Commanding Backus was born in Detroit, Michigan, on April 5,
1910, son of Standish and Lotta (Boyer) Backus.
He attended Salisbury School, in Connecticut, and Princeton University,
Princeton, New Jersey, where he received the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Art
and Architecture in 1933. After studying
painting and art background for a year in Europe, he moved to California, where
he has maintained residence since 1935.
While still a student at Princeton University, he sailed
across the Atlantic and through the Mediterranean in a 54-foot small
ketch. Late in the year 1940, he was
commissioned Ensign in the US Naval Reserve, and on March 6, 1941, reported for
active duty as a Specialist in Net and Boom Defenses. Thereafter, he was promoted to the rank of
Lieutenant, December 1, 1942, and to Lieutenant Commander, to date from July
With the exception of four months’ service as Commanding
Officer of a 110-foot schooner in the Pacific Offshore Patrol, Commander Backus
served during four years of the war in Net and Boom Defenses. In August 1942, he was sent to the South
Pacific, and was successfully stationed at Noumea, New Caledonia, and Espiritu
Santo in the New Hebrides. Returning to
Washington in September of 1943, he was assigned to the Nets and Booms Section
of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Navy Department, where he
remained until February to assist in establishing a special Graphic
presentation Unit to work in connection with the presentation of Navy
Department reports to Congress and the President.
In May 1945, Commander Backus was assigned as a Combat
Artist to the Navy’s Office of Public Information. Shortly thereafter, he left for duty in the
Pacific, to cover Naval operations in that war area. The sudden end of hostilities in the Pacific
in August 1945, found him in Guam where he was preparing to take part in the
next operation against Kyushu.
Accompanying the Fourth Marine Regiment to Japan, he was among those
making the final landings at Tokyo Bay, on August 30, and was aboard USS
Missouri for the surrender ceremonies on September 2, 1945.
He returned to the United States in December 1945 via Guam
and a “Magic Carpet” run of the aircraft carrier, USS Yorktown, and following
further duty in the Office of Public Information, was released from active duty
in April 1946. In 1955-1956, he returned
to duty at his own request to go with Admiral Byrd to the Antarctic.
For World War II Service, Commander Backus has the American
Defense Service Medal, the American Campaign Medal; the Asiatic-Pacific
Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal.
is now engaged in illustrating, painting and teaching at his home.
He is a member of the alifornia Watercolor Society and other
art organizations on the Pacific Coast, and has exhibited widely in the western
part of the United States and occasionally in Detroit, New York, and
Chicago. His work has also been used as
illustration matter in books and articles, and he has had some commercial
presentations. In addition to his work
as an artist and designer, he is engaged in citrus growing at home at Hope
Ranch, Santa Barbara.
He died October 12, 1989.