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Oldest American Bataan Death March survivor, dentist, dies at age 105

Pinckneyville, Ill.—Dr. Albert “Doc” Brown, the oldest living World War II veteran and survivor of the 65-mile forced trek known as the Bataan Death March, died Aug. 14 at a nursing home in Nashville, Ill. He was 105.

Image: Dr. Albert Brown is pictured in uniform during World War II. Photo courtesy of the Dr. Albert Brown family.
Survivor: Dr. Albert Brown is pictured in uniform during World War II. Photo courtesy of the Dr. Albert Brown family.

Born on October 26, 1905, in North Platte, Neb., Dr. Brown was the godson of the famous Wild West showman William "Buffalo Bill" Cody. Dr. Brown graduated from Creighton University School of Dentistry where he competed on the football and basketball teams and was a member of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.

According to his obituary, he established a dental practice and a family with his wife Helen in Iowa and became a licensed pilot.

After a decade of dental practice, Dr. Brown was called to active military duty with a medical regiment in October 1940. By early 1941, he was deployed to the Philippines, where he and thousands of other American soldiers were forced to walk from Bataan to a Japanese prisoner of war camp. He survived the infamous Bataan Death March and spent three years as a Japanese POW.

Dr. Brown kept a hidden journal of his experiences, which included beatings, near starvation and disease. His once-athletic build was reduced to less than 100 pounds when he was liberated.

Dr. Brown told The Southern Illinoisan in 2005, that when he was finally freed Sept. 15, 1945, he was “blind, I couldn't hear, I was in terrible shape.” He spent three years recuperating at Fitzsimons Army Hospital in Denver, where a physician predicted he wouldn’t live to see age 50 because of his serious injuries. He was awarded the Purple Heart, the Philippine Defense Ribbon with 1 star, the Presidential Unit Citation, the American Defense Ribbon with 1 star, the American Theater Ribbon, the Asiatic-Pacific Ribbon and the WWII Victory Medal for his service. But he was never well enough to resume dental practice.

Dr. Brown moved to Hollywood, Calif., where his sister and brother-in-law were involved in show business. He was reportedly a landlord or friend to many Hollywood legends, including Joan Fontaine, Olivia de Havilland, John Wayne and Roy Rogers. He was an active member of the Hollywood YMCA and an avid handball player. In 1993 he moved to Pinckneyville, Ill., where he made his home with his daughter, Margaret “Peg” Doughty.

“He was a warrior,” Mrs. Doughty said in an Aug. 16 article in The Southern Illinoisan. “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.”

Dr. Brown is survived by his daughter; his son, Robert G. (Ann) Brown of The Dalles, Ore.; daughter-in-law, Dr. Emma Limon Brown of Mexico City; twelve grandchildren; twenty-eight great-grandchildren; and nineteen great-great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents; wife; two sisters; one brother; his son, Dr. Albert N. “Sonny” Brown II; and his son-in-law, Dr. Al Doughty.

Funeral services were held Aug. 20. Memorials may be made to Wounded Warrior Project.

Image: Bataan Death March survivor Dr. Albert Brown speaks with members of the Southern Illinois University Carbondale Army ROTC
Remembering WWII: Bataan Death March survivor Dr. Albert Brown speaks with members of the Southern Illinois University Carbondale Army ROTC March 10, 2005 at his daughter's home in Pinckneyville, Ill. Photo courtesy The Southern Illinoisan.