Lieutenant Commander William Franklin Draper was born in Hopedale Massachusetts, on the 24 December 1912. His father was Clare H. Draper and his mother Mathilda Engamn Draper. He first studied to be a concert pianist for several years. In the end he chose painting as a career. His art training began at Pomfret School in Connecticut and Harvard University Cambridge, Massachusetts. From there he went on to The National Academy of Design in New York, and the Cape Art School in Massachusetts. He continued his instruction abroad in Spain as well as at the Grand Cahumiere Paris France. In 1937 he studied sculpture with George Demetrius a Boston sculpture and the following year was under the instruction of Jon Corbino at the Art Students League in New York.
Draper was commissioned as a Lieutenant JG in the Naval Reserve in June 1942. His first assignment was with the Anti-Submarine Warfare Unit in Boston. He transferred to the Art Section in Washington DC and shortly thereafter was sent to Alaska where he spent over five months in the Aleutian Island Chain Painting a series of 42 oils including Kodiak, Dutch Harbor, Umnak, Adak and Amchitka. He was present at the initial occupation and also the Japanese attack on Amchitka Island. He depicted the attack with bombs bursting and shells flying within close range of his foxhole. In making this series of paintings he ran into difficulties peculiar to the climate of the Aleutian such as eccentric winds blowing his canvas into the air like a kite and conditions of arctic weather that made painting only possible by wearing gloves to keep his hands from freezing.
After his return from Alaska he was designated to paint the portrait of Rear Admiral J.R. Beardall the Superintendent of the Naval Academy. Upon completion of the portrait he was assigned to the Pacific where he painted various naval activities at Noumea and other Bases. He was commissioned to paint the Portraits of Admiral Chester W. Nimitz and Admiral William F. Halsey.
Draper also landed with the second wave of marines at Bougainville. After Bougainville he was assigned duty on the USS Yorktown an Essex class carrier and painted a series of painting on the first air attack on Palau. He covered the landings at Hollandia and the air strike on Truk.
Draper covered the invasion of Saipan and Guam aboard the USS Tennessee depicting the powerful destruction that hit this island. While he was aboard the Tennessee was hit three times he landed and remained on the island for eighteen days recording the bitter struggle and eventual success of this action. At Guam he landed with the assault troops under heavy enemy fire.
For his services in the Pasfic Draper was awarded the Bronze Star Draper left the service in October 1945. He obtained the rank of Lieutenant commander. He returned to his career as a painter becoming one of the premiere portrait painters in America. Some of his subjects included John F. Kennedy (1962), the Shah of Iran (1967), James Michener (1979) and Richard M. Nixon (1981).
Warrior Homeward Bound
William F. Draper #103
Oil on canvas, March 1944
33 3/4h" x 28 3/4w"
This wounded Marine, a casualty of the assault wave on the beaches of Guam, is tenderly hoisted by his comrades from an LVT to an LST where he will receive the best of care from Navy doctors.
William F. Draper #104
Oil on canvas, November 1944
40 1/4h" x 46w"
On the way to Saipan, the ship's company of the USS Tennessee gathers to watch a boxing match between two enlisted men.
William F. Draper #105
Oil on canvas, October 29, 1944
34 1/4h" x 44 1/4w"
In the village of Charou Kanan, Saipan, the sugar mill became an inferno on D-Day. As the flames leap to the sky, Marines stealthily creep forward. Enemy mortar fire falls over the beachhead causing many casualties to the men and supplies.
William F. Draper #109
Oil on board, December 1944
25h" x 30w"
Aboard a transport bound for Guam, Marines make themselves at home. They use their shelter-halfs as canopies to ward off the tropical sun and now try and relax with card games.
Deck of Carrier (Palau Strike Series)
William F. Draper #113
Oil on canvas, March 1944
34h" x 44w"
Online Exhibits that feature William
F Draper's work
World War II Navy Art: A Vision of History
27 July 2004