View Full Version : Craigg scheduled to speak at POW-MIA ceremony

09-17-03, 07:48 AM
Craigg scheduled to speak at POW-MIA ceremony
September 16,2003

Thomas A. Craigg Jr. spent 40 months during World War II as a "guest" of the Japanese.

"They told us you are not a prisoner of war," said Craigg, "you are a guest of the Japanese Imperial Forces."

That euphemism gave Craigg's captors an opportunity to flout the Geneva Convention rules they had originally indicated they would abide.

Craigg, who saw men beat up, bayoneted, shot and even decapitated while he was in captivity, will be the featured speaker at the POW-MIA Recognition Day ceremony Friday at 6 p.m. at VFW Post 9133, located on Piney Green Road.

"The main thing I want to share is I don't believe any prisoners of war or MIAs are still alive," said Craigg. "POWs are sighted from time to time in Vietnam, Laos, Korea and places like that. When we try to retrieve these POWs, we come back empty handed.

"This is my opinion and my opinion only," he added, "if you were a prisoner of war or missing in action in World War II, in Korea or Vietnam, they have paid the ultimate price. They are gone."

However, Craigg said he also wants to use him time Friday explaining what happened to him and other prisoners of war - and for their experience to serve as a warning.

"What happened to us can still happen," said the retired gunnery sergeant. "Here's what can happen."

It was 1942. Craigg, a 24-year-old private first class far removed from his home in Arkansas, was in the Philippines on the Bataan Ppeninsula during World War II when the order came to lay down arms. Craigg escaped that first night from the 90-mile trek that came to be known as the Bataan Death March. He returned to the U.S.-held fortress island of Corregidor, only to be ordered to surrender less than a month later.

This time, he didn't escape.

"In the prison camp, you were under pressure all the time," said Craigg. "You never had a decent, never a good day as a prisoner of war.

"We were threatened from day one to the last day that our lives were in jeopardy," said Craigg, who, like the other prisoners, was warned he would lose his life before ever stepping foot again on American soil.

"We were told that about every day," said Craigg. "It was sad to hear that at first, but you become immune to it."

Beatings were brutal, he said, and frequent. The food less so.

Workers were given a cup of rice a day. Those too ill or weak to work were given half that ration. Hospitalized prisoners were given even less, said Craigg, who entered the prison camp with 185 pounds on his six-foot frame. He left three years, three months and 20 days later weighing 104 pounds.

"My family knew I was stationed in the Philippines. But they never knew what had happened to me," said Craigg of his years in the POW camp. "Everyone was so happy to see me and I was so happy to see them."

Craigg stayed in the Marine Corps, later fighting in the Korean War, before retiring in 1963.

"I was one of the lucky ones that was able to return and stay in," said Craigg, who hopes people will remember Friday those who weren't so lucky. "The day is, I think, to recognize those who paid the ultimate price for the liberties we all enjoy today."