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    Service above self: Lt. James "Jimmy" Eugene Crotty

    Lt. Crotty Memorial Ceremony Manila American Cemetery

    Photo By Chief Petty Officer Sara Muir | Officer-in-Charge Commodore Joel Garcia, Philippine coast guard, Lt. Cmdr, Jeremy...... read more read more



    Story by Chief Petty Officer Sara Muir 

    U.S. Coast Guard District 14 Hawaii Pacific

    On the 178th Anniversary of the Coast Guard, Aug. 4, 1968, Commandant Willard J. Smith, affixed the first set of Battle Streamers ever to adorn the Coast Guard Colors. Forty-nine years later 43 streamers adorn our flag.

    We owe one of these streamers entirely to the actions of a young lieutenant from Buffalo, New York, who helped command a Navy vessel, scuttled a submarine, swept mines, served as adjutant, led Marines and soldiers defending Corregidor and held the line to the last.

    In September 1941, fresh off the boat from recent studies in warfare at the Navy’s Mine Warfare School in Yorktown, Virginia, and the D.C. Navy Yard based Mine Recovery Unit, Lt. James Crotty was attached to the Inshore Patrol Headquarters at Cavite Navy Yard.

    When he arrived in the Philippines the threat of war loomed, but America had not yet officially entered the Second World War. That changed with the Japanese attack on Perl Harbor Dec. 7, subsequent attack on the Philippine’s Cavite Navy Yard Dec. 10 and attacks on other allied positions around the Pacific.

    In an aerial assault the Japanese bombed and destroyed most of the facilities at the Cavite Navy Yard. The threat brought by advancing ground forces prompted American personnel to fall behind fortified lines on the Bataan Peninsula. The command at Navy Headquarters, with key members of the Commonwealth of the Philippine government including the president Manuel L. Quezon, relocated to Fort Mills on the island fortress of Corregidor.

    The fortress is quite impressive and the history is rich here. Traveling to the topside area of the island, one is greeted by the towering 300-meter long three story barracks known as Mile-Long Barracks, once capable of housing 3,000 soldiers. Additional barracks, officer housing, and several other buildings still stand. Their concrete facades betray influence from the Spanish occupation beginning in 1570 lasting 328 years.

    Rebar stained with rust jut from the grey concrete of the two story theater Cine Corregidor. Picture servicemen in the darkened room watching Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh dance across screen — Gone with the Wind was the last move ever shown here. Down the street the Second Order lighthouse is a beacon for visitors, initially erected in 1853 and kerosene lit, it was rebuilt in the 1950s following its destruction by Japanese bombardment in 1942 and is now solar powered.

    The Quail

    Crotty did not immediately move to Corregidor with the Navy command following the Japanese aerial attack on Cavite. Instead he served as executive officer aboard a Navy minesweeper, USS Quail (AM-15), and using his stateside training supervised the salvage and demolition of strategic resources including the submarine USS Sea Lion (SS-195), the Cavite Navy Yards and Sangley Point Naval Station all heavily damaged in the attack Dec. 10.

    As executive officer of Quail, Crotty often directed the crew as they laid down anti-aircraft fire or swept the minefield in Manila Bay to allow the delivery of goods and personnel via U.S. submarine under cover of night. Crotty and Quail’s crew were later assigned to the Naval Battalion, comprised of 500 unattached marines, naval aviators and sailors serving as infantry once the Japanese dominated the skies over the region. Cmdr. Francis J. Bridget, infantry commander, used the Quail and its crew as a command ship in late January to coordinate a land and sea bombardment to destroy Japanese force hidden in Bataan’s jungles and coastal caves. Ultimately, these efforts would not hold and Bataan fell.

    Becoming a Marine

    In mid-April Crotty was reassigned and finally joined the headquarters staff of the 16th Naval District at Fort Mills as adjutant. Bataan had fallen. Corregidor was all that remained under American control. He served as a member of the Marine Corps 4th Regiment, 1st Battalion, and is remembered as a brother in arms.

    These brave men manned the coastal defenses. Twenty-three batteries installed on Corregidor, consisting of 56 coastal defense guns and mortars, 13 anti-aircraft artillery batteries with 76 guns both 3-inch and .50-caliber and nearly a dozen Sperry searchlights.

    The longest-range coastal pieces, Batteries Hearn and Smith, are 12-inch guns, with a horizontal range of 29,000 yards. Capable of an all around traverse, they were not effective for use against targets on Bataan due to flat trajectories. Some of the batteries were damaged by shelling in May silencing them before the famous siege. U.S. Forces had a surplus of advanced armor-piercing ammunition but anti-personnel ammunition was what was needed against land targets on Bataan from which the Japanese continued to shell the island.

    Corregidor is shaped roughly like a tadpole. Crotty and his men defended the section of the island known as tailside from Malinta Tunnel where the command, remaining men and hospital were strategically positioned, to the easternmost point. Of the four battalions defending Corregidor, only his engaged enemy invasion forces directly. After a day of aerial bombardment the Japanese force landed May 5.

    The island is steep and forested and in May and June, oppressively hot. The advancing forces would not have a easy ascent and American forces laid down heavy fire on the advancing enemy with small arms.

    As Coast Guard Historian William Thiesen noted in his writings on Crotty, “An eyewitness report indicates that Crotty supervised Army personnel manning a 75 mm field howitzer dug-in on top of Malinta Hill, the small mountain that protected the island fortress’ underground command center. Crotty’s field piece faced east, toward the oncoming Japanese troops and he served up until American forces surrendered in the afternoon of May 6.”


    Ultimately Corregidor fell. With heavy losses and cut supply lines Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainwright was unwilling to sacrifice the remaining men and surrendered to Japanese forces at the Malinta Tunnel position May 6, 1942. It had been a battle of 14,728 U.S. and Filipino troops against 75,000 Japanese forces.

    Standing on Corregidor where celebrated men like Gen. Douglas MacArthur and others have stood it’s almost surreal to imagine them departing in sorrow the future uncertain over those months in 1942. The emotions that flowed…the victories, the letters from loved ones, the movies nights, the smell of stale sweat and cigarettes, the injuries, the blood, the loss and disappointment.

    Today the island is managed by the Corregidor Foundation, established in 1969, and receives curious visitors, veterans and historians. A small Philippine coast guard station sits across from the pier where Gen. MacArthur departed. Several memorials dot the landscape and many of the buildings and batteries have been restored. The island was designated as a war shrine in 1947. In 1953 a joint commission was formed to build a large monument completed in the late 60s, the Pacific War Memorial. On the anniversary of the battle each year the sun pours down through the oculus in the monument dome lighting the top of an inscribed pedestal perfectly. The Corregidor Historic Foundation continues to preserve the island’s history and protect it from decay and scrap metal scavengers.

    A Box Car and the End of the Line

    Capture is not the end of Crotty’s story. American and Filipino forces were sequestered for three days without food and water before being loaded on boats and taken to Manila. Crotty did not endure the famous Bataan death march. Instead he was loaded into a boxcar with many others and sent by rail to a prisoner of war camp in Cabanatuan in northern Luzon. In the heat and without food and water, some never left the boxcars alive. At its peak the prisoner of war camp held 8,000 prisoners. Ironically, the camp was a former U.S. Department of Agriculture station and later a Filipino Army training camp.

    Crotty’s capture resulted in the first Coast Guard prisoner of war since the War of 1812. Once at the camp he lived in the officer barracks. Letters and interviews later revealed he was known among the other prisoners for his enduring positivity and good humor despite harsh conditions.

    He did not live to see the famed liberation of the camp in 1945 by Army Rangers and Luzon Guerrilla Armed Forces. Not long after arriving he contracted diphtheria during a severe outbreak in the camp and died three days later, July 19, 1942. A burial party administered last rites and he was buried in a mass grave outside the prison camp walls.

    You could be forgiven for visiting Cabanatuan and not knowing the camp once existed. In this rural region rice production dominates the landscape and daily life. Rich green rice patties extend in all directions, and the golden grains line roadsides drying in the sun before being bagged and sent out on trucks for further processing. Life is simple here. The only visible memory of the camp is a small memorial managed by the American Battle Monuments Commission who also oversee the Manila American Cemetery, the battlefields in Europe and elsewhere. Currently under renovation to be more detailed, individual offerings honor the Army Rangers and Filipino guerrillas who liberated the camp. There’s no evidence a Coast Guardsman was once among those here.

    The American Graves Registration Service and U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps, was charged with recovering and identifying fallen U.S. personnel in the Pacific Theater after World War II. The 111th Quartermaster Graves Registration Platoon began exhuming the Cabanatuan Camp #1 Cemetery in December 1945. Those remains were moved to what is now the Manila American Cemetery where American and Filipino servicemen lost during the war are memorialized to include Coast Guard forces serving throughout the Pacific Theater in World War II.

    Crotty was recently remembered by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Philippine coast guard in a ceremony commemorating his efforts to defend Corregidor May 9. Military honors were rendered through a wreath laying ceremony at the Manila American Cemetery in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City, in honor of the late officer. The ceremony marks the first time the Philippine coast guard has given distinction for any World War II efforts by counterparts from the U.S. Coast Guard. Officer-in-Charge Commodore Joel Garcia Philippine coast guard, Lt. Cmdr. Jeremy Obenchain, U.S. Coast Guard, maritime advisor Defense Threat Reduction Agency and U.S. Embassy, and Chief Petty Officer John O’Neil, U.S. Coast Guard (Ret.) of the Coast Guard Combat Veterans Association, laid the wreath at the cemetery’s chapel. The ceremony was culminated with the reveal of Lt. Crotty’s name now etched on the U.S. Coast Guard wall in the cemetery.

    “I am honored to be a part of this special event alongside our Philippine coast guard brothers and sisters, especially as we mark the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Corregidor. Lt. Crotty's story is unique so it's truly special to be able to share the story of his service and sacrifice...not only to ensure we never forget, but also to inspire the next generation of Coast Guard men and women,” said Obenchain following the ceremony.

    Additional ceremonies are planned for July 24 in Buffalo where the family will receive a flag flown over the Manila American Cemetery May 9 and a plaque reveal at Arlington National Cemetery in September, also to commemorate Crotty’s actions.

    Historians at both the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office and the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command have collected documents and assessed historical evidence concerning Cabanatuan POW Camp cases for many years. They are closer than ever to identifying the final remains of Crotty and returning him to his family more than 75 years after his departure for what was supposed to be a six month deployment. When that happens a gold star will be carved into the marble wall at the Manila American Cemetery next to his name and any subsequent visitors will see his stay has come to an end and he has made his way home.

    While Crotty’s story is not well known, he is single handedly responsible for the inclusion of the Philippine Defense Battle Streamer adorning the Coast Guard ensign. Lt. James “Jimmy” Eugene Crotty should be remembered for his bravery, his willingness to serve his fellow man and his enduring positivity in the face of defeat, loss and ultimate sacrifice.



    Date Taken: 07.19.2017
    Date Posted: 07.19.2017 20:30
    Story ID: 241811
    Hometown: BUFFALO, NY, US

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