Pitcairn natives among WWII vets bill would honor with collective medal
As Memorial Day approaches, a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives could help put two Pitcairn World War II heroes among recipients of a Congressional Gold Medal.
In March, House Bill 4766 was introduced by West Virginia representatives to award a Congressional Gold Medal collectively to U.S. military personnel who fought to defend Bataan, Corregidor, Guam, Wake Island and the Philippine Archipelago between Dec. 7, 1941, and May 10, 1942, and who died or were imprisoned by the Japanese military in the Philippines, Japan, Korea, Manchuria, Wake Island and Guam from April 9, 1942, until Sept. 2, 1945, according to congress.gov.
Pitcairn natives Earl E. Loughner and Clem Troy served in the Philippines during the early stages of World War II after Pearl Harbor and were subsequently prisoners of war.
Jim Brockman, curator of the National Museum of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor in Wellsburg, W.Va., said he helped write the bill.
He said honoring the approximately 12,000 patriots covered by the bill had been discussed for “a long time,” yet no action had been taken.
He pointed out the irony of Japanese-Americans receiving U.S. medals after being placed in internment camps during wartime, but not those who served overseas in the U.S. military during that period.
“These guys never got (awards at that time) and we think it's appropriate that they get honored like everyone else,” said Brockman. “It's amazing we have not recognized what they've been through.”
Loughner's daughter, Peggy Fisher of Grove City, said her father was part of what became known as the Bataan Death March, in which captured soldiers were forced to walk 65 miles with little, if any, food or water.
On the fifth day of the 11-day march, the men were given a meal of worm-infested rice.
“I'd never realized why we never had rice at my table growing up,” Fisher said.
Earl Loughner, a corporal, escaped after the march but was recaptured.
Later, he was transported on a “Hell Ship” to Japan, where he spent more than three years in a POW camp, witnessing countless atrocities “under horrific conditions” until the camp's liberation in 1945, Fisher said.
Some prisoners died from starvation, malnutrition, abuse and disease.
“I think it's important that those people that witnessed (those) atrocities get some recognition, too,” Fisher said.
She was just 7 when her father died at age 40 as a result of lingering effects from the war, she said.
Fisher went on to write a book titled “Daddy Came Home” — a memoir chronicling her father's experiences in the Philippines and Japan, and based on a 1945 interview in the Pitcairn Express.
Loughner and Troy “knew one another well” prior to being sent to war, said Ron Troy, Clem Troy's son.
Fisher added that the community threw a parade for them when they returned to Pitcairn.
Ron Troy said his father, an Army combat medic who reached the rank of staff sergeant, was also part of the Bataan Death March and was held in several forced labor camps where prisoners mined tin, coal and other raw materials, sometimes by hand, for the Japanese.
“They worked in abandoned mines that the Japanese thought were no longer safe to work in. My dad told me about men that lost their lives when mines collapsed or there was a loss of oxygen,” he said.
“To (the Japanese military, American) prisoners were expendable.”
Ron Troy said his father had difficulty sharing his experiences, but recalled how his father had been beaten “within inches of his life” for resisting the Japanese and kept fighting, albeit a different fight, after the war.
Clem Troy, like Earl Loughner, had lingering effects: recurring malaria, a weak heart, a lost lung and bone diseases that doctors said were direct results of malnutrition.
Yet he lived to be 68.
“He was a true patriot and never complained. He was glad to have served his country,” Ron Troy said.
“This award is long overdue. Some people don't even know (the atrocities) happened. It's terrible that (the accounts from POWs in Japan) aren't a bigger part of our history,” he said.
Samson X Horne is a Tribune-Review staff writer. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or email@example.com.