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.