The term hero is tossed around rather loosely these days. But Sunday, June 3 at the Claremore Veterans Center a true American Hero was honored in front of about 50 of his fellow Veterans, family and friends.
Robert Erdwin had heard about serving in the Army his entire life, and when he was just 18, signed up and was sent to Corregidor, The Philippines. Corregidor was a gunnery emplacement, as well as medical facility, protecting the entry into Manila Bay. Dec. 7, 1941 found the United States at war with Japan, and although it was thought that Corregidor could never fall, it came under siege early in the war. Its 56-gun emplacements kept the Japanese at bay for five months. General Douglas MacArthur held his headquarters here, there was also an airfield on the island.
Thirteen thousand soldiers manned the base, but by May of 1942, Bataan had fallen and Corregidor was on the list of conquest for the 75,000 attacking Japanese. When the island fell May 6, 1942, captured soldiers were sent to prison camps all over the Japanese empire, Robert Erdwin was sent to Japan to work as slave labor.
Robert endured three and a half years of captivity, working to build airfields for the Japanese. When asked how much he weighed when he got out in 1945, he said, “80 pounds”. He was skin and bones, but he had endured.
It was for this service that he has been awarded the Oklahoma Cross of Valor with the presentation being signed by Governor Mary Fallin, as well as a Congressional award of honor for his service from Representative Mark Wayne Mullin’s office. We salute this true American Hero, who at 97 is still a man his family, friends, and all who know him honors, reveres, and takes pride in knowing.