The Big Idea: Gregory Lynch, Jr.

The story of The Black Scorpions is a story of wartime and those who served in it, but as co-author Gregory Lynch, Jr. tells us in this Big Idea, it’s also a story of families, of fathers and sons, and of waiting until the right elements have come together to finally tell a tale.


If you were part of a world changing event, it is only natural to think you would want to tell people about your participation in that event. Such was the case for my grandfather, James Augustus Lynch, who participated in World War 2. He was the adjutant and later executive officer of an air combat unit known as the 64th Fighter Squadron, part of the 57th Fighter Group. The 64th Fighter Squadron adopted The Black Scorpion as their moniker and mascot after first encountering them in the sands of Egypt.

For my grandfather, The Big Idea was simple: write about his experiences fighting across the top of Africa and up through Italy. He finally sat down to write the book in the late 1960s. It took him about four years to come up with his first rough draft. Sadly, my grandfather passed away without finding a publisher for his book.

For years, the story of the book lived on. Whenever members of the extended Lynch family gathered, whether it was visiting my great-aunt in San Francisco, or at my cousins house back in Massachusetts, talk would always turn to my grandfather’s unpublished work about World War Two, and wouldn’t it be wonderful to someday to see his story in print.

My father was the biggest champion of his father’s book. He thought what really set the book apart from other World War 2 memoirs where the pictures that accompanied the book. James Lynch was the company censor for the the Black Scorpions. Pictures taken by the men were contraband, and it was his job to collect those pictures, which he did. It was also his job to destroy the photographs, which he did not. At the end of the war, he had a great stash of pictures to help illustrate his memoir.

Somewhere along the way, the pictures were lost. This also became part of the lore of the book. My father would talk bitterly about the empty file folder that used to contain the pictures that was right next to the folder which contained the manuscript. My father thought the book would be nothing without the photographs. If we could find the photographs and put them with the manuscript, we would have a real chance of getting the book published.

Finding the photographs and getting the book published was the mantra shared at many family gatherings. My Uncle Jimmy, who ended up with most of my grandfather’s possessions, would occasionally remark about where in his warren of a basement he thought the photographs might be located. But there was never a hunt for the photographs.

The story stayed there for twenty five years until in the early 2000s, I decided it was time to do something about the famous book. My father had xeroxed a copy of the manuscript and given it to his children. I determined if anything was to be done with the book, the book needed to be typed into a word processing program, so the book could be worked on. The reason I took on this task leads me to my Big Idea. My father would be overjoyed to see his father’s book in print. My Big Idea was to see if I could do this small thing to make my father happy. So after hearing about this book for at least thirty years, I finally read it.

As I went through manuscript, I could see why the book had been rejected for publication. It’s not that the story was bad, it wasn’t, the problem was the presentation and the formatting of the manuscript was all off. The most egregious example was the fact ninety percent of the book was in all caps. I’m sure my grandfather felt like he was typing out yet another report for the military. To me it felt like my grandfather was yelling at me for three hundred pages.

By going through the book, I could see what my father saw. There was a really good story in there. My grandfather experienced things that should be shared. He was also telling a story about a facet of the war not very well known. This made me want to get the book published more than ever. But there was still the question of the pictures.

As word spread that I was working on my grandfather’s book, a familiar call and response developed between me any my cousins who were now in charge of my Uncle’s house, potential home of the missing photographs. They would ask me if the book was finished. I would ask them how goes the hunt for the pictures. That went on for at least a decade, until one day I received a text from my cousin announcing the photographs had been found. They were in an album in a box that only the cleaning out of the house revealed. The discovery meant only one thing: I now had to finish the book.

I’m glad they found the photos. It gave me the final impetus to fulfill a mental promise I had made to my father to get his father’s book published. Unfortunately, my father did not live long enough to see the finished product. As for my grandfather, his tale will finally be available for lots of people to read.

The Black Scorpions: Amazon|Amazon UK|Powells

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3 Comments on “The Big Idea: Gregory Lynch, Jr.”

  1. Went right on my list. For a period of time when I was younger (many years ago now :)) Researching WWII was a pretty serious hobby. Must have purchased a hundred or more books (pre-internet) ranging from biographies to collections of documents during that time.

    It’s been quite some time since, but reading this Big Idea brought back that curiosity. Really looking forward to reading this, and especially looking forward to seeing the pictures.

  2. My interest is also piqued. I just finished The Obstacle is the Way, in which the author said that the African desert campaign was essentially the training ground for Allied forces so they’d know what they were doing when they began fighting in Europe. Let’s check that out. I’m also keen to see the photos. My father, his brother, and their father all wrote memoirs of their WWII experiences. My grandfather’s, A Nebraskan in New Guinea, has been shared around the most, revealing more of the man than he ever let on in real life. The last words are, the beauty.

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