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Montana native Ben Steele worked as a ranch hand and a glazier before enlisting in the Army Air Corps in September 1940. He was stationed at Clark Air Field on December 8, 1941, when it was attacked by the Japanese. A death march survivor, Steele spent the next 40 months in prison camps, on a hell ship, and working as a slave laborer in a Japanese coal mine before his liberation at the end of the war.

While a prisoner, Steele turned to art. He started drawing in Bilibid prison, secretly recording the world around him. Then all but two of the 72 drawings he completed from 1943 to 1945 were lost at sea.

Returning home at the end of the war, Steele recreated his lost drawings between 1945 and 1947. He began a career as an artist, eventually joining the art faculty at Eastern Montana College, where he would teach for 23 years. Browse this gallery of Steele's work, accompanied by his comments on life as a prisoner of war.



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