PFC George William (Bill) Baldwin
4th Marines, 1st Separate Marine Battalion
KIA: 24Oct1944, Arisan Maru
A friend of mine shared this story a couple of years ago that inspired this portrait of "Uncle Bill". This is just one of about 50 portraits that hang on our Wall of Honor. Each image tells a story, and each of these portraits connect us with each other. Whether you have served or not, this is why we "Celebrate the American Spirit of our military and their loved ones, one drink at a time."
"My great Uncle Bill (my grandmother's brother) was killed in WWII. My grandmother rarely discussed it. Most of what I knew were images and his purple heart that hung in a shadow box on her wall. It was simply too painful.
Recently, my mom decided to research what happened to Uncle Bill, after the Freedom of Information Act and routine declassification of documents and interest, she was ready to learn more.
We did know Uncle Bill died in the South Pacific, after becoming a Prisoner of War. In the last few weeks my mother has learned so much, and it's one of those moments when history books and movies intersect your life. My mother initially found letters my grandma had written to the Japanese Red Cross asking for information on her brother, the only letters she received back were propaganda of how well they were treated and how happy he was.
The letters stopped, she continued to write. There were no answers until they received notice months later that he had been killed. That was it for my grandma and her parents, it was too much to bear so they packed up the information and boxed it away.
What my mom has since learned is that my Uncle Bill was likely part of the Bataan Death March after the fall of Corregidor. My heart sank when I heard that. I remember how brutal that march was from my history classes. Bill was transferred to several POW camps until finally he was put on a "Hell Ship" to be transferred to the Japanese mainland. I hadn't heard of hell ships until recently. The name does them justice. The Hell Ship he was on, the Arisan Maru, was sunk by US forces on October 24,1944. There were 8 survivors, he was not one of them."
The portraits began as a personal project for Jake Weien, one of the four owners of 1350 Distilling. Utilizing five different iPad applications, he developed a process to take simple smartphone pics of old photos and ultimately reprocess them into more dramatic painterly, large-format portraits. To see more, come visit our distillery and HQ. Here is a previous blog post highlighting most of the portraits.