The remains of Coast Guard Lt. Thomas James "Jimmy" Crotty were returned to Western New York on Friday in a ceremony held at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.
The south Buffalo native died in captivity after being taken prisoner by the Japanese during World War II. His friends and family members struggled for years to bring Crotty home and ensure that the decorated POW received the proper recognition he deserved.
The effort by family members to have Crotty's remains returned to American soil dates back to 2008 when Pat Crotty, Lt. Crotty's nephew, and Michael Kelly, Lt. Crotty's great-nephew, reached out to U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Niagara Falls and Buffalo, for assistance in pursuing recognition for their uncle.
Higgins, who was a neighbor to the Crotty family on Millford Street in Buffalo where he grew up, helped the family receive special recognition for Lt. Crotty, including the Bronze and Purple Heart medals, which were presented posthumously to family members in 2010. In 2014, the Coast Guard agreed that Crotty’s remains should return to U.S. soil. His remains were recently identified by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, allowing the process of bringing him home to continue to move forward. Crotty’s remains will now be buried in his hometown of Buffalo.
Lt. Cortty, who was the youngest of six children, attended St. Thomas Aquinas Elementary School and South Park High School, before entering the Coast Guard Academy in 1930. He carried out special demolition work during the retreat of the American and Filipino forces from Bataan to Corregidor. He served as the executive officer of the UUS Quail, which swept clear channels to the island and also bombarded Japanese forces on Bataan.
On May 6, 1942 he was captured by the Japanese, “force marched” approximately 50 miles and held prisoner in Camp Cabanatuan on the Philippine Islands. He died, as a prisoner of war, of diphtheria at the prison camp in September of 1942. Lt. Crotty’s remains were moved to the Manila American Cemetery
He was the only documented Coast Guard prisoner of war during the 20th century.