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Drawing on war life Bindig's artistic work during WWII service is recognized on government Web site

The luck of the draw, and the ability to draw, kept Robert K. Bindig out of harm's way during World War II.

But his contributions to the war effort have been recognized by the Library of Congress.

A commercial artist before he was drafted into the Army, Bindig managed to keep doing the thing he did best in the service and later created a comic strip for a Korean newspaper.

He also helped brighten things up on an East Side street in Buffalo with letters home in envelopes now recognized as works of art.

Selections of his work have been made part of the "Art of War" Web site of the Veterans History Project, created by Congress in 2000, accessible at www.loc.gov/vets/stories/. The project involves collecting and preserving the stories -- in words and pictures -- of veterans of all wars.

It was at the urging of his grandson that Bindig submitted samples of his work. He said he was "shocked" they were selected because "I didn't think they were that good." The site also contains a narrative of Bindig's military service.

Bindig, who will turn 86 on Dec. 21, retired in 1995 after a career as a commercial artist. His creations include Buster Bison.

It takes a sense of humor as well as artistic ability to be a cartoonist, and Bindig, an Orchard Park resident, hasn't lost his.

He said the closest he came to combat was the night in Manila, the Philippines, when the war ended.

"Guys were out in the streets firing their carbines into the air to celebrate, and there were bullets flying all over the place," he recalled.

Harry the mailman always knew when he was delivering a letter from Bindig to his wife on Crossman Avenue, and after he placed them in the box he would slam the lid to alert her.

"Sometimes I would get three to four letters at a time, and the drawings gave me a picture of what he was doing," said Dorris Bindig, his wife of nearly 65 years. "My family and friends always wanted to see what he had drawn."

Sometimes the drawing would include a greeting to Harry, and one included a sketch of Harry himself.

Another shows two soldiers in gas masks facing each other. The caption says, "I don't remember the name but the face is familiar."

Sometimes he would send home larger drawings. One shows a soldier with his eyes bulging out over a lovely Filipino woman. It is titled "Proper Gander" [propaganda, get it?].

Bindig was drafted in 1943 and assigned for training as a medic. At Camp Grant in Illinois, his talent was first put to use painting "Trash" on the side of cans. But it led to bigger and better things, and he remained at the camp to do artwork while others in his unit were shipped off to Europe and were in the Battle of the Bulge.

Eventually, he ended up in the Philippines and jumped at the chance to work on propaganda leaflets.

When the war ended, he was shipped to Korea, which had been under Japanese control.

In Seoul, the unit published a newspaper in Korean, and he started drawing a comic strip for children, "The Mischievous Twin Bears." Since he didn't speak the language, there was no dialogue, and the panels ran from right to left, in Korean style.

He returned to Buffalo after his discharge and worked for an advertising agency before starting his own business. Clients included Rich Products and National Gypsum.

In 1989, he won the Best Advertising Cartoonist Award given by the National Cartoonist Society.

Bindig maintains a studio in his home but said he doesn't draw much anymore.

He and his wife have five children, six grandchildren and five great-granddaughters.

As Bindig said in closing his narrative: "I guess that's it."

e-mail: ternst@buffnews.com

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