Daniel Crowley, who joined the U.S. Marines at age 16 and served in three wars, died on March 29. He was 81.

Mr. Crowley served in China at the close of World War II, in the Korean War and in Vietnam. He retired in 1975 and settled in Westbrook.

He was strong-willed and tough, both mentally and physically, family members say. But he was a loving father to his three children.

“He wasn’t tough with us at home,” said his daughter Sheila Crowley of Augusta.

She said Mr. Crowley overcame obstacles throughout his life. His father abandoned him and his mother when he was 3 years old. His mother worked as a cook to support her family while living in Maynard, Mass.

At age 5, he nearly drowned when he fell through the ice near his home. One of his playmates rescued him by grabbing a skate blade.

At age 9 or 10, he was struck in the head with a baseball, and he spent a year in a coma.

At age 16, he forged his mother’s signature and joined the Marines.

He served in China during the last year of World War II and for two years afterward.

At one point, while the Chinese nationalist army was retreating, he was dispatched toward the Manchurian border as part of a rear-guard action to prevent the Soviet Army from coming to the aid of the Chinese communists, said his son, Timothy Crowley of Westbook.

He said his father enjoyed his experience in China but hated his experience in the Korean War.

Mr. Crowley served two tours in Vietnam, in 1965 and 1968. Timothy Crowley said his father spent a lot of time in jungle camps serviced by the Da Nang Air Base.

He was wounded a few times but did not report his wounds because he did not want to leave Vietnam. Timothy Crowley said his father wanted to stay with his men.

“He wanted to make sure his people survived,” he said. “He felt he had a responsibility.”

Shrapnel wounds near his spine would affect him for the rest of his life, making it difficult to find employment after he retired. He received a Purple Heart and numerous other military honors.

Mr. Crowley was an outgoing man who made friends easily. He was funny and enjoyed playing practical jokes on his friends. He was proud of his Irish heritage and was a member of Elks Lodge 188 and the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

He was diagnosed with brain cancer at Christmastime. Throughout his illness, he never complained, Sheila Crowley said.

“He was not a complainer,” she said. “He was very strong, not only physically but strong-willed. He was just a special person.”

 

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:

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