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Flip Corkin


Meet the real Flip


The Americans flew in the very worst of weather conditions to show the Boche that they are better fliers. They were led by Major Philip Cochran of Erie, PA-a mad young Irishman who acts like Flip Corkin of the cartoon strip “Terry and the Pirates.”-Chicago Tribune dispatch from Tunisia, Jan 6, 1943.


John Thompson, who filed the story quoted above, probably didn’t realize that he placed the cart before the horse, that Flip Corkin of Terry and the Pirates acts like Major Philip Cochran, leader of a Curtis P-40 Warhawk fighter group in Africa.


Milton A. Caniff, creator of Terry and the Pirates, declared in a recent letter to the Fly Leaf that”thanks”to Phil Cochran’s ability to do the spectacular thing at the right time, my Flip Corkin version of him has had to run to keep up.”


Here, in Caniff’s own words, is the background story of Flip’s origin in the cartoon strip followed avidly by millions of newspaper readers:


“Early in 1941 Lieut. Philip Cochran, an old friend from Ohio State University, came to my house for a weekend. He mentioned that he had a squadron under his command that looked like a “hot” outfit, and asked me to design an insigne for the group. His idea was a fighting cock with a chip on his shoulder and a shamrock (Cochran’s own good luck piece) around its neck. I put the design together and made up the necessary three colored drawings to be submitted to the Air Forces for approval.


“Some months later Cochran invited me to Groton, Conn., to watch the (then) 65th Fighter Squadron ‘fly a review.’


It was while watching these men lead their squadron in practice bombing, strafing and other fighter airplane maneuvers that I began to realize what potential material they were for Terry Characters. The reader reaction to Dude Hennick, who I had patterned after another Ohio State classmate (Capt Frank L. Higgs of China National Aviation Corp.) had convinced me that comic strip people inspired by real persons carried much more conviction than purely fictional heroes and heroines.


“Since we do not use real names in a strip, I introduced Cochran on 3 August 3, 1942, as Capt. Flip Corkin. Cochran has since received the Soldiers’ Medal for heroism in circumstances not directly connected with enemy action. In addition, he has been promoted to the rank of Major. Flip has not yet caught up in rating with his real life counterpart, but will soon do so.


“As I had hoped, the reaction to Flip Corkin was immediate. Not only did the general readers begin accepting him as a very real person (not knowing of the actual Flip) but all his old friends in the Air Force pounced upon the opportunity to send me anecdote abut Cochran covering the years he was in training, during which I had no contact with him.


“Since publication of the story of his being awarded the Soldiers’ Medal (which mentioned his connection with the Terry characters) and the Croix de Guerre, Cochran now gets fan mail direct. Some of it simply addressed to’ Major Philip C. Cochran, Army Air Forces, Washington, D>C>


These scrappy American make better copy and are better models than can be hired from an agency. The only trouble is that their real life adventure are so spectular I must turn out fast continuity to keep up with what I read about them in the papers.”


Yes the Curtiss-equipped Fighting Cock Squadron is moving fast these days, too fast for Flip Corkin to keep up with its colorful leader but Flip is doing all right, isn’t he Rogers


From Curtis “Fly Leaf” Magazine and from the First Air Commando Association newsletter dated Fall 2000



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