1928 - Alderson High School - 1968


The Eagle

John McCurdy - October 28, 2011

About forty years ago, I was talking with Boone Cochran about his experiences in WW2 as a marine in the Pacific. He was a veteran (read survivor), of the Iwo Jima invasion, went in one of the first waves of troops, stayed there the entire time and did not get even a scratch!

Just before I left his shop, (we were talking in his woodworking shop), he reached up onto a shelf and handed me an American Eagle with outstretched wings, that he had mounted on a piece of walnut. One wing of the eagle had been broken off and not too skillfully welded back on. It is made of some sort of cast metal and then was bronze plated.

He told me how he had gotten it; sometime after Iwo Jima: a fellow marine, he had met in a bar somewhere and then whom he later became friends, told him that he had been with the marines that were with General McArthur when he returned to the Island of Corregidor in 1945. A day or so later a native had given him for some reason now forgotten, two broken pieces of the eagle, that the native said he had found several months after the surrender of Fortress Corregidor, near the entrance to the tunnel where the last remaining marines had taken refuge.

Boones said that his friend told him that he had been told some time later, that when the last marine defenders of Corregidor had received orders to surrender, two officers had removed the American flag and staff from the tunnel headquarters, and just outside the tunnel, had poured gasoline on the flag and burned it. One of the men then took the staff and Eagle and hit it over a concrete wall and broke the staff and the wing of the eagle. It was later while the native was searching for anything of value that the eagle had been found!

The story is nearly unbelievable, it would be impossible to establish any sort of provenance for the artifact, but I prefer to believe it is what it is purported to be. A symbol of American tragedy and triumph. I treasure it!

NOTE: Boone Cochran died this month, in October of 2011, one of a fast dwindling number of “the greatest generation”!
Addendum of November 7, 2011:
After a phone call or so and a few E Mails regarding the flag story, I have a little more information. I was never under the impression nor was I told that the  "broken eagle from  a flagstaff" was from "THE" flag that flew over Corregidor just before Corregidor was surrendered to the Japanese. Information, true or false, is that General Wainwright ordered the  flag lowered and burned to prevent capture. Another story is that before burning it an American Office cut a small piece out of the flag and sewed in  inside  his shirt. It remained there during his imprisonment by the Japanese. At some point, he thought he was likely to die and confiding in a fellow West Pointer gave him half of the remnant. Swearing him to, if he survived the war, give it to the West Point Museum. My understanding is that it is on display there!
The "broken wing eagle" I was given was very likely inside Fortress Corregidor's caves, somewhere in a office on a staff behind a desk, if it ever was on Corregidor! The Internet has several stories on the flag, one of a squabble between a member of General Macarthur's Staff and another officer over which was the flag that was the one flown before the surrender, and which should be the one raised upon Macarthur's return, (The reported order to burn and the story of the saved remnant was apparently forgotten). My guess would be there were several flags and all honestly were remembered later as being THE FLAG!
Much as James Michener wrote of the Skull of Pancho Villa. Texas and Colorado both claiming they were in possession of the real skull. A committee composed of learned folks from both states finally declared that both had them, that one skull was Panchos as a teenager and the other as an adult! 
I do believe that Boone thought the Eagle was as claimed and I will Cherish it.
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