Defenders of the Philippines

picture of captivity and picture of release from captivity

Thomas A. Craigg, Jr.

Thomas Craigg was born in 1918 in Sulphur Springs, Arkansas. He enlisted in the Marine Corps on September 17, 1940, and after he completed advanced training at Camp Elliott near San Diego, California, he was sent to the Philippines and stationed at a Marine barracks naval station at Olongapo. When World War II began, the barracks joined the Fourth Marine Regiment, which MacArthur ordered to defend important positions on Bataan. Craigg was in an anti-aircraft organization and stayed on Bataan while the Fourth Marines were sent to establish a beach defense at Corregidor.

When Bataan fell on April 9, 1942, Craigg became a prisoner of war and started on the Death March. However, he and another Marine noted an opportunity to escape and took it one evening while the Japanese were busy moving equipment to prepare for an attack on Corregidor. They went to Mariveles, where they confiscated a small boat and sailed to Corregidor to rejoin the Fourth Marines.

Corregidor surrendered on May 6, and Craigg and the other men were put into work details to gather ammunition from Bataan. Craigg was then sent to Bilibid Prison in Manila, where he and the other prisoners were loaded onto rail cars and taken to Cabanatuan. There Craigg joined a working detail to gather and bury the bodies of deceased prisoners. He also dug latrine ditches and outhouses, and he went out with work parties to build emergency landing fields.

In August 1942, Craigg was taken back to Bilibid; he worked at both Clark and Nichols Field Air Bases and also as a stevedore at Manila harbor. Craigg was then sent to Japan on a hellship, and after arriving he worked in the Fukoya coal mines in Omini Michi. The Japanese soldiers who oversaw the mines were wounded and unable to enter into combat, which made them resentful toward the POWs. The prisoners' work schedules changed every ten days, and they never had a day off. A mine worker struck Craigg over the left eye with a shovel because his detail didn't meet their daily quota.

During his imprisonment, Craigg suffered from beriberi, ulcers, malaria, dysentery, and malnutrition. When the war finally ended, the Japanese guards moved outside the camp as a precaution against possible civilian riots. Craigg recuperated in a hospital in San Diego and went home to Arkansas for Christmas.

Thomas Craigg, Jr. died on March 2, 2008 at Britthaven of Onslow.