WOODLAND PARK, Colo. — Ira Dube is a man on a mission.
“It’s been sentimental doing this little search,” said Dube.
A few weeks ago, he uncovered a treasure in his sister’s attic.
Gathering dust for decades was a portfolio of his father’s artwork, including oil paintings watercolors and sketches.
They weren’t just any sketches; they were portraits of his father’s comrades in World War II.
“[These men] need to be remembered and honored and I just want to find them a home,” said Dube, his eyes welling up with tears.
He has safely delivered one sketch to its rightful owner, the grandson of Joseph Joner Kratky, who was killed in action in the Battle of Saipan.
“That’s why I have to do this because he’ll see what his grandfather actually look like back in 1943, a year before he passed,” he said.
On Monday, Dube was connected to the family of another, Joe Orbe.
Now, he’s looking for the families of the remaining 15 men, but he has little to go on.
“[My father] didn’t talk about World War II or the Army much,” said Dube.
Dube says between 1941 and 1945, his father was in the Central Pacific, which includes Hawaii and the mandated islands.
“I remember a uniform hanging up in my closet, but he never mentioned anything,” he said.
There are no names on the remaining sketches, at least none that are legible, but Dube believes all of these men were in the 27 Infantry Division, 105th Infantry Regiment circa 1941.
He has reason to believe they’re from the New York area.
He also thinks there’s a pretty good chance they never made it home.
“Saipan was very bloody battle, lots of casualties, unfortunately,” said Dube. “I knew when I found these, the chances of finding any of them alive with slim,” he said.
With more than 3,000 American casualties, that was the battle that forever haunted Dube’s father, but many historians call it a turning point in the war.
Dube believes his quest is a small way to honor these men who sacrificed so much.
“It would be the ending in a chapter of a book,” he said.
It’s an ending that would satisfy even a man as tough as Stan Dube.
If you recognize someone in these sketches, you can contact Ira Dube by email at email@example.com.