Nearly eight decades after defending the Bataan Peninsula from invading Japanese forces and subsequent years suffering as a prisoner of war, WWII veteran Daniel Crowley, 98, finally received his Combat Infantryman Badge for his service with the Provisional Army Air Corps Infantry Regiment.
“The event that is happening here today is nearly 76 years late in coming,” said Gregory J. Slavonic, acting undersecretary of the Navy during the Jan. 4 ceremony at Bradley Air National Guard Base in East Granby, Connecticut.
Crowley was assigned to Nichols Field (today’s Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport) in the Philippines in 1941 as part of the U.S. Army Air Corps. Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, Japan also launched offensives against U.S. military facilities throughout the Pacific. Armed with an antiquated machine gun, the untrained Crowley was made a provisional infantryman and asked to help defend the base against the Japanese advance.
After being forced to abandon the airfield, the surviving ground crew and airmen were made members of the Provisional Army Air Corps Infantry Regiment on Bataan.
“He was a combat infantryman, but he didn’t sign up with combat infantry — he signed up with the Army Air Corps — and that was the slight technicality which kept him from getting the award,” said Kelley Crowley, Daniel’s wife.
The Combat Infantryman Badge, awarded to infantrymen and members of Special Forces with the rank of colonel and below who served in active ground combat, is something Crowley never thought he would receive. Until recently, though, the Army had resisted giving the award to provisional soldiers who fought on Bataan. Crowley made his last attempt at obtaining the honor a few months ago.
“I wasn’t the only one, remember — there were thousands like me who were designated something else. When the war started, they suddenly had to become infantryman, without any training,” he said.
After the Bataan Peninsula was overrun by Japanese forces in April 1942, Crowley’s unit made its way to the town of Mariveles to surrender. But in a bid to avoid being captured, he and a number of soldiers hid in the breakwater near shore until nightfall, when they swam three miles to Corregidor Island in Manila Bay. There Crowley fought alongside the 4th Marines, but he became a prisoner of war when U.S. forces surrendered in May.
From POW to sergeant
As a prisoner of war, Crowley was subject to forced labor by his Japanese captors. He was sent from the Philippines to Japan aboard a “hell ship,” where approximately 300 men were held in the dark, made to lie in their own waste, with little food or water for 11 days. In Japan, Crowley was forced to work in some of the country’s most dangerous copper mines.
“It takes a very special person to continue to persevere through the most haunting of circumstances; it takes certain depth of character to put yourself in harm’s way for your fellow warriors and for your country,” Slavonic said before also awarding Crowley with the POW Medal.
There was yet another recognition awaiting Crowley as the ceremony continued.
“When the Army began digging into Dan’s history and service, they uncovered that Dan was promoted to the rank of sergeant,” said Slavonic.
Crowley was made a sergeant in 1945, but he had been given an honorable discharge before the order reached him.
“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 said. “He truly represents the members of the greatest generation who did so much and asked so little from their country.”