Bataan Death March survivor Ben Steele picked up another honor Friday when U.S. Sen. Jon Tester stopped by the Billings veteran’s home.
Steele, 97, was presented with the transcript of a tribute, which Tester read into the Congressional Record last month.
“I appreciate what you’ve done for this country, what you’ve done for the state of Montana and the example you set for people all over this country. So, thank you Ben,” Tester said.
The citation, entered into the Congressional Record, preserves Steele’s role in U.S. history forever, Tester said.
Steele was a 23-year-old soldier in the Philippines when the Japanese attacked in December 1941. Steele and the other soldiers were taken prisoner and forced from the Bataan Peninsula on a six-day march. Those who struggled along the way were shot or bayoneted to death.
Steele spent more than three years in prison, drawing his experience on the concrete floor of his cell. He wasn't freed until after the United States dropped atomic bombs on Japan.
Steele pursued an art career after the war, teaching at Eastern Montana College in Billings for several years. An artist, he has been honored several times.
Steele said it was a great honor for his story to be entered into the Congressional Record. Tester got a smile out of the veteran when he mentioned that Steele, as a boy, would sneak out of class under the pretense of going to the bathroom, but would go outside, saddle up a horse, and ride home.