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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060

Standish Backus (1910-1989)

 

Corsairs Fringe Fuji
Standish Backus #16
Wash & scratch board, 1945
88-186-AC

 

Mount Fuji, for all that it means to Japanese, proved a warm friend of American pilots not only during wartime raids but during the occupation. On routine patrols Marine pilots often went out of their way to buzz the sacred slopes.

 

Down Went the Gamble [DM-15]
Standish Backus #9
Watercolor, 1945
88-186-I

 

Deemed unfit for further consideration after taking a Japanese bomb directly down the funnel, Gamble, once a four-pipe destroyer, became a victim of euthanasia. Towed several miles to sea off Apra Harbor, Oran, she blew sky high from TNT in the stern and sank in one minute. Though doomed, the hulk distributed some of the personal effects of her former crewmembers over a wide area. She's down 3000 fathoms.

 

Here, Near Kure, They Found the Soryo
Standish Backus #28
Watercolor, Pen and Ink, 1946
88-186-AO

 

 

 

Uncompleted Flattop on the Bottom
Standish Backus #26
Watercolor, 1946
88-186-AM

 

This large size carrier never got to sea but was relieved of further duties by Admiral Halsey's planes in their strike at the Kure area in July 1945. Somehow it did look a lot better on the bottom, aesthetically and otherwise.

 

The Emperor’s Cruiser Aoba
Standish Backus #17
Watercolor, 1945
88-186-AD

 

Near the great Kure Naval Base lies a dozen capital ships--on the bottom. When the bottom is near the surface these ships resemble tangled briar patches as torn as they are by bombs and torpedoes. Enhancing this effect are the quantities of dead branches and latticework applied in futile attempt to camouflage. Among them is Aoba.

 

This was Hyuga
Standish Backus #22
Watercolor, 1946
88-186-AI

 

She sits like an old hog with a burned bristle right on the bottom of the Bay of Niro - near the Naval Kure Base. She had been converted to part aircraft carrier and in the latter years of the war accomplished very little. From the manner in which she has been battered one would doubt that she even had a chance - or the men aboard her.

 

Ise was Hyuga's Sister
Standish Backus #25
Watercolor, 1946
88-186-AL

 

Torn and seared she seemed a part of the rugged upheaved terrain -- and the handy rice workers would gaze out over her -- perhaps toward distant Hiroshima. Then they would turn again to their task, night soil had to be spread, the crops reaped.

 

Post Mortem at Yokosuka: Damaged Bridge of Nagato, Former Japanese Battleship
Standish Backus #5
Watercolor, 1945
88-186-E

 

The Japanese battleship Nagato [16" guns] was one of the major prizes found at the Yokosuka Naval Base when the Navy and Marines took over on August 30, 1945. She had been damaged in the great battle off the Philippines last October and had also received bomb hits since. The Japanese were rebuilding her but were making very slow progress. As is the Japanese way, she seems to be a combination of fantasy and workable efficiency. Although we may readily say that her features are "certainly not the way we would do it," we cannot afford to indict as impotent so great a potential as the Nagato. Her guts and nerves are torn loose from her skeleton, although her heart still beats darkly. She lies dormant to a mooring, facing the west wind from Mt. Fuji some 60-70 miles away. Her immediate guard is the USS South Dakota, flagship of Adm. Halsey's Third Fleet.

 

Online Exhibits that feature Standish Backus's work

The Navy Art of Standish Backus
The Japanese Surrender at Tokyo Bay
World War II Navy Art: A Vision of History
Operation Deepfreeze I: 1955-56:

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07 March 2003