Company.  Erik built and ran the lime kiln, crucial for sugarcane production.  His wife Louise was an educator and head of the territory’s Republican party.  They lived in the small plantation village of Hamakuapoko, near Paia on the north shore of Maui.

In 1919  Erik and Louise received a surprise, when at the age of 41 Louise gave birth to my father, John, who became known as Jack, in middle of picture with his older brother and father at his side.  Bill family big.jpg2.4mb


With a schoolteacher mother, Jack excelled at Maui High School.

young Jack

He was also captain of the debating team and learned to speak in a very measured, well thought out way.  During his senior year, Wilson Cannon, a classmate  and close pal wrote in their Maui High year book, that the modern age had arrived on Maui with the Pan Am Clipper.  The seaplane landed in the ocean off Maui on its way to the Orient in 1936.  It was also the year the road to the top Haleakala was paved.  Wilson also wrote a poem how the mountain might feel the pain of the scar on its side and wreck retribution.  Mauna Loa’s recent eruption was still fresh in their minds.  Haleakala didn’t erupt but the world would.    From this point on Dad’s isolation on Maui changed quickly.  Movement from 1936-45 Framed against the Big Band music of that time his movements are outlined in my video showing the tremendous amount of travel he did in the next nine years.


In 1936 Dad went to Honolulu to take the entrance exam for the United States Naval Academy.  Bob “Foggy” Newcomb from the island of Oahu also took the  Naval Academy entrance exam   This is his personal account of that event.  Bob and my Dad both passed and were the first from Hawaii to gain entrance to the Academy.  That year he left on the USS Lurline for the mainland with fellow Maui High school graduates and close pals, Frank Foss and Wilson Cannon (far right), pictured here along with Dad’s older sister Thelma “Titah” Boyum.  Both Foss and Cannon went to college and later became aviators during WWII.   Cannon flew “the hump” over the Himalayas and  became president of the Bank of Hawaii after the war.



Dad graduated from the Academy with Bob Newcomb in 1940.  Their first deployment was on the USS Northampton, a heavy cruiser stationed at Pearl Harbor.  Dec 7th

After the attack Dad attended the medal ceremony which included decorations for Commander W.H. Michael and his daughter Jacqueline, the beautiful gal he had met two years previous at a Naval Academy dance.  Bob Newcomb remembered the romance Jack and Jackie



Dad remained on the USS Northampton and was still with the USS Enterprise escort group that sailed four months later in April of 1942 with the USS Hornet that launched the Doolittle Raiders.  During brief periods in port he enjoyed bodysurfing at Sandy Beach with Jackie.

Sandy Beach

In late May he deployed again after some time in port when he  proposed to my mother, the night she graduated from Punahou High School.  Her father wouldn’t let her answer and we went to sea.  In early June, the Northampton was still part of the same task force group attached to the Enterprise off Midway Atoll.  A great carrier battle ensued and Dad’s station was in the radar room.  After that battle there was major call-up for pilots and Dad volunteered.  The luck of not being in port on Dec. 7th continued for Dad as he was fortunate a second time, when the Northampton was sunk a few months later, in August, off Guadalcanal.  In one of the biggest surface fleet engagements of the war, the Northampton took two torpedo hits.  Jason Robards the Hollywood actor knew my Dad and worked with him in the radar room.  Robards was still on the ship at Guadalcanal and among those rescued from the ocean.

Dad’s proposal was accepted by Jackie and he married  Mom in September 1942 before heading off to flight school.


In 1943 he received his wings in Pensacola Florida.


He then went to the Great Lakes training center to qualify for carrier landings, followed by operational training in Green Cove Springs Fla., where they learned formation flying and instrument flying.    1943 and 44 were the peak of numbers of pilots trained.  Both years graduated over 20,000 pilots.  The new pilots quickly became very confident and eager to fight.  One of the flight trainers who had seen air combat earlier in the war was called up to the commanding officer because he reportedly had a ‘bad attitude’.  He told the commanding officer that, “these kids are all so cocky and sure of themselves.  You (the commander) can take away my wings and my commission but I’m not going to let these pilots think that it is all fun and games up there.  The Japs are good pilots and they are going to try to kill you.”  He was told to carry on and continue his good work.

Dad’s flight record was good enough to become one of only thirty pilots, picked out of all those pilots who had become Naval Aviators, to become a night fighter.  They used all the latest technological advancements that were available, specifically, radar.  The pilots went to Quonset Point R.I. to receive an extensive, 29 week long, training for night fighting operations.  This culminated in the formation of VF (N) 77 squadron, the first Night Fighter squadron.    The group of thirty pilots had shrunk to 18 by the time of the squadron formation in Dec. 1943.   They trained with VF-14, the day fighters that would be on the newly commissioned USS Wasp (CV-18).  The previous Wasp (CV-7) had been sunk off Guadalcanal with the Northampton in the fall of 1942.   Larry Brown, the radar officer in Dad’s squadron on the Wasp tells about  Night Fighters

Night combatArtwork by Wayne Randall

Fighter squadron

In May of 1944 Dad joined up with the carrier USS Wasp in Honolulu, as skipper of night fighter squadron V (N) 77-C.   Squadron V (N) 77 had been divided into three groups of six.  The two other groups went to the Essex and the new Yorktown.  The Wasp was immediately deployed from Pearl Harbor to the war zone in the Western Pacific.  For over a year the pilots in the air groups on the Wasp had carried out missions on the islands of Wake, Marianas, Bonin Islands, (Iwo Jima), Guam, Palau, Okinawa, Formosa, and the Philippines.    The air groups on the Wasp were, Torpedo, Dive Bomber, Day Fighters and Night Fighters.  The fighter groups merged to become one Squadron, VF-14 ‘The Iron Angels’.  Only the pilots of the USS Essex VF15 bested their combat record.  Larry Brown and Dad’s wingman Chuck Soderlund give their accounts of  Combat operations and life onboard ship

Here is a great you tube video with real footage of carrier life and combat.  The landings are spectacular.

Smilin'jackFlight deck

During Dad’s combat operations off Formosa in October 1944, my Mom gave birth to her first child, a daughter, my sister Mimi in Long Beach, California.

Maui airman

Dad returned from combat and got a look at her before he went back to sea.

baby Mimi

In July of 1945 Dad was on a new carrier, the USS Intrepid, anchored off Maui where he grew up.  His squadron had traded in their old F6-F Hellcats and were practicing touch and goes with their new faster F4-U Corsairs.  In early August, right before they were to ship out again, the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan and the war ended.  Many military pilots retired after the war as did his classmate from Maui High, Wilson Cannon.  Flying airplanes only reminded them of a very tense time in their lives and they chose to move on.  But others, like my Dad, stayed in the military.  Dad was stationed in Key West Florida immediately after the war where the Navy began testing the first jets.  My brother Mike was born in Key West in June 1946.

Boyum 1949This picture was on a trip to the islands for my Dad to see his father right before he died in 1948.   With Mimi and infant Mike.


When Naval Test Pilot Training shifted operations to Patuxent River Maryland, Dad entered as a candidate in 1950.   I was born  in the nearest Naval Hospital in Philadelphia.   Later in 1956 he was promoted to Director of the program.  When we grew up, aside from being a movie star, a fighter pilot was the most thrilling career a boy could dream of.  Future astronauts dined at our home.   Journals from the Edge  is our baby boomer story that begins in Patuxent River in 1956.

bligh in jet



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