Ben Steele POW Exhibit

Ben Steele Banner
Volume XV page 010 Poster
Ben Steele worked as a ranch hand in Montana prior to joining the U.S. Army in 1940.  In 1941 he was stationed in the Philippines.  At the time, the Philippines was a Commonwealth of the United States.  On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  Nine hours later, they attacked U.S. forces in the Philippines.  Weeks later, the Japanese invaded the Philippines.  

Steele spent the first months of the war fighting on the Bataan Peninsula.  When American forces on Bataan were surrendered, Steele was one of tens of thousands of American and Filipino troops forced to go on the Bataan Death March.  He spent the next three and a half years as a POW.  During his captivity, he suffered from beriberi, dysentery, pneumonia, blood poisoning, and malaria.  He survived the infamous “death ships” and ultimately ended the war working in a Japanese coal mine about 80 miles from Hiroshima.  

When he returned to the United States, he obtained a degree in art.  Over the next decades, Steele became a critically acclaimed artist of the American West, but the Bataan Death March and the labor camps were never far from his mind. As Steele came to terms with what he had experienced as a POW, he began to draw from memory.  He filled notebooks with sketches of these memories.  Many of these notebooks are now preserved at the MacArthur Memorial.

Selected drawings have been turned into a traveling exhibit - perfect for display in classrooms or libraries.  
The exhibit comes with a teacher guide as well as activities to help students evaluate art as a primary source, understand the geography of the Pacific, and identify types of war crimes.  

Currently, this traveling exhibit is available on loan to schools, libraries, or military/government organizations (in VA and NC).  To reserve, contact Amanda Williams at or call 757.441.2965.


  • FREE!
  • Can be loaned for 1 - 4 weeks - pending availability.  
  • Delivered to and from your site by MacArthur Memorial Staff
  • 9 posters on easels.  500 square feet of display space recommended.