Charles Frank, 80, career Army officer

November 09, 1995|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Dr. Charles B. Frank, a retired career Army officer who survived the infamous Bataan death march of World War II, died Nov. 2 of Parkinson's disease at the Charlestown Retirement Community in Catonsville. He was 80.

Mr. Frank, formerly a resident of Fort Washington in Prince George's County, retired from the Army with the rank of colonel in 1967. He had been a resident of Charlestown since 1992.

As an Army veterinarian assigned to the 23rd Field Artillery, Mr. Frank took care of cavalry horses and mules on Bataan. He was a member of the Filipino-American force that made a 98-day ill-fated attempt to defend the rocky peninsula from Japanese forces in the spring of 1942 before he was taken prisoner.

"They fled to the mountains during the siege where they faced severe shortages of food, medical supplies and ammunition, and were forced to eat the horses and mules in order to stay alive," said his wife of 48 years, the former Rebecca Jane Gilbert, an Army nurse.

Listed as missing in action for nearly a year, he was among 9,200 prisoners taken on Bataan -- 1,600 died on the march -- to Camp O'Donnell on Luzon.

Moved several times, he was aboard a prison ship that was torpedoed in September 1944 and was one of 88 who survived the ordeal.

He was then placed on a Japanese liner with women and children. U.S. air forces attacked the ship 14 times and severely damaged it, forcing passengers to abandon the crippled vessel and swim to shore while under attack by machine gun batteries on shore.

In 1945, he was placed on another ship for Japan, where the daily diet consisted of a half-cup of cooked rice and six teaspoons of water. More than 500 prisoners died by the voyage's end from lack of food and water or from pneumonia.

His final destination was Inchon, Korea, where he was liberated Sept. 7, 1945, weighing 83 pounds after being a prisoner of war for three years, four months and 28 days.

"He suppressed his experiences for years, and it was only in recent years that he began to talk

about them in bits and pieces. He did have nightmares and flashbacks, but I think he was somewhat unaffected by it all," said a son, Jon Frank of Prince Frederick.

Mr. Frank resumed his military career and served in Germany as well as at the Pentagon and Fort Meade before retiring. His numerous decorations included the Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit and the Purple Heart.

He worked at the National Academy of Science in the Institute of Laboratory Animal Resources in Washington until retiring again in 1977.

The Mount Joy, Pa., native earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1938.

He was a member of the American Ex-POW Association and the Retired Officers Association.

Services with full military honors are scheduled for 11 a.m. today at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Other survivors include another son, Dr. Charles G. Frank of Roanoke, Va.; a daughter, Mary Ann Honeman of Westminster; and six grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Parkinson's Disease Center, in care of Paula Goldberg, Johns Hopkins Hospital Outpatient Center, Suite 5064, 601 N. Caroline St., Baltimore 21287-0870.

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