John Wayne: The Duke Owned a Private Island in Panama That’s Now Sometimes Referred to as ‘John Wayne Island’

by Josh Lanier
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John Wayne not only played tough guys who stand up for their morals in television and film, but he was also like that in real life as well. In fact, he was awarded an island in Panama for his staunch support of the Panamanian government in its fight with the U.S.

The Panama Canal may be entirely located in Panama, but the United States controlled it after it was built. In 1964, when a dispute broke out between the nations, it was clear this arrangement couldn’t last. President Jimmy Carter and the Democrats decided against Republican wishes to cede control of the canal to Panama. But they would have to wait until 1999. Despite being a staunch conservative, Wayne broke ranks and sided with Carter.

John Wayne, whose former wife Josephine was a Panamanian native, sided with Panama. Josephine happened to be good friends with Panama’s leader, Omar Torrijos. Wayne said he got the first hate mail of his career after he publicly supported the treaty.

Torrijos awarded Wayne an island off the coast of Panama called Isla Taborcillo. Natives often call it “John Wayne Island” because of the John Wayne-themed restaurants and stores. There are also Wild West attractions and old-timey events guests can take part in.

And if you happen to have $16 million lying around, the 49 acres island is up for sale.

John Wayne Museum Opens in Fort Worth

If you’re more of a landlubber and would prefer to stay on dry land, John Wayne’s youngest son is opening a John Wayne-themed museum. It boasts 10,000 sq. ft. full of Duke nostalgia. With everything from costumes he wore in his movies on display to letters he wrote, it’s the largest concentration of John Wayne memorabilia anywhere in the world, according to the website.

John Wayne: An American Experience boasts rare family photos, letters, and movie memorabilia.

Ethan said in an Instagram video that they found these items in a storage locker, almost by accident. And not just some knick-knacks from his films, John Wayne’s Oscar for True Grit was in there.

“We noticed a lot of money going to a storage facility. Se we made an appointment, we went out and it was sort of an Indiana Jones-style boxes,” Ethan said. “They pulled some down, we start going through it, first thing was plastic cups. And then there was toilet paper. You start thinking ‘Oh, it’s a bunch of junk’ and then we realized, wait a minute, an Academy Award. This is something significant.”

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