One of the first Black Marines ― who served in the military during three wars ― died Aug. 15 at the age of 108.
Cosmas D. Eaglin Sr. joined the Marine Corps at age 27 and served two years in the Solomon Islands campaign of World War II, according to Monday news release by the North Carolina Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said in the release, “He and his fellow Montford Point Marines defended our freedom against fascism in World War II and set an example at home that helped lead the progress toward racial equality that our country has made over the last 80 years.”
The Marines who trained at Montford Point, North Carolina, were the first to break the color barrier in the Marine Corps following President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s June 1941 executive order opening all of the military services to Black men. The men who came to the segregated post near Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, in 1942 endured racism and harsh treatment, the National Museum of the Marine Corps recounts.
By the time Montford Point was decommissioned in 1949, 20,000 Marines had trained there, according to the museum.
Eaglin was one of the first 300 of those 20,000, according to a January news release from the North Carolina Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. After World War II, he exited the Corps, but during the Korean War he joined the Army and earned his paratrooper wings.
Eaglin lived in Fayetteville, North Carolina, starting in 1951. He served two tours in the Vietnam War in the 1960s, according to the release.
For his 108th birthday in January, Eaglin was presented with a certificate of appreciation and a challenge coin from the North Carolina Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, Marine Corps Times previously reported.
Retired Lt. Gen. Walter Gaskin, the department’s secretary, said at the time, “Because he was a Marine, I am able to be a Marine.”
“His contributions to the nation and the Marine Corps will be remembered and his legacy will live on for generations to come.”
Eaglin had six children, seven grand-children and 12 great-grandchildren, according to the news release about his death.
Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.