ARLINGTON, Va. — Beneath one of the thousands of white headstones in the national cemetery here lies an Indiana man who proved selfless in the war against Japan which ended 67 years ago this month.
On a remote island in Indonesia, Richard Antrim was held prisoner by the Japanese from 1942 until the end of the war after the sinking of his ship, the USS Pope, in the Battle of the Java Sea. When his captors ordered 50 lashes for one of his men, Antrim volunteered to take the man’s place. 2500 Allied prisoners roared their approval at his courage, and the Japanese guards abandoned their plans for further punishment.
Later, Antrim took charge of a labor detail building slit trenches to protect prisoners from Allied air raids. He craftily changed the construction plans and had them approved by his captors. Unbeknownst to them, from the air, the finished construction spelled out “U.S.” — identifying the trenches as harboring Allied prisoners and thus saving their lives.
Released on Sept. 2, 1945, Antrim received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award, as well as the Bronze Star. He died in Mountain Home, Arkansas on March 7, 1969; his body rests in Arlington National Cemetery.
67 years after the surrender of the Japanese to the Allies, we remember American heroes such as Antrim. In a time of unimaginable hardship, he embodied the kind of character and conviction on which this nation was founded. It is up to all of us to carry the legacy of our heroes into each new chapter of our great American story.