Roger Stringham was born and raised in Berkeley, California, where he developed an affinity for art at an early age. Pursuing his artistic interests, he enrolled in an art school upon graduation from Berkeley High School. His time there was cut short, however, when he was drafted into the Army in late 1950. Over the following years from 1951 to 1952, he served in the Korean War with both Item and Headquarters Companies of the 21st Infantry Division, conducting patrols and guarding supply lines among other duties.
Stirred by the beauty of the Korean landscape, his artistic talents came to life as he documented his experiences through sketches. Materials were scarce on the front lines, and he often resorted to using the bottom of empty beer, cigarette, and toothpaste cartons that had been disposed of to draw what he saw during war. One-by-one, he mailed his sketches home in letters to his family, keeping them informed and ensuring them he was okay. His mother, an artist herself, submitted the sketches to the San Francisco Museum of Art where they were exhibited in 1952.
Stationed in Japan for several months prior to returning home, he purchased watercolor paper and paints, eager to capture the feeling of safety. The city lights of Sedai, Japan, after having spent a year in Korea amid the ravages of war, were a welcoming and impressionable sight. His paintings bring to life the final phase of his service.
The Korean War Legacy Foundation is honored to showcase Roger Stringham’s collection of sketches and watercolor paintings. Beautifully hand-crafted, they tell the story of a soldier’s life in a war fought on foreign soil and aimed at preserving freedom and democracy on the Korean peninsula. To view Roger Stringham’s full interview and selected clips, please visit Roger S. Stringham.
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