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First Name: Tom

Last Name: Harrison

Birthplace: UT, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Date of Birth: 1918

Rank: Captain

Years Served:
Tom Harrison

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Tom Harrison
Captain, U.S. Army

Tom Harrison was born circa 1918 in Utah.

Harrison was commissioned through the ROTC at the University of Utah in 1941 and sent off to war in the Pacific Theatre.

In April 1942, he was one of 20,000 American troops on the Bataan Peninsula that ran out of food and ammo and had to surrender. "It was a terrible experience," he said.

Japanese troops forced the starving and exhausted POWs to walk more than 70 miles to the ships that took them to prison labor camps. "If you got out of line, if you fell, you were likely to either be bayoneted or clubbed to death," he said. All the way, they were brutalized by their captors. "You tried not to attract attention of a guard with a bayonet."

Harrison survived the Bataan March of Death and more than three years in a prison camp, until they were freed in the summer of 1945. After Harrison was freed, he headed home on a ship across the Pacific with other survivors. "You can get used to most anything, if you make up your mind to do so," he said of his ordeals. In 1989, he wrote a book about his experience.

Interestingly, despite all he went through and, although his separation papers mentioned medals, none were ever awarded - not even a citation was presented. "I never tried to follow it up," Harrison said. "I had a family to raise, a career to follow and a war to forget."

4 November 2011

Tom Harrison, now 93, received a package in the mail on 4 November 2011, on his 65th wedding anniversary, that contained quite a surprise. Inside were the Army Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star Medal and the Legion of Merit Medal. He also received a Victory Medal and a Presidential Unit Citation.

The only information inside the package was a packing slip from the Integrated Logistics Service Center in Philadelphia. It simply listed the medals that were included in the package. "It was in a package," he said. "No letter, no explanation." Harrison's wife thought it was his medication.

Harrison doesn't know why the medals were delayed for over 60 years. However, "You can't help but feel some pride," he said. "I'm even prouder of the fact that I'm sitting here, still living." He savors every day and credits his wife, his family, his friends, and the care of the Veterans Administration for his great longevity.

Honoree ID: 2608   Created by: MHOH




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