It’s sobering to think that Albert Brown was not much younger than I when the Japanese forced him, and 78,000 other U.S. and Filipino soldiers, malnourished and sickly, to march 65 miles to the prison camp. This was in early 1942 and, after his release, doctors told him not to expect to live more than a decade due to the damage he had sustained through beatings, malnutrition and disease.
His story is told, albeit briefly, at History.com:
Born in 1905 in North Platte, Nebraska, Albert Neir Brown was enrolled in ROTC during high school and while attending dental school. Called to active duty in 1937, he reported to Minneapolis’ Fort Snelling, leaving behind his wife, his three children and his practice. In 1941 Brown shipped out to the Philippines, where on December 7—the day of the Pearl Harbor attack—the Japanese army launched a three-month offensive against Allied forces known as the Battle of Bataan.
Weakened by intense fighting and dwindling food supplies, 78,000 American and Filipino troops surrendered to the Japanese on April 9, 1942. Their captors forced them on a torturous 65-mile trek to a Japanese prison camp, shooting or beheading those who stumbled or fell behind the column. Violence, exhaustion, starvation and disease claimed the lives of an estimated 11,000 men in just six days. After the war, the Japanese general who led the infamous Bataan Death March would be charged with crimes against humanity and executed for his role in the numerous fatalities.
Nearly 40 when he trudged through the Philippines, Brown watched as scores of younger men perished around him, secretly documenting the ordeal with a nub of pencil and tiny tablet he hid in the lining of his bag. He then spent three years in a prison camp, surviving on three small rice balls a day and contracting a series of tropical illnesses. Brown suffered regular beatings at the hands of the guards, who on one occasion severely injured his back by throwing him down a flight of stairs and on another fractured his neck with a rifle blow…
Brown died last Sunday at a nursing home in Nashville, Illinois. He is survived by two children, 12 grandchildren, 28 great-grandchildren and 19 great-great-grandchildren. A book entitled “Forsaken Heroes of the Pacific War: One Man’s True Story,” which chronicles Brown’s experiences during World War II, was published earlier this year.
He was the last survivor of that atrocity, which came to symbolize Japanese brutality in the eyes of many Americans. I would venture to guess that he avoided Japanese cars to his last driving day.
On Wikipedia, we can gain some insight into the horrors of that march:
In June, 2001 U.S. Congressional Representative Dana Rohrabacher described the horrors and brutality that the prisoners experienced on the march:
- “They were beaten, and they were starved as they marched. Those who fell were bayoneted. Some of those who fell were beheaded by Japanese officers who were practicing with their samurai swords from horseback. The Japanese culture at that time reflected the view that any warrior who surrendered had no honor; thus was not to be treated like a human being. Thus they were not committing crimes against human beings.[…] The Japanese soldiers at that time […] felt they were dealing with subhumans and animals.”
Trucks were known to drive over some of those who fell or succumbed to fatigue, and “cleanup crews” put to death those too weak to continue. Marchers were harassed with random bayonet stabs and beatings.
From San Fernando, the prisoners were transported by rail to Capas. 100 or more prisoners were stuffed into each of the trains’ boxcars, which were unventilated and sweltering in the tropical heat. The trains had no sanitation facilities, and disease continued to take a heavy toll on the prisoners. After they reached Capas, they were forced to walk the final 9 miles to Camp O’Donnell. Even after arriving at Camp O’Donnell, the survivors of the march continued to die at a rate of 30-50 per day, leading to thousands more deaths. Most of the dead were buried in mass graves that the Japanese dug out with bulldozers on the outside of the barbed wire surrounding the compound.
The death toll of the march is difficult to assess as thousands of captives were able to escape from their guards (although many were killed during their escapes), and it is not known how many died in the fighting that was taking place concurrently. All told, approximately 5,000–10,000 Filipino and 600–650 American prisoners of war died before they could reach Camp O’Donnell.
Here is a piece of American anti-Japanese propaganda, also from Wikipedia:
Fast forward to our own time. How many whites have been murdered, recently, by rampaging, feral blacks, Mexican drunk drivers and other dangerous immigrants? Read through the list composed by the blogger Century of Blood and ask yourself: What are YOU going to do about it?