The last identifiable Coast Guard prisoner of war from World War II has been buried in his hometown of Buffalo, New York.
A funeral mass and burial were held for Lt. James “Jimmy” Crotty Saturday. During the service, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz presented a flag to Crotty’s nephew, Patrick.
Crotty arrived in the Philippines in September 1941. During his 10 months of service, he commanded a Navy vessel, scuttled a submarine, swept mines, served as an adjutant and led Marines and soldiers defending Corregidor.
When Japan attacked the Philippines three days after Pearl Harbor, Crotty was the only Coastie on the islands. Five months later, when U.S. troops on the Bataan peninsula were ordered to surrender and sent on the Bataan Death March, Crotty was among them.
Coast Guard historian William Thiesen wrote that Crotty single-handedly served as a joint-operator well before the concept had been considered within the American military.
Crotty was 30 years old when he died of diphtheria in July 1942 at the POW camp at Cabanatuan. More than 2,500 POWs died at that camp. They were all buried in the Cabanatuan Camp Cemetery. Crotty's grave number was 312, according to prison camp records.
After the war, American Graves Registration Service personnel exhumed those buried at the Cabanatuan cemetery in an attempt to identify them. The burial practices and limited technology meant few could be identified. The unidentified remains were buried in the present-day Manila American Cemetery and Memorial.
It wasn't until January 2018 that grave number 312 was disinterred and sent to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. On Sept. 10, Crotty was accounted for.
While 600 other Coasties still remain missing, Crotty's remains are the last that are believed to be identifiable — the remaining 600 were lost at sea.
According to the DPAA, of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently, there are 72,657 service members still unaccounted for from World War II, of which approximately 30,000 are assessed as possibly-recoverable.