OXFORD — World War II prisoner of war Marvin Sizemore stood stoic as medals long overdue to him were pinned to his Navy uniform during a ceremony in his honor Monday.

Sizemore, now 89, was awarded 14 medals and ribbons - including a Combat Action Ribbon for taking enemy fire and a Prisoner of War Medal - for the three and a half years he spent in a Japanese work camp.

The Hamilton resident was 19 years old when he was captured while receiving medical treatment at a civilian Dutch hospital in Java. He was sent to the hospital just a day before the ship he was serving on, the USS Houston, sank in combat, leaving more than 1,000 men dead.

During his three and a half years in captivity, Sizemore suffered from malnutrition and beatings. He was forced to work on the Burma-Thai Railway, known as the “Death Railway.” For every mile of the 258-mile railway, 411 lost their lives, said Col. Patrick Mayal, who pinned the ribbons on Sizemore.

“All your civil rights are taken away from you. It was tough,” Sizemore said. “It’s something that you never understand unless it happens to you.

“A lot of guys just gave up,” he said.

Sizemore said he was liberated a few days after the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. He weighed just 90 pounds at the time. In 1948, He married his wife, Helen.

Sizemore continued to serve in the Navy and was later assigned as an instructor to the Miami University Naval ROTC. In 1959, he retired from the Navy with a rank of chief petty officer. 

His career continued as a patrolman with the Oxford Police Department, where he worked for 20 years. Many of his former co-workers who attended the ceremony said they knew little of Sizemore’s service.

“I didn’t know it until today what a hero my friend Marvin is,” said Oxford police Acting Chief Robert Holzworth.

Sizemore’s daughter, Freddi Crawford, worked for a year with Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office to get the medals for her father.

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