USS Quail (AM-15)

USS Quail (AM-15) was an Lapwing-class minesweeper acquired by the U.S. Navy for the dangerous task of removing mines from minefields laid in the water to prevent ships from passing.

Name: USS Quail
Builder: Chester Shipbuilding Co., Chester, Pennsylvania
Laid down: 14 May 1918
Launched: 6 October 1918
Commissioned: 29 April 1919, as Minesweeper No.15
Reclassified: AM-15, 17 July 1920
Struck: 8 May 1942
Honours and
1 battle star (World War II)
Fate: Scuttled to prevent capture, 5 May 1942
General characteristics
Class and type: Lapwing-class minesweeper
Displacement: 840 long tons (853 t)
Length: 187 ft 10 in (57.25 m)
Beam: 35 ft 6 in (10.82 m)
Draft: 8 ft 10 in (2.69 m)
Speed: 14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph)
Complement: 61
Armament: 2 × 3 in (76 mm) guns

Quail was named after the quail, a migratory game bird.

Quail was laid down 14 May 1918 by the Chester Shipbuilding Co., Chester, Pennsylvania; launched 6 October 1918; and commissioned 29 April 1919.

Post-World War I operations

Quail steamed to Kirkwall, Scotland, to join the North Sea Mine Sweeping Detachment. She operated with this force clearing the North Sea of mines until 25 November 1919.

She operated with the Atlantic Fleet in Cuban waters during early 1920, and then along the U.S. East Coast. In September 1922, she was attached to the submarine base at Coco Solo, Panama Canal Zone, operating in the Caribbean.

She made a cruise to the east coast in late 1923, and in 1925 she was at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for repairs. In 1927 she spent time patrolling the west coast of Nicaragua, and later joined the fleet in the Caribbean for maneuvers. From July 1928 to January 1929, she was on the east coast, operating between Virginia and Massachusetts. She returned to Coco Solo in 1929. Following duty with the control force in the Panama Canal area from 1929 to 1931, Quail operated out of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, from 1931 to 1941, including in her duties a period of survey work off Alaska. On 25 July 1940 the Quail landed a force to construct a naval air station on Palmyra Atoll.

World War II Pacific operations

With the outbreak of war with Japan, the USS Quail was in the Philippines. During the defense of Corregidor, she swept a channel providing access to South Harbor, Corregidor. Her crew then went ashore to aid in the defense of that island. Damaged by enemy bombs and guns, Quail was scuttled 5 May 1942 by U.S. forces to prevent her capture. Part of her crew, Lt Cmdr. John H Morrill and 17 others, escaped to Darwin, Australia, in a 36-foot motor launch. The rest of the crew became prisoners of war of Imperial Japan. A number were sent to Japan to become slave laborers for Japanese companies. Chief Petty Officer Virgil Byrd, sick with wet beriberi and the beginnings of congestive heart failure, was beaten to death on 11 May 1943 at the POW Camp #3D Yodogawa in Osaka, Japan for selling an extra pair of shoes to a Japanese workman.  Byrd was beaten and kicked unconscious three times, revived and beaten again. He died that evening. The POW Camp supplied Allied POW slave labor to Yodogawa Steel Works, Ltd. The company has never acknowledged its involvement in this war crime.

During the Battle of Corregidor (1942), Lieutenant Thomas James Eugene “Jimmy” Crotty, Coast Guard Academy 1934, served as the executive officer of the Quail, which shot down enemy aircraft and swept American mine fields so U.S. submarines could surface at night to deliver goods and remove critical personnel on Corregidor. After the Quail was gutted of arms, he commanded a force of Marines and Army personnel manning 75mm beach guns firing down on enemy forces landing on Corregidor’s beaches. With Corregidor’s capitulation on 6 May 1942, Crotty became the first Coast Guard prisoner of war since the War of 1812, when the British captured U.S. Revenue Cutter Service cuttermen. He died in late September 1942 in the Cabanatuan POW Camp of diphtheria.[1]

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Thomas J.E. Crotty, 30, of Buffalo, New York, killed during World War II, was accounted for Sept. 10, 2019.

(This identification was initially published Sept. 17, 2019.)

In 1942, Crotty served aboard the USS Quail in the Philippines as part of the 16th Naval District-in-Shore Patrol Headquarters, in Cavite Navy Yard on the Philippine Islands.

Thousands of U.S. and Filipino service members were taken prisoner and sent to prisoner of war camps. Crotty was among those reported captured after the surrender of Corregidor and held at the Cabanatuan POW camp.

More than 2,500 POWs perished in this camp during the war. According to prison camp and other historical records, Crotty died July 19, 1942, and was buried along with fellow prisoners in the Cabanatuan Camp Cemetery, in grave number 312.

Following the war, American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) personnel exhumed those buried at the Cabanatuan cemetery and examined the remains in an attempt to identify them. Due to the circumstances of the deaths and burials, the extensive commingling, and the limited identification technologies of the time, all of the remains could not be identified. The unidentified remains were interred as “unknowns” in the present-day Manila American Cemetery and Memorial.

In January 2018, the “unknown” remains associated with Common Grave 312 were disinterred and sent to the DPAA laboratory for analysis, including one set, designated X-2858 Manila #2.

To identify Crotty’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis as well as circumstantial and material evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis.

DPAA is grateful to the American Battle Monuments Commission and the United States Coast Guard for their partnership in this mission.

Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently there are 72,657 service members still unaccounted for from World War II, of which approximately 30,000 are assessed as possibly-recoverable. Crotty’s name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, an American Battle Monuments Commission site along with others missing from WWII. Although interred as an "unknown" in Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Crotty’s grave was meticulously cared for over the past 70 years by the American Battle Monuments Commission. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for. (2)


Quail received one battle star for World War II service.


This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.

  1. Braesch, Connie (4 January 2010). "History - LT Thomas James Eugene Crotty: A Coast Guard Leader, Hero and Prisoner of War". Coast Guard Compass. Retrieved 26 April 2019. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.

{2} Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, PressRelease No: 19-184 Oct. 4, 2019. Retrieved Oct. 6, 2019.

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