Flags are at half-staff to honor Montana WWII veteran Benjamin Charles Steele

Posted at 4:25 PM, Oct 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-03 18:25:27-04

Governor Steve Bullock has ordered all flags in Montana to be flown at half-staff on Tuesday to honor the late Benjamin Charles Steele.

Steele, who survived the Bataan Death March during World War II, died last week at the age of 98.

Steele’s book, “Tears in the Darkness – The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath,” chronicled his experience during the war and he became well-known for his art depicting his time as a prisoner of war.

A new Billings middle school currently under construction was named in his honor.

Steele’s ordeal as a survivor of the Bataan Death March made him a hero to many Montanans.

Sketches that he drew while a prisoner of war also made him somewhat famous and led to a long career in the world of art, including a stint as Art Director at Eastern Montana College in Billings.

Steele was born in Roundup in 1917.

He grew up on his parent’s ranch, but and he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1940.

By 1941 Steele found himself stationed at Clark Field in the Philippines as a member of the 19th Bombardment Group.

Shortly after Christmas Day, the soldiers found themselves on the front lines of the battle against the Japanese.

Within days they were captured and for six days he was part of the infamous Bataan Death March.

Steele was a POW for 1,244 days. He was eventually transferred to Japan and after the war he returned to Montana.

The Ben Steele Middle School is slated to be open its doors next fall.

Governor Bullock’s proclamation reads:

I hereby order all flags flown in the State of Montana to be flown at half-staff on Tuesday, October 4th, 2016, in memory of the life of Benjamin Charles Steele, WWII Veteran, Bataan Death March survivor, devoted educator and artist.
Ben Steele was a Montanan of immeasurable character who portrayed the courage of his generation with a sketchbook and a joyful laugh. He taught all of us to never give up on the importance of inspiring future generations after overcoming indescribable adversity.