August 20, 2003 by

James Culp


Categories: Military

Cmdr. James D. Culp, a war hero who survived more than three years in Japanese prisoner of war camps, died on July 25 of cancer. He was 86.
Culp dropped out of high school, joined the Navy and served six years aboard the destroyer Pennsylvania. A few months before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Culp volunteered to become a PT boat gunner in the new Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron.
In 1941, Culp’s boat was grounded during a night raid in the Philippines. The crew swam ashore, behind enemy lines, but Culp remained on the boat to help shoot down a Japanese plane. The event was chronicled in the book, “They Were Expendable,” by William Lindsay White, and in a 1945 movie of the same name starring John Wayne.
Culp eventually made it to the American-held positions on the Bataan Peninsula. While fighting with the 4th Marines on Corregidor Island, he was captured and sent to a prisoner of war camp in Japan. The Allies declared victory three years later and Culp took command of the POWs, a move that earned him a Bronze Star.
After he regained his strength, Culp became a welfare officer at the naval prison on Terminal Island in San Pedro. He served as a gunnery officer during the Korean War, then as an executive officer at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
Culp retired from the military in 1964. He spent a year working as a safety engineer for NASA before moving to California to become professional skipper.

3 Responses to James Culp

  1. Jimmy Culp

    My name is James Culp too. I just saw somebody online who had the same name. I read the article and decided I wanted to send a tribute to another Culp who deserved it. My twin brother, Jere, and I were born in 1944. Our dad, Fred Culp, was a pilot and was in England at the time. We are proud of his service and proud of the service of James D. Culp as well. —— Jimmy Culp

  2. James Culp

    My name is James Culp also. I just googled me and saw someone else with my name. I am sorry to hear of the passing of James Culp. I trust his family and friends have lifted a toast in his honor. I will do so myself. It is an honor to share my name with someone as distingished as Mr. Culp. I trust he will save me a good place at the table when we meet on the other side.

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