Before the Army’s 27th Infantry Division was decimated in a bloody World War II battle, Stan Dube sketched portraits of his fellow soldiers. The 17 drawings were forgotten after the war and stashed in an attic for decades before being found a year ago by his son.
Now, Ira Dube is on a mission to identify the men in his late father’s 75-year-old artwork. So far he has definitively identified two of the soldiers, both New Yorkers who served in the 27th Division’s 105th Infantry Regiment, which suffered heavy casualties in the Battle of Saipan in the Pacific. One was killed on Saipan; the other died in the 1970s.
Because the 27th was a former New York National Guard unit, Dube believes most or all of the other 15 men also were New Yorkers. He recently donated the original sketches to the New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center in hopes its artifacts and records could be used to help identify more of the soldiers. It’s not known whether any of the men depicted in the artwork are still alive.
“These people need to be remembered,” said Ira Dube, 61, a retired Navy veteran living in Woodland Park, Colorado. “I look at these sketches and I see a hero.”
Dube found the signed sketches in the attic of his sister’s home in Mississippi early last year while they were going through their father’s belongings.
Stan Dube, who died in 2009, was drafted into the Army while studying architecture at Syracuse University, and he put his drawing skills to use by sketching pencil- and charcoal-on-paper portraits of his fellow soldiers while the 27th Division was stationed in Hawaii in 1943.
The sure-handed sketches mostly show young men looking pensively into the distance, though a few crack a smile. Dube drew no backgrounds and barely sketched out his subjects’ shoulders, but he took care to capture his subjects’ eyes and faces.
On all the drawings, Dube put the month, year and his signature in the lower right corner. Three of the soldiers signed their names next to Dube’s: Kenneth Reid, Joseph Joner Kratky and Joe Orbe, who added his nickname, “Solid Jackson.”
Using information he found online, Ira Dube was able to track down Kratky and Orbe’s relatives in upstate New York. Kratky was killed on Saipan in 1944. Orbe, a New York City native, survived the war and died in 1974. Dube hasn’t definitively identified the soldier in the Reid sketch.
The unidentified drawings were delivered to the military museum Dec. 1. Director Courtney Burns said the sketches will be posted on the museum’s website and likely will be displayed in an exhibit this year.
“We may never know who any of them are,” Burns said. “But I think that’s part of the mystery and part of the intrigue of them.”
Wilfred “Spike” Mailloux, a 105th Regiment veteran who was wounded during a massive banzai attack near the end of the Saipan battle, recently perused the sketches at the museum to see whether he recognized any of the soldiers. None looked familiar.
“It was such a long time ago,” said Mailloux, 94, a General Electric retiree from the Albany area who’s one of the last surviving 105th Regiment veterans. “We were young squirts back then.”