Fort Monroe cartoonist rediscovers his work
By David Macauley | firstname.lastname@example.org | 247-7838
June 18, 2011
HAMPTON ó When he was stationed at Fort Monroe in the 1940s, Lee Auerbach
made a name for himself as a sports cartoonist, at the base and in the Daily Press.
"When I came out of service. I took with me whatever I possessed that would seem interesting," he said. "I kept the copies of the Daily Press with the
But in the late 1950s his work was accidentally carted away with on a sanitation truck in Brooklyn, N.Y., and with it his thoughts of the time he was stationed at Fort Monroe when he worked on prototype computers.
Click to enlarge
The newspapers along with his school yearbooks, were airing out because they had
become damp and moldy in a closet outside Auerbach's apartment. But the trash truck
accidentally carted them away. Auerbach initially contacted the local sanitation
district to ask if he could search for the papers in a local landfill but was told
he'd be attacked by sea gulls.
"I just gave up on the papers and forgot about them," he said.
But in recent months his thoughts again turned to the papers after he was able to
track down military records that he thought had been lost in a disastrous 1973 fire
at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis.
He contacted the Daily Press and librarian Susan Connor was able to find some copies
of his cartoons in Daily Press archives.
Auerbach, 86, was happy about the news.
"It was a big exciting event. I called all my friends and said 'Do you want to see
what I did 60 years ago'?" he said Thursday.
Auerbach said he enjoyed his time at Fort Monroe even though he was only stationed
in Hampton for a year. He arrived in February 1945 and left in February 1946.
He was trained as a paratrooper but bad health prevented him from being deployed overseas.
Auerbach said worked on the UNIVAC program which was an early and cumbersome computer
system being tested by the military.
"It was basically the beginning of computers," he said.
The young corporal who had attended the Bronx High School of Science, wrote down results
as engineers tested the gun batteries facing the Chesapeake Bay and sought to send
computerized instructions to the weaponry.
"They would fire at the target. The instructions came from a trailer the size of a
big tractor-trailer. It contained radio tubes and got so hot they had tremendous air
conditioning problems," Auerbach said.
"They had seen my science record and they chose me for the program. I was basically doing
recordkeeping to compare the records of various tests," said Auerbach.
Auerbach also had a talent for drawing cartoons. "I was the sports cartoonist for Fort
Monroe. One of the fellows said they could use a sports cartoonist at the Newport News
Daily Press. Why don't you talk to them?" he said.
Auerbach submitted cartoons to the Daily Press of high school football players. He also
drew illustrations of games by the Newport News Dodgers, a farm team of the fabled Brooklyn
Dodgers baseball team. His illustrations became regular features in the Sunday paper.
Auerbach, who now lives in Bay Shore, N.Y., was in the Army from 1943 to 1946. "Fort Monroe was a delightful place to end my army career," he said.