SDBONHOM-L ArchivesArchiver > SDBONHOM > 2010-06 > 1276661005
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Subject: [SDBONHOM] Frank Base died 2010
Date: Wed, 16 Jun 2010 04:03:25 -0000
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Surnames: Base, Savage, Healy, Garr, Preston
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Survivor of Bataan Death March
BY JOSE PAGLIERY
Sunday 1-17-2010 Miami Herald
Frank Base, a decorated military medic and one of the last survivors of the atrocious World War II Bataan Death March, died Saturday at 90.
His wife of 64 years, Bonnie Base, said he died in a Fort Lauderdale nursing home following cardiac and respiratory failure.
Base grew up during the Great Depression in the tiny South Dakota town of Tyndall, where he worked as a drugstore clerk since the age of 12. Inspired to become a doctor, Base attended South Dakota State College until 1942, when he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps as a medic.
That year, the young combat medic served in the Philippines when a 75,000-person force of local and American troops was overrun by the Japanese, marking the largest surrender in U.S. history. The prisoners were forced to walk a tortuous 65 miles, during which the Japanese frequently stabbed them with bayonets, beat them to death, and denied them food, water or rest. Those who stopped to assist fallen comrades were also killed. One in four did not survive.
Base told family he remembered once looking back during the march and spotting a childhood friend from Tyndall. The march later claimed his life.
The torment continued at Military Prison Camp No. 1 Cabanatuan. Base told family a Japanese guard once smashed the butt of a rifle against his lower back when Base misunderstood a command while planting rice.
The horrendous conditions also caused men to succumb to malaria, dysentery and dengue fever. Bae told family the sick stayed at make-shift hospitals, rooms that some Army doctors refused to enter for fear of catching diseases. That's when Staff Sgt. Base bravely took a stand, entering the rooms with aides and caring for his fellow soldiers.
``There was no medicine, no nothing. He just had a fatalistic attitude that what was going to happen was going to happen,'' said James Savage, his son-in-law.
When U.S. Army Rangers liberated them in 1944, Base barely weighed 85 pounds, his once-dark brown hair then a sun-bleached white.
For his efforts, Base was awarded several service medals including the Bronze Star. The citation, submitted by Secretary of War Robert P. Patterson, said Base ``repeatedly exposed himself to the ravages of these diseases and, by his unflinching loyalty to the patients, prevented what might have become a wholesale decimation of American Prisoners of War.''
It honored how Base ``worked untiringly and faithfully'' with little or no supplies.
His fianc, Bonnie Healy, had waited three years for his return and taken a job at a war plant in California. She was there one early morning when she got a phone call.
``A woman from the War Department told me that Frank had been liberated and was returning home. I cried, and the woman on the phone cried,'' she told family.
They soon married and moved to Hot Springs, South Dakota, where Base owned a drugstore that he would sometimes turn into a make-shift hospital for animals, including a circus camel that had just given birth. The couple left the cold Midwest for Florida in 1955, where Base enjoyed the warmth he grew accustomed to in the Philippines.
Frank Base is survived by his wife Bonnie; daughter Sherry Savage and her husband James; daughter Debbie Garr and her husband Rick; grandsons Sean Savage and Michael Garr; grandson Jonathan Garr and wife Tina; granddaughter Amy Preston and husband Carlton; and great-granddaughter Amelia Preston.
Private funeral plans are pending.
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