History

Searching for Irena Wiley

In our March 29 episode, Consolation Prize featured the work and life of Irena Wiley, a talented artist who took her art all around the world with her husband, U.S. diplomat John Cooper Wiley. In the episode, we noted that Irena Wiley traveled with the USO in the Pacific after her husband’s death. In her visits, she drew portraits of wounded and sick servicemen in the U.S. forces. She then gave these portraits away to the servicemen to send back to their families. She deliberately chose not to keep notes on whose portraits she drew, or even to keep preliminary sketches of them, so there are no records of who she created portraits for.

Irena Wiley in Vietnam. Photo owned by Gold Leaf Studios.

We would like to find these portraits and hear the stories of the servicemen Irena Wiley encountered on her trips with the USO. We don’t know a whole lot about where she went, but here’s what we do know.

1968

We believe Irena Wiley traveled in Vietnam, Guam, the Philippines, and Japan on a tour in 1968, but we don’t have any hard evidence at this time.

1969

  • Wiley was in the Da Nang area from August 1-7, 1969. Her presence is recorded in the III Marine Amphibious Force Command Chronology. We assume this was only one stop on a much longer tour.

1970

Wiley was in these locations at some point before July 1970:

  • Bachelor Officer Quarters, Saigon
  • Pleiku, 4th Infantry Division
  • DMZ: Quang Tri
  • Phu Bai: 3rd Combined Action Group Headquarters
  • Cam Ranh Bay
  • Clark Air Base (Philippines)
  • Okinawa

These locations were recorded in a Vogue article about her travels. No dates were given in the article. This is almost certainly a non-exhaustive list.

If you know anything about Irena Wiley, or you have a relation who may have encountered her, please reach out! You can reach the show at consolationprizepod@gmail.com, or you can find the show on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, or you can even leave a voicemail at our website, consolationprize.rrchnm.org.

Please share this widely. I appreciate so much any info you can share.

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