Albert “Doc” Brown, a former dentist, the oldest living survivor of the Bataan Death died at 105 on August 14, 2011 in Nashville, IL.
He had been told by a doctor when he returned from the war that the probably wouldn’t live to be 50. But, the fighting spirit of survival that served him during World War II remained with him his whole life.
He was 40 and a captain when he endured the Bataan Death March, walking to Camp O’Donnell with over 70,000 fellow Americans and Filipinos in the horrible heat with lack of food and water.
Dr. Albert Brown and SSgt. Nick Vrana of the 100th Div. HQ at the ADBC Convention in Louisville, Kentucky in 2008. Dr. Brown was the senior member in attendance. He and SSgt. Vrana learned both were from the same town in Iowa.Those who fell out of line or failed to follow orders were met with beheadings, stabbings or shootings. Around 11,000 people perished on the punishing march, around six hundred of those Americans. After the march, he stayed in a POW camp until September 1945 living mainly on rice and dropping to under a 100 pounds from his ordeal.
Albert Brown often wondered why he survived and others younger did not. He documented his experiences on a tiny tablet he kept in his canvas bag. His message to veterans today is a message of hope, and of hanging on in the face of despair. His nephew who just returned from Afghanistan advised, “You will persevere and can find the promise of a new tomorrow, much like Doc had found.”
A book, “Forsaken Heroes of the Pacific War: One Man’s True Story”, recently written, by Kevin Moore and Don Morrow, tells the story of Albert Moore. He was born in 1905 in North Platte, Nebraska, and was the godson of “Buffalo Bill” Cody. His father was and engineer and his mother was an aunt to actor Henry Fonda.
After Albert’s father died, he moved with his family to Council Bluffs, Iowa. In the 1920s, Brown studied dentistry. After a decade devoted to his dental practice, he was called to active duty in 1937, leaving behind his wife and children.
Brown tried to focus on the bright spots of the war. He succeeded in making a listening tube for a radio that another prisoner was putting together from stolen radio parts. This allowed the prisoners to hear news from San Francisco about a naval victory and letting the prisoners know the US was making progress in the war.
After the war, Brown had to recover from his war wounds. He was almost blind, and had broken his back and neck. Like many other prisoners, he had suffered a host of tropical diseases, including malaria and dysentery. The doctor advised Brown to go out and live his life to the fullest because his time on this earth would probably be limited. Brown moved to California, returned to college, and rented properties to Hollywood movie stars.
His younger relatives marvel at his life and often turn to him for inspiration. He did not start revealing his war experience until he was in his eighties.