Thomas Robert Harrison died on August 12, 2013, of causes incident to age. He was born on August 2, 1918, in Salt Lake City to Mary Frances and William Zenas Harrison. As a boy, Tom would roller-skate down South Temple to the city library and bring home as many books as he could carry. To earn pocket money, he caddied at The Fort Douglas Country Club. He loved books and golf for the rest of his life. Tom attended Wasatch Elementary School and East High School. After graduation in 1936, he attended the University of Utah, where he joined the Beta Theta Pi fraternity, studied engineering and was active in ROTC. In early 1941, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant and sent to the Philippines to train the elite Filipino Scouts in artillery. He was there when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
The Japanese Army bombed the Philippines later that day and landed troops on the island on December 22. For four months, Tom and the poorly equipped Scouts helped thwart the Japanese advance, enabling General MacArthur to escape. For his valor, Tom received the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star, among other honors. On April 9, about 72,000 Allied and Filipino soldiers surrendered on the Bataan Peninsula. They were forced to walk 60 miles over rugged terrain in sweltering heat to Camp O'Donnell in what became known as the infamous Bataan Death March. An estimated 18,000 men and women were killed by Japanese soldiers or died of exposure and disease during the march.
From Camp O'Donnell, Tom was sent to a POW camp in Osaka, Japan, where he worked in a steel mill. He was there for over three years and was cold and hungry every day. When the POW camps were liberated after the Japanese surrender, Tom and thousands of other American soldiers were sent home on special POW ships. He arrived in San Francisco Bay to a hero's welcome and within a few days of his arrival, he met Dorothy Wagstaff on a blind date. They married a year later.
Tom returned to the University of Utah and graduated with a degree in mining engineering. He became superintendent of Park Utah Consolidated Mines. Thereafter, he mined and drilled for uranium, mercury, gold, oil and gas throughout the western United States, Mexico and South America. In 1961, he joined Hercules, Inc., in Salt Lake City. He had a long and distinguished professional and civic life, serving as the Chairman of the Board of Pardons and of the Children's Service Society. When he retired in 1983, he pursued his love of golf at The Country Club and at Desert Island Country Club, CA, fly fished on the North Fork of the Snake River and wrote a book about his war experiences, titled Survivor.
Tom was preceded in death by his parents, by his siblings, William, Richard and Elizabeth Oakason and by his dear Uncle Oscar and Aunt Carrie Friendly. He is survived by his wife; his children, Jane (James Carter), Thomas (Merry) and Paul; Ann Harrison; grandchildren, Peter (Kimberly), Timothy, Harrison Carter, David and Caroline; nephew and niece, John and Carolyn Oakason; and sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Jane and Grover Rawlings.
Tom Harrison was a member of war veterans known as "the greatest generation," who fought in World War II. The family would like to thank Lt. Col. Bryce and Cara Jones, Maj. Gen. Mari K. Eder and the members of the USAR Joint and Special Troop Support Command for their extraordinary generosity in honoring Tom's military heroism. The family would also like to thank the VA Hospital staff, Garden Terrace and the VA Nursing Home for their solicitude for Tom and the other veterans under their care.
A memorial service will be held at the First Unitarian Church, 569 So. 1300 Ea. on September 4 at 11:00. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a donation to Paralyzed Veterans of America or to the charity of your choice. Condolences may be shared at www.holbrookmortuary.com.