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Albert Brown, Survivor of Bataan March, Dies at 105
By DENNIS HEVESI
Published: August 15, 2011
Albert Brown, the oldest American survivor of the Bataan Death March, in which as many as 11,000 soldiers died at the hands of the Japanese in the Philippines in 1942, and perhaps the oldest American veteran of World War II, died Sunday in Nashville, Ill. He was 105 and lived in Pinckneyville, Ill.
His death was confirmed by Kevin Moore, co-author with Don Morrow of "Forsaken Heroes of the Pacific War: One Man's True Story" (2011), a biography of Mr. Brown.
In 2007, Mr. Brown was acknowledged by other members of the veterans organization American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor as the oldest living survivor of the six-day death march. The American War Library in Gardena, Calif., lists Mr. Brown as the nation's oldest World War II veteran, but that could not be confirmed.
Mr. Brown, then an Army captain, was among the approximately 76,000 Americans and Filipinos forced to march 66 miles on the Bataan peninsula starting on April 10, 1942.
The Japanese had invaded the Philippines two weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. American and Filipino forces were overmatched and retreated into the mountainous jungles of Bataan. After four months of intense fighting — their ranks reduced by hunger and disease and with no reinforcements in sight — they surrendered.
With many already close to death, they were forced to trudge toward a prisoner-of-war camp during a torrid time of year with little food or water. Those who stopped were killed. Japanese soldiers fractured skulls with rifle butts and cut off heads. Prisoners who tried to help fallen comrades were bludgeoned or stabbed. "One 18-year-old I knew, he fell down," Mr. Brown said in the book. "A guard came along and put a gun to his head, pulled the trigger and walked away."
The nightmare was hardly over when the survivors arrived at the camp, or at the other camps in Japan to which many, including Captain Brown, were later taken. In three years in captivity Captain Brown was regularly beaten; thrown down stairs, seriously injuring his back; and struck in the neck by a rifle butt, causing a fracture. Though nearly 6 feet, he weighed 90 pounds when he was freed after the Japanese surrender.
Albert Neir Brown was born in North Platte, Neb., on Oct. 26, 1905, to Albert and Ida Fonda Brown. His father was a railroad engineer; his mother was an aunt of the actor Henry Fonda.
Young Albert was in the R.O.T.C. in high school and at Creighton University, from which he graduated in 1927 with a dentistry degree. A decade later, at 32, he was called into the Army.
Mr. Brown is survived by a daughter, Peggy Doughty; a son, Graham; 12 grandchildren; 28 great-grandchildren; and 19 great-great-grandchildren. His wife of 58 years, the former Helen Johnson, died in 1985.
Promoted to major, Mr. Brown spent two years in an Army hospital after the war. He later moved to Los Angeles, where he bought property and rented apartments. War injuries prevented his working as a dentist.
He moved to Illinois in 1998 to live with his daughter.
In the P.O.W. camps, Mr. Brown said: "We were listed in groups of 10. If one escaped out of the 10, they eliminated the rest of them, killed them. So, at night, just before roll call, you tried to find out if your 10 were still there."
A version of this article appeared in print on August 16, 2011, on page B16 of the New York edition with the headline: Albert Brown, 105, Survivor of Bataan March.
World War II Prisoners of War, 1941-1946 about Albert N Brown
Name: Albert N Brown
Residence state: Iowa
Report Date: 7 May 1942
Latest Report Date: 21 Sep 1945
Grade: Captain or Asst. superintendent of nurses or Asst. director of nurses or Chief dietitian or Chief physical therapy aide
Grade Notes: Captain or Lieutenant
Service Branch: Army
Arm or Service: Dental Corps
Arm or Service Code: Dental Corps
Area Served: Southwest Pacific Theatre: Philippine Islands
Detaining Country: Japan
Camp: Hakodate POW Camp-Babai - Machi Hokkaido Island 41-140
Status: Returned to Military Control, Liberated or Repatriated
Report Source: Individual has been reported through sources considered official.
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