Oldest WW II Veteran, Battan Death March Survivor, Dies at 105
Bataan Death March survivor dies
BY BRENT STEWART, THE SOUTHERN thesouthern.com | Posted: Tuesday, August 16, 2011 1:00 am
PINCKNEYVILLE - Albert Brown, the oldest living World War II veteran and survivor of the 65-mile forced World War II trek known as the Bataan Death March, has died.
Brown, 105, died Sunday at Friendship Manor nursing home in Nashville where he had lived for the last year and a half, according to his daughter, Peg Doughty of Pinckneyville.
Brown moved to Southern Illinois about 10 years ago to live with his daughter, who owns the Oxbow Bed and Breakfast in Pinckneyville.
"He was a warrior," Doughty said of her father. "He was a gentleman. He loved women to his dying day. Very cavalier - he liked people and at one time he was a very good dentist."
Born Oct. 26, 1905, in North Platte, Neb., Albert Brown crammed a lot of living into his long life.
His godfather was William "Buffalo Bill" Cody. Brown could recall visiting with the flamboyant Wild West showman as a child - sitting on his lap on the front porch and pulling Cody's whiskers.
In 1937, as a commissioned lieutenant in the Reserve Officer Training Corps and a married father of three children with a 10-year-old dental practice in Iowa, Brown left everything behind and didn't see his family again for 10 years when he was ordered to report to Fort Snelling in Minneapolis.
Stationed in the Philippines, Brown was one of the "Battling Bastards of Bataan" and their 98-day siege from the Japanese army. After the Philippines fell to the Japanese, they were forced to walk in what later became known as the Bataan Death March.
During the 55-mile march to Camp O'Donnell, 76,000 American and Filipino prisoners were bound, beaten or killed by their Japanese captors. Only 56,000 reached the camp alive; about 600 Americans died on the march, and between 12,000 and 18,000 of the troops remain unaccounted for.
Brown survived the march and the internment that followed in Japanese and Philippine prisoner of war camps.
When finally freed Sept. 15, 1945, Brown told The Southern Illinoisan in 2005, he was "blind, I couldn't hear, I was in terrible shape."
During that time, Brown kept a war journal kept hidden from his Japanese captors in the lining of a canvas bag that he used to recall those dark days many years later.
"He never considered himself a hero," Doughty said. "I guess he just figured he was at the wrong place at the wrong time."
After the war, Brown lived in Hollywood, about a quarter mile below the big Hollywood sign.
"When I got home, because of my back injury, I played racquetball," Brown told The Southern in 2001. "I couldn't practice dentistry any more because I couldn't stand, physically, to do the work."
Don Morrow, a friend of Brown during his days in California, recently published a book about Brown's life, "Forsaken Heroes of the Pacific War: One Man's True Story."
Morrow said that over the years there were talks that Brown's life would become a book or movie, but those plans never materialized. Morrow decided to take matters into his own hands, with co-writer Kevin Moore.
"All of this fabulous heritage that he has and that he survived the Death March, he would never tell you these things," Morrow said. "Most people had no idea about it.
Brown said the working title for his book was "The Amazing Dr. Brown."
"Because that's what he was," Morrow said.
-Christi Mathis and Linda Krutsinger contributed to this article.
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