Frank Dorn was a multi-faceted individual of wide-ranging accomplishments as an artist, writer and military officer. As a high school student in San Francisco he was interested in cartooning and attended the San Francisco Art Institute. He went to West Point, where he drew cartoons for the student newspaper and yearbook. After graduation, he was sent to the Philippines, and as a side project wrote a book about a clan of tribal people he got to know there. Dorn knew and admired the California artist Jo Mora (1876-1947), whose interests in anthropology, history, world cultures and illustration came together in a series of entertaining and innovative pictorial maps. Probably inspired by Mora, whose influence is apparent, Dorn began making his own maps; an early one depicted Camp Strassenbourg in the Philipines.
While living in China and serving as a junior military attaché in the 1930s, Dorn made his popular pictorial map of “Peiping” (now Beijing). He later served in the field as advisor to a Chinese army. A fluent speaker of Chinese, Dorn’s most important military role was in the China-Burma-India theater during World War II. There he served with Deputy Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army forces with General “Uncle Joe” Stilwell during the Burma campaign from 1942 to 1944, and served as a commanding officer in 1944-45. A 1942 Life Magazine article about the Burma mission stated that, “Dorn, an artist, drew Stilwell’s campaign maps.” The article portrays him as a charismatic, quick-witted man with a dry sense of humor.
Dorn eventually attained the rank of Brigadier-General and retired from the military in 1953. He settled in Carmel, California, living what his friend John Thompson describes as “a semi-bohemian life, writing and painting. In the Sixties he did some amazing psychedelic paintings, wondered if he was the incarnation of a Buddhist painter, and held progressive civil rights and antiwar views.” In the 1970s, Dorn authored two highly-regarded scholarly books on the Chinese and Burmese theaters of World War II. Dorn and Stilwell are still honored as heroes in China for their roles in the military opposition to the Japanese.
Condition: Please inquire as to condition of currently available maps. Generally they are very good with the usual overall light toning and wear. They were issued folded, and some have minor separations at the folds and intersections, but we offer them professionally restored as flattened and backed on linen (to be sent rolled). Some of our maps are available with the original folder and booklet, in varying condition. Usually the original folder is toned and worn, and the text booklet is very good with the usual toning, wear, soiling, soft creases to the covers.
Boothe, Clare. “Burma Mission.” Life Magazine. July 15 and 22, 1942. Online at China BurmaIndia: Remembering the Forgotten Theater of World War II.
Thompson, John. “Re: Frank Dorn China Map.” 28 February 2006. E-mail to George Glazer Gallery.