War Eagle

War Eagle

The War Eagle serves as a symbol of Auburn University, an embodiment of the school battle cry of "War Eagle." It is also the name of the school's fight song. Old Abe the War Eagle was the Mascot of the Wisconsin 8th Eagle Regiment in the Civil War, he was America's most noted and famous War Eagle who flew over the battles screaming, tokening the name Screaming Eagle.

"War Eagle" as a Battle Cry

"War Eagle" is a battle cry and symbol of Auburn University. There are several stories about the battle cry, but the most popular myth was originally published in 1960 in the Auburn Plainsman and was conceived by then-Editor Jim Phillips. Phillips told the story of the first time Auburn met Georgia on the football field in 1892 and centered the story around a fictional spectator who was a veteran of the Civil War. In the stands with him that day was a golden eagle the old soldier had found on a battlefield during the war. He had kept it as a pet for almost 30 years. According to the story, the eagle suddenly broke free and began majestically circling the playing field. As the eagle soared, Auburn began a steady march toward the Georgia end zone for a thrilling victory. Elated at their team's play and taking the bird's presence as an omen of success, Auburn students and fans began to yell "War Eagle" to spur on their team ("war eagle" was once the common term for golden eagles). At the game's end, the eagle took a sudden dive, crashed into the ground, and died, giving his spirit to the Auburn fans. The battle cry "War Eagle" lived on to become a symbol of the proud Auburn spirit. The 1914 contest with the Carlisle Indians provides another story. The toughest player on the Indians' team was a tackle named Bald Eagle. Trying to tire the big man, Auburn began to run play after play at his position. Without even huddling, the Auburn quarterback would yell "Bald Eagle," letting the rest of the team know that the play would be run at the imposing defensive man. Spectators, however, thought the quarterback was saying "War Eagle," and in unison, they began to chant the resounding cry. Another version of the War Eagle story comes from Indian lore. Legend says "War Eagle" was the name given to the large golden eagle by the Plains Indians because the eagle furnished feathers for use in their war bonnets. The rarest but most historically likely version of the origin of the "War Eagle" cry grew from a 1913 pep rally at Langdon Hall where students had gathered the day before the Georgia football game. Cheerleader Gus Graydon told the crowd, "If we are going to win this game, we'll have to get out there and fight, because this means war." During the frenzy, another student, E. T. Enslen, dressed in his military uniform, noticed something had dropped from his hat. Bending down, he saw it was the metal emblem of an eagle that had been loosened while he cheered. Someone asked him what he had found, and Enslen loudly replied, "It's a War Eagle!" History was made as the new cry echoed throughout the stadium the next day as Auburn battled Georgia.

Another version is that two students shouting at each other at a pep rally said something that was misinterpreted to be "War Eagle" thus the birth of the battle cry.


There are generally considered to have been seven "War Eagles" as Auburn icons; however, as a matter of historical fact, only the latter six have been actual birds.

War Eagle I (1892)

War Eagle I, has the most colorful story of all of the "War Eagles". War Eagle I's story dates back to the Civil War. According to the legend, a soldier from Alabama was the sole Confederate survivor of a bloody battle. Stumbling across the battlefield, he came across a wounded young eagle. The bird was named Anvre, and was cared for and nursed back to health by the soldier. Several years later the soldier, a former Auburn student, returned to college as a faculty member, bringing the bird with him. For years both were a familiar sight on campus and at events. On the day of Auburn's first football game in 1892 against the University of Georgia, the aged eagle broke away from his master during the game and began to circle the field, exciting the fans. But at the end of the game, with Auburn victorious, the eagle fell to the ground and died.

This legend was originally published in 1960 in the Auburn Plainsman and was conceived by then-Editor Jim Phillips. Though apocryphal, this tale has come to be regarded as the beginning of the association of "War Eagle" with Auburn.

Other stories of the first eagle can be found at:

War Eagle II (1930)

Auburn's second eagle, War Eagle II, is well documented. In November 1930 a golden eagle swooped down on a flock of turkeys in Bee Hive, Alabama, southwest of Auburn, and became entangled in a mass of pea vines. Fourteen individuals and businesses scraped together $10 - a lot of money during the depression - and purchased the eagle from the farmer who owned the pea patch. Cheerleaders DeWit Stier and Harry "Happy" Davis, later executive secretary of the Alumni Association, helped care for the new bird. It was put in a strong wire cage and taken to the Auburn football game against the University of South Carolina in Columbus, Georgia on Thanksgiving Day.

Auburn, having not won a Southern Conference game in four seasons, was anticipated to lose. However, the Plainsman as they were then known surprised everyone with a 25-7 victory over the Gamecocks. The student body could only conclude that the eagle's presence on the sidelines was responsible for the victory that day. The eagle was kept in a cage behind Alumni Hall (which would later be renamed Ingram Hall) and cared for by members of the "A" Club.

No one is certain what became of the bird. Some say it died or was carried away by students of a rival school. Others say it was given to a zoo due to the high cost of upkeep; there is even a rumor that it was stuffed and put in the John Bell Lovelace Athletic Museum.

Originally known simply as "War Eagle" this bird was retroactively named "War Eagle II" with the arrival of War Eagle III.

War Eagle III (1960-1964)

Auburn's third eagle arrived in Auburn in November 1960 after being captured by a cotton farmer in Curry Station, Alabama who found the bird caught between two rows of cotton. The eagle was sent to Auburn by the Talladega County Agent along with a load of turkeys. It was first taken to the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house where it refused a cold chicken leg but made fast work of a live chicken. After a short stay in one of the Wildlife Department's animal pens, the eagle was moved into a cage built by the Delta Chapter of Alpha Phi Omega fraternity. This would begin a 40-year period where A Phi O was the bird's primary caretakers.

Jon Bowden, a fraternity brother who had previously worked with hawks in Colorado and Missouri, volunteered to serve as the bird's trainer. Formally named War Eagle III, Jon nicknamed the bird "Tiger." In April of 1961, Jon and Tiger made their first appearance as trainer and mascot on the baseball diamond. Auburn was playing the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and was trailing 10-13 in the eighth inning, but rallied in the ninth and scored 4 runs to win the game.

The students were receptive to the new mascot and expressed a concern for a larger cage to house War Eagle III. In 1964, on the morning of the football game against Tennessee, War Eagle III was seen by her trainer, A. Elwyn Hamer Jr., sitting on the ground next to his perch. He had sprung the clip on his leash and escaped. After several days of searching, the bird was found shot to death in a wooded area near Birmingham, Alabama, where the game was being played.

War Eagle IV (1964-1980)

The Birmingham Downtown Action Committee found another golden eagle in the Jackson, Mississippi zoo and presented it to the Auburn student body in October 1964. This became War Eagle IV, also called "Tiger." She lived in a large aviary—until it was torn down in 2003 it remained the second largest single-bird enclosure in the country—that had been funded and constructed by A Phi O and named for A. Elwyn Hamer Jr., War Eagle III's first trainer who had been killed in a plane crash in December of 1965.

Throughout the years, the fraternity provided care and training for the mascot. On the morning of the 1980 Iron Bowl against Alabama in Birmingham, she was found dead by her trainers, having died of natural causes at age 22, after having served as Auburn's mascot for 16 years. A marker in memory of War Eagle IV is located on the Auburn University campus near the site of the Aviary.

War Eagle V (1981-1986)

Through the efforts of War Eagle IV's trainers and with the financial support of the Birmingham Downtown Action Committee, an immature golden eagle was located soon after the death of War Eagle IV and brought to Auburn from Wyoming. The bird arrived in Auburn on March 3, 1981 and was taken to the Veterinary School where she was kept for a short period in order to be examined for any signs of shock from travel. She was then transferred to a small cage until the annual "A Day" football game when she was presented to the University by the Birmingham Downtown Action Committee on May 9, 1981.

The bird was under the stewardship of the U.S. Government under the provisions of the Endangered Species Act and was on loan to the Auburn University Veterinary School. She was officially named War Eagle V, and nicknamed "Tiger" as was tradition. She was approximately two years old at her arrival and was very active on campus. She attended many university functions, Alumni meetings, schools, hospitals, the 1985 Boy Scouts of America National Jamboree, and the 1986 Order of the Arrow National Conference.

On September 4, 1986, Tiger died of a ruptured spleen at the age of 8 and a half years old. Tiger was taken to the Veterinary School the night before by her trainer, Jim McAlarney, who noticed that Tiger was not behaving normally. Jim spent the night at the Vet School while veterinarians made a futile effort to save Tiger's life.

War Eagle VI (1986-2006)

The Eagle trainers began working soon after the surprising death of War Eagle V to find a new golden eagle. The Auburn University Alumni Association and many Auburn alumni contributed to the effort and a new eagle was located at the Tennessee Valley Authority Raptor Rehabilitation Facility in Land-Between-The-Lakes, Kentucky. Trainers made the trip to the facility to receive Auburn's new mascot. Funds for this trip were made through the donation of Thomas Chamberlain, an Auburn alumnus. The bird originally came from St. Louis, Missouri, where she was seized by Federal agents as part of an illegal breeding operation and brought to Kentucky. Like War Eagle V, she is under the stewardship of the U.S. Government under the provisions of the Endangered Species Act and is on loan to the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine. She arrived in Auburn on October 8, 1986 at an age of six years old. Like the two eagles before her, she was cared for by the brothers of Alpha Phi Omega.

During the 2000 football season, Tiger began a new Auburn tradition by performing a free flight before a home football game. Tiger, and later other eagles in the Southeast Raptor Rehabilitation Center, fly around the stadium before landing on the field as the crowd chants.

In 2000, day-to-day care of War Eagle VI was turned over to the Southeastern Raptor Rehabilitation Center, ending the 40 year program of care by A Phi O. Shortly thereafter, she was moved from her traditional home in the Hamer Aviary to the Southeasten Raptor Rehabilitation center. The Aviary was torn down in the summer of 2003. Perhaps the finest moment for War Eagle VI and for the Auburn University Eagle program came on February 8, 2002, when she flew before the entire world as part of the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah. Tiger was featured the next day on NBC's Today Show.

In the summer of 2003, allegations of improper care of the birds by the Southeastern Raptor Rehabilitation Center were leveled by the university administration and by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Many of the birds were suffering from diseases and malnourishment. Fortunately, after all investigations were concluded, War Eagle was allowed to fly again prior to Auburn home games. Currently, the Southeastern Raptor Rehabilitation Center uses three birds, Spirit, a bald eagle, Nova a golden eagle, and the aforementioned Tiger.

War Eagle's presence continues to be used as a wildlife educational tool.

On November 11th, 2006, War Eagle VI was officially retired in a pregame ceremony before the Georgia game. During halftime of the same game, her successor, Nova, was named War Eagle VII. In her final game as War Eagle VI, Auburn defeated Arkansas State 27-0, finalizing the team's record under War Eagle VI at 174-69-4. She saw two undefeated Auburn seasons, four SEC titles, and six SEC Western Division crowns.

War Eagle VII (2006 - Present)

Nova, Auburn's six year old Golden Eagle, was officially named War Eagle VII on November 11, 2006. He was born in the Montgomery Zoo in 1999 and moved to Auburn at only six months of age. Prior to being named War Eagle VII, Nova had already participated in pre-game flights and conservation exhibits throughout the southeast.

War Eagle was named the #4 mascot in a poll by Foxsports.

War Eagle as Auburn's fight song

War Eagle is the name of the university's official fight song. It is played before and after games, as well as immediately after Auburn scores by the Auburn University Marching Band. (Auburn plays Glory, Glory, to Ole Auburn after an extra point, except when playing Georgia, saving "Glory, Glory" until Auburn defeats Georgia.) In addition, the Samford Carillon, located in the clock tower of Samford Hall, rings the fight song every day at noon.

War Eagle was written in 1954 and 1955 by New York songwriters Robert Allen and Al Stillman. The Auburn Victory March had been the fight song for decades. Auburn University Marching Band director Burton R. Leidner introduced the song during the 1955 season opener versus Chattanooga.

Auburn University currently does not hold ownership of the copyright for War Eagle. The university did not renew it (by mistake) and the copyright is currently held by the estate of Robert Allen. Therefore, companies selling products with War Eagle being played must acquire licensing from the estate as well as Auburn University. There is a movement within the university to regain the ownership of the song.

War Eagle Lyrics

War Eagle, fly down the field
Ever to conquer, never to yield
War Eagle, fearless and true,
Fight on you orange and blue
Go! Go! Go!
On to vict'ry, strike up the band
Give 'em hell, Give 'em hell,
Stand up and yell, Hey!
War Eagle, win for Auburn,
Power of Dixie Land!

In popular culture

In the late 1990s, syndicated radio talk host Jim Rome and his producer, Travis Rodgers, stayed in a hotel that was populated by Auburn alumni and other faithful. Rome mentioned on the air how he saw people greeting each other with "War Eagle". Within minutes, callers to Rome's show began signing off their calls with "War Eagle", presumably because it sounded iconoclastic in the parts of the country that are unfamiliar with SEC football.

Since then, callers have taken to substituting the "Eagle" in the phrase with whatever contemporary topic happens to be at hand, e.g. "War A-Rod", "War the fat twins on mopeds from the Guinness book", "War Bethany Hamilton's surfboard", etc.

A film filmed in Arkansas, still in production, is titled "War Eagle."

External links


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