The Coast Guard's last WWII POW is coming home

Elizabeth Howe
October 29, 2019 - 10:22 am
Lt. Crotty

DPAA

The last identifiable Coast Guard Prisoner of War from World War II is finally coming home thanks to the efforts of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. 

Lt. James "Jimmy" Crotty arrived in the Philippines in Sept. 1941 to serve with the Coast Guard — but within the next ten months of his service, he would command a Navy vessel, scuttle a submarine, sweep mines, serve as an adjutant, and lead Marines and soldiers defending Corregidor.

Coast Guard historian Dr. William Thiesen wrote that Crotty single-handedly served as a joint-operator well before the concept had been considered within the United States military.

When Japan attacked the Philippines three days after Pearl Harbor, Crotty was the only Coastie on the islands. Five months later, when U.S. troops on the Bataan peninsula were ordered to surrender and sent on the Bataan Death March, Crotty was among them. 

The Coastie was 30 years old when he died of diphtheria in July 1942 at the POW camp at Cabanatuan.

More than 2,500 POWs died in this camp. They were all buried in the Cabanatuan Camp Cemetery. Crotty's grave number was 312 according to prison camp records. 

After the war, American Graves Registration Service personnel exhumed those buried at the Cabanatuan Cemetery in an attempt to identify them. The burial practices and limited technology meant few could be identified. The unidentified remains were buried in the present-day Manila American Cemetery and Memorial. 

It wasn't until January 2018 that grave number 312 was disinterred and sent to DPAA. On Sept. 10, 2019, Crotty was accounted for. 

While 600 other Coasties still remain missing, Crotty's remains are the last that are believed to be identifiable — the remaining 600 were lost at sea. 

On Nov. 1, Crotty's remains will arrive at the Niagara Falls, New York, Air Reserve Station for a full-honors ceremony. The Coast Guard commandant is expected to attend, according to Military.com

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