A U.S. Army veteran who toiled for 18 months using hand tools with other soldiers to build a runway for the Japanese in World War 2 in Palawan was finally recognized for his heroism and bravery.
Dan Crowley was awarded a Prisoner of War (POW) medal and an Army Combat Infantryman Badge (ACIB) and was promoted to sergeant on January 4, according to a U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) news report written by C. Todd Lopez and published on January 6.
The “long-delayed honors and recognition” was awarded by Gregory J. Slavonic at an Air National Guard (ANG) hangar in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Slavonic was representing the duties of the Navy undersecretary, the report said.
“Courage means to me that when the time came, that you were called upon to do the right thing, you did it,” Crowley was quoted by Lopez in saying.
“I have to say that to be able to do this today is a rare and humbling opportunity for me as the undersecretary of the Navy — to be able to recognize Dan for his many sacrifices and accomplishments,” Slavonic was also quoted in saying.
“He truly represents members of the greatest generation, who did so much but asked so little from their country. The valor and professionalism demonstrated by you, Dan, has earned you a permanent place in the heart of every American,” he added in the U.S. DOD report.
The report said that at the age of 18, Crowley who is a Connecticut native joined the Army Air Corps in 1940. His first assignment was to an aircraft unit on Nichols Field in Manila. He arrived in the Philippines in March 1941.
When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, the U.S. declared war against Japan on the same day. On the following day, the report claimed that the Japanese also bombed the Philippines.
Crowley had no combat arms training, but when the bombing started, he and the other American soldiers had to act, said the report. His unit participated in air defense using improvised and welded “antiquated” British machine guns “to form a single, more powerful gun”.
“These Marines fought a dangerous and desperate shore defense until Corregidor fell on May 6, 1942,” Slavonic said.
“Dan, along with nearly 1,200 other POWs, was held at the 92nd Garage Area on Corregidor, an exposed beach with little water or food and no sanitation,” he added in the report.
Slavonic said that to escape the poor conditions in the camp, Crowley volunteered to work in the construction of the airstrip for the Japanese in Palawan. They were only given hand tools for this major work.
The report claimed he was eventually returned to Manila in February 1944, but not everyone who had gone to Palawan was able to return.
“[The Japanese] burned alive a hundred-plus Americans on the island of Palawan,” Crowley said.
“The Japanese proved their threat of massacre was not an empty threat. They did proceed to murder about 150 Americans by burning [them] alive with gasoline. They forced them to dig a long ditch … they were forced into it, and then [the Japanese] poured gasoline on them and the guards … they ignited it with torches. Some men actually survived, so we have eyewitness accounts to it,” he added.
U.S. DOD report said Crowley was honorable discharged from the Army in April 1946. Records have it then that he was promoted to sergeant in 1945 but he never knew about this.