#USMC Sgt. Major Thomas B. Crump, who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor while serving with the Marines, died Tuesday, July 8, 2014. He was 93 years old.
The ninth of 10 children, Crump grew up in a poor family in Lee County, Miss.
When he was 7, his father died and the family lost their cotton farm. Some of the children were sent to live with neighbors; Crump and two of his siblings lived in a widows home where their mother worked.
In 1940, he saw a man in a striking uniform and asked him where he got it.
Thats how Crump came to be a Marine. After training in San Diego, he was sent to Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, where he was assigned to work for naval intelligence, guarding the dry docks. On Dec. 7, he started work at 4 a.m. The first bomb fell at 7:55.
He was on guard duty alongside the USS Pennsylvania, standing on a dock when he was knocked to the ground.
Almost immediately he began to return fire. He later proudly told friends, he was one of the first. “It was the most traumatic thing I have ever witnessed in my life. I was absolutely scared to death,” Crump said. “When you see bodies blown apart and bodies on fire during a situation like that, it stays in your gut for the rest of your life.”
Crump also fought in the battles of Bougainville, Pelileu and Okinawa. In 1953, Crump returned to combat in Korea. In 1964, Crump was sent to Louisville to serve as a recruiter for the Marine Corps.
Sgt. Maj. Crump retired from the Marines in 1970 but continued to be involved with the JROTC program he started at Seneca High School, the longest running program of its kind. He was a veteran of three wars. He served in the Marines for 30 years.
Sgt. Major Crump died at Oaklawn Nursing and Rehab Center surrounded by a group of Marines. Those men helped organize his visitation and funeral, ensuring Crump would receive full military honors.
On Friday, July 11, 2014, dozens of retired Marines, wearing red jackets and white dress gloves, filed in one by one to salute Crump.
He was laid out wearing his full dress uniform. A baseball ball cap reading “Pearl Harbor Survivor” was placed above his shoulder. As those Marines stood at attention, Crump was awarded a recognition medal that was placed above his heart.
“Just to be able to say he’s my friend, my personal friend is an honor. Truly he’s an American hero,” said CJ Wychulis, who is also a retired marine.
“He talked about when the Japanese were flying in dropping bombs. Of course it was nothing but panic. All the stuff in the water, he was trying to help people,” Wychulis remembered Crump telling him.
“He never considered himself a hero, all the other veterans were heroes,” he added. He spoke of his Marine Corps service with passion, eloquence and humility.
Crump was laid to rest Saturday, July 12, 2014 at Calvary Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky.
A touching memorial to one of America’s finest.