Frank Lovato was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico
October 31, 1921, to WWI Army veteran Atanacio Lovato and Anita
Sanchez. He was named after his famous great uncle, Congressman
Francisco Perea who was a personal friend of Abraham Lincoln.
Prior to his death in 1913, Perea also had the unique
distinction of being the last known living person who was in
Ford’s Theater the night Lincoln was assassinated. Although
Frank grew up in the period of the Great Depression, his family
managed on the steady income of his father’s skilled machinist
job at the railroad depot.
Frank joined the New Mexico National Guard while
in high school and received training at Fort Bliss, Texas prior
to being activated in January 1941. His unit was designated the
200th Coast Artillery and was shipped to Fort Stotsenberg/Clark
Air Field, Philippine Islands in September 1941 to shore up the
joint American/Filipino forces of General Douglas MacArthur. It
was there that Frank saw the first bombs dropped from Imperial
Japanese bombers ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Two
weeks later he was among the very first Americans to engage the
Japanese land invasion forces on the beach at Lingayen Gulf. He
and his American/Filipino, 27 man mechanized-artillery,
halftrack battery sunk over 30 Japanese landing craft and later
destroyed 4 enemy tanks before they were ordered to surrender
and endure the infamous Bataan Death March, POW camps, “Hell
Ships”, and “Slave Camps”. This may have been the Very First
face-to-face battle between Americans and Japanese in WWII.
(Note: The Wake Island invasion occurred one day later.) While
in a POW camp near Nagasaki, Japan, he also witnessed the flash
and sound of the Last bomb dropped in WWII. The next day, he and
his comrades were perhaps the first to reach out their hands in
friendship to Japanese civilians (children from Fukuoka who had
wandered into the camp) then later to their families. He was
also one of the first Americans to witness the results of the
complete annihilation of Nagasaki at ground zero when he was
liberated onto a hospital ship in Nagasaki Harbor.
Frank fulfilled his dream to return home, receive
his promised field promotion, start a family, and to serve his
country that had liberated him. He was among the first Amy
Sergeants to join the newly formed Air Force. He led a
distinguished career in the Air Force, fulfilling his promise to
see that the conditions that led to the fall of the Philippines
would never happen again to American military personnel. Frank
lived in his home in Albuquerque for sixty years, helping others
less fortunate than himself, surrounded by great grandchildren
and enjoying local sports and veterans events.
— Francisco Lovato
In 2008, “Survivor”, Frank Lovato’s biography, written by his son Francisco, was published and is available online at www.survivorbook.com.
Mr. Lovato died in Albuquerque, New Mexico,
Tuesday, April 20, 2010. He is survived by children Francisco Lovato,
Marie Lovato, Debbie Humphreys, Patrick Lovato; 16 grandchildren
and 11 great-great children, including Disney acting and singing
star Demi Lovato.