Last known Coast Guard WWII POW to return home
77 years after his death, Lt. James “Jimmy” Crotty’s remains will return home. Crotty played an integral part in turning the tides for Americans after Pearl Harbor and eventually became the first Coast Guard Prisoner of War (POW) since the War of 1812. Crotty’s legacy has left its mark on Coast Guard history.
Jimmy Crotty attended the United States Coast Guard Academy, becoming President of his class in early 1940s. The New York native found himself attached to the Navy not too long after his graduation. He focused on mine warfare and quickly became one of the Coast Guard’s leading demolition experts.
One of his first missions involved rescuing survivors off an ocean liner that had caught fire. He was also sent aboard “ghost ships” to demolition them and ensure the navigation systems were completely destroyed. In September 1941, Crotty would get to see his family one last time before he was sent to the Philippines.
Soon after his arrival, Pearl Harbor was struck. After Pearl Harbor, the Cavite Naval Yard in the Philippines. Crotty would board the USS Quail as the executive officer and lead the Quail in minesweeping operations in Manila Bay. This allowed U.S. submarines to drop off supplies and, subsequently, holding off enemy forces. Crotty and his crew also led coordinated efforts to bombard the Japanese in the Bataan jungles.
Unfortunately, it would not hold for long and Crotty would have to move to Corregidor- a small island fortress for American troops at the time. Crotty fought hard to maintain the fortress, but soon, that too would fall. As a result, Crotty would become a Prisoner of War. He would not participate in the Bataan Death March. Instead, Crotty was taken by rail to a POW camp near Luzon.
Soon after his arrival, he caught diphtheria- a disease that creates a coating on the throat leading to difficulty breathing, heart failure, and in Crotty’s case, death. He died in July 1942 at the POW camp and he was buried in a mass grave marked ‘312.’
After the war, the mass graves were moved to the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, where all the remains were marked ‘unknown.’ At the time, the technology was not able to identify them individually. In January 2018, the unknowns of 312 were once again exhumed and sent to the POW/MIA Accounting Agency. Crotty’s remains were then identified.
Lt. James Crotty’s remains will head home to New York this weekend, where he will be buried with full military honors in his family’s plot. Statements from his descendants say they are happy to have him returned home and honored to be part of his lineage.
Rest in Peace, Sir. Welcome Home.
Know what we're sayin fam?
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