Today, the US Coast Guard has a total of 43 battle streamers earned in conflicts and in times of war. One of their streamers is the “Defense of the Philippines” in World War II, and this one was pretty unique because it was earned by the efforts of one man: Thomas Crotty. Here’s how he did it.

Battle Streamers

The practice of inscribing the names of battles on the guidon or organizational color could be traced back to 1861. On August 25 that year, Major General John C. Fremont, who was then commanding the Western Department, commended troops from Iowa, Kansa, and Missouri for their outstanding service in the battle of Wilson’s Creek in Missouri that happened ten days prior. The Union troops fought and won against the Confederate force, which was five times their number. Even so, the battle ended in a moral victory. As a constant reminder of their impressive performance in the battle, Fremont ordered that the word “Springfield” be adorned on the colors of the units that were involved in the said battle. As per the General Order 19, War Department, February 22, 1862,

 There should be inscribed upon the color or guidons of all regiments and batteries the names of the battles in which they had borne a meritorious part.


US Coast Guard Battle Streamer
US Coast Guard Battle Streamer (U.S. Coast Guard/Twitter)


The inscribed battle honors on the national and regimental colors were discontinued on February 7, 1890, and were instead replaced with engraved silver rings and remained so until 1918. Due to a shortage in the supply of the silver bands, the War Department authorized General John Pershing to procure ribbon strips as a substitute, inscribed with the name of the battles or major operations that the units engaged in during World War I.

US Coast Guard Campaign & Award Streamers (Screenshot from

The cords and tassels of the Cost Guard standard were replaced by the streamers that they earned, and they are always carried at ceremonies, a reminder of the heroic actions that the units did and will ever do.

Cut Out for the Coastguard

Thomas James Eugene Crotty was born in Buffalo, New York, on March 18, 1912. He attended the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, where he stood out and showed that he was cut to be a “Coastie.” He was also active in both sports and leadership, serving as the captain of their football team and, at the same time, the class president during his senior year.

Thomas James Eugene Crotty. (The United States
Navy Memorial)

After graduating, he would spend the next six years serving aboard different Coast Guard cutters deployed in different locations all over the country— like the USCGC Tampa in Staten Island, New York, which was his very first assignment. While there, a fire broke out aboard the ocean liner SS Morro Castle along Long Beach Island. His crew was one of those who participated in the rescue operations on that day.

He was also assigned to Seattle, Washington, as well as Alaska, and Sault Ste. Marie in Michigan. In April 1941, Crotty attended the United States Navy’s Mine Warfare School in Yorktown, Virginia. He also attended additional training at the Mine Recovery Unit in Washington, DC. For these, he became the top Coast Guard expert in mine operations, explosives, and demolition.

Philippine Defense Battle Streamer

Philippine Defense Battle Streamer (

During World War II, Crotty was the only active-duty Coast Guardsman in the Philippines when the Imperial Japanese forces attacked the country just three days after they bombed Pearl Harbor. The attack caught the US forces off-guard, so they organized defenses in a desperate attempt to push them back. Two days later, the Japanese bombed Cavite, setting the naval yard ablaze and leaving Crotty without a position. He instead joined the USS Quail, a small navy minesweeper.

Crotty proved himself to be indispensable to the crew of the Quail. The 187-foot-long minesweeper was responsible for ensuring that Manila By would not be compromised. The American forces laid a minefield between Mariveles and Ternate, only leaving one opening that they would change from time to time. This prevented the Japanese forces from getting into the bay but, at the same time, made it difficult for the American ships.

Crotty assisted in many of the Quail’s missions, along with other officers from the ship. He was stationed at the Cavite Naval Yard as a demolitions expert, skillfully identifying where every single piece of ammunition on the base was and how to get each of them. He gave this information to the Captain of Quail just shortly after arriving as an official crew, and a raid was immediately organized. They left Corregidor, an island at the mouth of Manila Bay, and went to the old Navy Yard. During the raid, which was conducted in broad daylight, they successfully avoided being detected by enemy aircraft and snuck into the year. They then loaded their deck and stores with as much ammunition so that they could safely transport and then bring it back to the Corregidor defenses.

He would also fight the Japanese invaders from the very deck of Quail and then went on raids with Marines of the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment. He fought the enemies from Army artillery positions when they started capturing Corregidor, but they were greatly outnumbered and outgunned.

Bataan surrendered in April 1942, and what followed was the Bataan Death March headed to the Cabanatuan prison camp. As for Corredigor, they would surrender the following month but not without Crotty fighting and holding the line until the very last moment. They were captured and loaded on cattle cars headed to Cabanatuan. There, he sadly died from diphtheria in July 1942.

He was initially buried in a mass grave at that very same camp until his remains were transferred to the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial after the war, being listed as unknown for more than 70 years. It was not until 2019 that his remains finally went back home to New York.

Crotty is the only Coast Guardsman known to serve in the Philippines; thus, his service allowed the Coast Guard to display the Philippine Defense Battle Streamer on the Coast Guard Ensign. He was also posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.