FALLBROOK — America lost a true hero when Frederick “Fred” Samuel Losch, 88, died peacefully in his sleep on Friday, April 23, 2010 in his Fallbrook home. He was one of the last surviving members of the famed Black Sheep Squadron that served under Maj. Pappy Boyington in World War II. For many years, Losch spent winters in Fallbrook and summers at his Slash E Ranch in Island Park, Idaho.
Fred Losch was born on July 24, 1921 on the family farm in Pennsylvania near the small town of Larryville. He finished eight grades in a one-room schoolhouse, graduated from high school in Jersey Shore, Pa., and attended Geneva College near Pittsburgh, Pa.
When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Losch, like many other young, patriotic men of that day, volunteered to serve his country in its fight for freedom. He joined the Navy Air Corps the day after the attack. He had planned to join the Army, but the line around the federal building was too long and he was too eager to get down to learning how to fly a fighter plane. He was a member of the first class to train at a new base near Kokomo, Ind. that was without permanent buildings or a proper airstrip. He learned to fly in a cow pasture.
Losch then earned his wings with the Marines at Pensacola, Fla., and underwent advanced fighter pilot training in Jacksonville, FL. He trained with Maj. John F. Dobbin and then joined VMF-214 – the Black Sheep Squadron. He flew 28 combat missions, and on January 2, 1944 he shot down a Zero and damaged another over Rabaul. He went on to serve a second combat tour with VMF-211 after the Black Sheep were disbanded on January 8, 1944.
Fred Losch married Jean Levering on November 1, 1947 in Los Angeles. He completed his college degree at UCLA. He then worked in the building materials industry and started his own company, growing it into a multimillion-dollar business based in Los Angeles.
After Losch retired, he and Jean spent May through October on the ranch at Henry’s Lake and wintered in Altadena, Calif., and then Fallbrook. The couple hosted Black Sheep Squadron reunions at the ranch, and also traveled to reunions in other parts of the country.
In the last 15 years, Losch became concerned that public schools are not teaching students the history of World War II and other military conflicts, and felt a new generation of Americans was growing up with little or no understanding of how America has fought to keep its citizens free. He shared his thoughts about this in interviews on the History Channel that featured reruns of the 1970s television show, Baa Baa Black Sheep that dramatized the squadron’s exploits during the war.
Interviews with Losch about his Black Sheep experiences are key parts of several books, magazine articles, and Web sites about World War II and the Black Sheep. For example he is featured in the books, “Once They Were Eagles,” by Frank E. Walton and “The Black Sheep,” by Bruce Gamble.
In an effort to “set the record straight on many inaccuracies the media propagated about World War II,” Losch penned his own book in 2007, “Memories of a Black Sheep Squadron Fighter Pilot.” He donated all money from book sales to the Marine Heritage Foundation in Virginia.
Dr. Linda Dudik, a history professor at Palomar College, is in the process of writing Losch’s biography.
Fred Losch was preceded in death by his parents; his wife of 50 years, Jean; a daughter, Sally; brothers Paul and Neil; and sister, Martha.
He is survived by his sons, Jim (Lynn), of Rescue, Calif., John (Elizabeth), of Island Park, Idaho; daughter Barbara (Luis) Nogueria, of Fallbrook; five grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews.
The family suggests that memorial donations be made in Fred S. Losch’s memory to the Wounded Warrior Project online at www.woundedwarriorproject.org or by mail to Wounded Warrior Project, 7020 AC Skinner Pkwy, Suite 100 Jacksonville, FL 32256.