ABC7 Salutes: US Army Veteran Used Artistic Skills to Chronicle Time in Service; now part of exhibit at OC Fairgrounds

Hundreds of long lost paintings done by Army veteran while he served overseas discovered and now exhibited at OC Fairgrounds Heroes Hall.
COSTA MESA (KABC) -- It's almost astounding the man who put paint to paper in these vivid wartime scenes never considered himself to be a real artist. He was just a guy with a hobby: WWII Soldier Charles J Miller.

Nephew Bob Dennis tells the story of his uncle who enlisted in the Army in 1925. After seven years out, he was then drafted again in 1942 and went to war... stationed primarily in the South Pacific.

"While he was there he chronicled his entire time with his outfit," said Dennis.

497 pieces. Many of them, not only an image but accompanied by a detailed diary. For years, they were kept safe, but otherwise secret.

"It had to be brought to the public light, people had to realize the contribution he's made not only to his ability as an artist but history," said Dennis.

That's when this proud nephew finally contacted the right guy at the Wright Museum. The response was no surprise.

"He looked at them, went through them, and just called them a national treasure," said Dennis.

"He was such a humble guy and he didn't do it for praise or fame obviously," said Carol Singleton of "Heroes Hall."

The work - as a traveling exhibit - is now on display at Heroes Hall at the Orange County Fairgrounds. Virtually due to the pandemic... until the exhibit can reopen.

"You learn all sort of interesting historical facts along with seeing these wonderful pictures of this slice of life of a soldier," said Singleton.

Private Charlie Miller passed away in 1994. For his family, they know his time as a U.S. service member was life changing.

"He became more reclusive. We don't know the exact extent of what he was exposed to except through his drawings," said Dennis. "We hope everyone has the opportunity to see Charlie's work and enjoy it."
Copyright © 2021 KABC Television, LLC. All rights reserved.