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Navy honors WWII vet with Combat Infantryman Badge, POW medal

Jan. 5 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy this week presented a World War II veteran with an honorary Combat Infantryman Badge and a Prisoner of War medal in honor of his service.

At an awards ceremony that took place 76 years after he served in the Pacific, Daniel Crowley was also promoted to the rank of sergeant -- which he attained but was not formally advanced to during his service.

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"Grace under fire. Calm under pressure. Easy words to use in the quiet of an auditorium. It is another thing entirely to demonstrate these qualities in the face of a determined enemy," Gregory J. Slavonic at the Bradley International Airport's Air National Guard hanger in Windsor Locks, Conn., said on Monday.

"It takes a very special person to continue to persevere through the most daunting of circumstances. It takes a certain depth of character to put yourself into harm's way for your fellow warriors and for your country," said Slavonic, performing the duties of the undersecretary of the Navy.

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While Crowley served in the Army, Slavonic presented him with the award after learning about the veteran's experiences while in the military, Lt. Ashley Nekoui, deputy public affairs officer in the Navy, told UPI.

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Crowley participates in armed services initiatives, including as an informal ambassador of the USS Bataan, to which he has made several visits and shared his experiences with the crew.

"Crowley is well connected with USS Bataan and members of her crew," Nekoui said, and as a result, "Mr. Slavonic felt a personal inclination to present the award on behalf of the Department of Defense."

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Crowley enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps when he was 18, hoping, by his account, to "take a long trip somewhere at the expense of our country.

He was assigned to Nichols Field to Manila, the Philippines, in March 1941.

Nine months later, shortly after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese attacked Nichols Field.

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Crowley, with his unit, attempted an improvised air defense but Nichols Field -- and most of its aircraft -- were destroyed, prompting the evacuation of the ground crews and the abandonment of the airbase.

The surviving ground crews were made members of the Army's Provisional Air Corps Infantry Regiment on Bataan, with Crowley's unit making its way to the tip of Bataan to surrender.

Crowley, along with more than 10,000 others, was taken prisoner May 6, 1942.

He was held at the 92nd Garage Area on Corregidor - an exposed beach with little water or food and no sanitation - before being taken to a forced labor camp in Manila.

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Crowley spent a total of three and a half years as a POW, in the Philippines and Japan, until he was liberated in September 1945.

"It has been a privilege to meet with a veteran that belonged to the Greatest Generation," Slavonic said. "The patriotism displayed by these World War II veterans is immeasurable. Even now, these men and women stand to pay their respects whenever our nation's flag passes, placing their hands over their hearts or saluting."

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