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Prisoners Under the Rising Sun

Prisoners Under the Rising Sun

June 15th, 2018 9:00am

This special exhibit features a look at the life of a POW through the material in the museum’s collection and several pieces of artwork by Ben Steele borrowed from the Montana Museum of Art and Culture at the University of Montana.

Benjamin C. Steele (1917-2016)

Steele was born in Roundup, Montana. Stationed in the Philippines at the onset of World War II, he participated in the first major land battle on the Bataan Peninsula. Japan launched a devastating attack, and the battle ended with the surrender of more than 76,000 men under American command. The Japanese Army forced the prisoners on the infamous Bataan Death March, and many - sick, starving and forced to march under a tropical sun - perished. Steele suffered an ordeal of unparalleled cruelty. He began documenting his experience. The dozens of drawings he created were smuggled out of the camps, but unfortunately were lost, with the exception of two, when the ship carrying them was bombed. He ultimately spent 1244 days as a prisoner of war during WWII.

During his year-long recuperation in a Spokane hospital after the war, Steele recreated the lost drawings. Following his recovery, he pursued a degree at the Cleveland Institute of Art from 1947 to 1950. In 1950, Steele received teaching credentials from Kent State University and subsequently earned an MA in art from the University of Denver. Steele returned to Montana in 1959 to teach art at Eastern Montana College, Billings, where he was a professor until 1982. BR


This exhibit is free to the public and does not require a museum ticket. 

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Experience the human story of WWII in the Pacific Theater told through 55,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, over 900 artifacts, and audio/visual displays.

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