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News From The Past

News Advisory
February 11, 2003

 

 

Marine Hero To be Eagle Scout At Last

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., 

 The North Florida Council, Boy Scouts of America, announced Feb. 11, 2003, that the BSA National Advancement Committee has met and approved awarding the rank of Eagle Scout to retired Marine Col. Mitchell Paige. Paige earned his Eagle rank in 1936 as a student at McKeesport High School in McKeesport, Pa. Because he joined the U. S. Marine Corp upon graduation, he never had the opportunity to receive his Eagle Scout award.

Paige is a World War II Marine hero who earned the Medal of Honor, the nations highest decoration during the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942. He had completed all the requirements for the Eagle rank when he was in high school, 67 years ago, but paperwork was never submitted to the Boy Scouts National Council for processing, said John Reesor, Scout Executive of the North Florida Council Boy Scouts of America in Jacksonville.

Paige represents what the public all looks for in an American hero  love of country and devotion to duty. He symbolizes the first line of the Scout Oath, which says - On my Honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country . These are the values of Scouting and the same values Mitchell Paige demonstrated during the battle of Guadalcanal.

Thomas A. Cottone, Jr., a Special Agent with the FBI, was instrumental in getting the necessary documentation to clear the way for Paige to receive his Eagle Scout rank.

The colonel and I were at a Medal of Honor Society event and noticed another Medal of Honor recipient wearing his Eagle badge along with his Medal of Honor. I told the colonel I was an Eagle Scout, and he told me his story. He had earned the badge in 1936, but never got it because he had to report to the Marines. Eagle Scouts stick together just like the Marines do, so I went to work to establish the facts that he had completed the requirements. His Scoutmaster, who was also his high school principal, had passed away, but I was able to find one of his classmates to verify his story. She was present the day the principal announced that Paige had completed his qualification for the rank of Eagle Scout, and would soon be receiving his Eagle Scout award. This Eagle ceremony will really mean a lot to him. It will be a big day for the Boy Scouts, too, Cottone said.

Paige was a Marine platoon sergeant in World War II and received the Medal of Honor for holding the Kola Ridge position defending Henderson Field against overwhelming Japanese forces. Then Sgt. Paige was in command of a machine gun position when the enemy broke through the line directly in front of him and either killed or wounded all of his men. Alone, against the Japanese onslaught he fought, moving from machine gun to machine gun, never ceasing his fire. Forming a new line, he then led a bayonet charge driving the enemy back and preventing a breakthrough in our lines.

This action was instrumental in defending Henderson Field, a strategic airfield on Guadalcanal that controlled the sealanes to Australia. Had Henderson Field fallen to the enemy, the course of the War in the Pacific could have been much different.

That was an Eagle Scout fighting on that ridge on Guadalcanal in 1942. I can think of no greater event to promote the standards and ideals of the Boy Scouts of America than to welcome this true American hero into the ranks of Eagle Scouts, Cottone said.

The North Florida Council Boy Scouts of America is truly honored to have been asked to play a role in this endeavor. Colonel Paige epitomizes everything that the Boy Scouts stand for, and is a living tribute to every Eagle Scout, said retired Navy Capt. Bill McCamy who served as the co-coordinator for the special ceremony.

 

Submitted by FBI Agent and Paige Family Friend
Tom Cottone

 

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