US Marine, Frank Praytor
This widely distributed photo of Praytor in US media with the orphan kitten would prove in the end to be more that just a moment of humanity captured in the middle of a brutal war, it would later save him from being court martialed.
While Prayter was serving as a combat correspondent in Korea in 1952, he took two orphan newborn kittens under his care. A photograph of him using a medicine dropper to feed one of the kittens he had named “Mis Hap” appeared in 1,700 newspapers all over the world.
During the Korean War, this kittens found themself orphans. But luckily, this one showed in the picture, she found protection into the hands of Marine Sergeant Frank Praytor. He adopted the two-week-old kitten and the picture portrays the soldier and the human. He is dressed for the war but still hasn’t lost the affection to care for another living creature.
"That cat? She was one of two tiny kittens whose mother had been shot by a Marine up on line because of her yeowling. Then he discovered the newborns. I took them on as their surrogate wet nurse, using slightly watered-down canned milk and a medicine dropper obtained from a corpsman. Staff Sergeant Martin Riley, another official photographer with whom I had teamed after Galloway was rotated, took a picture of me feeding my furry charge. I named her “Miss Hap.” (The other kitten I gave to another man, who rolled over on it while asleep in his sleeping bag.) I weaned “Miss Hap” on meat out of “C” ration cans.
I was later told by a friend at Leatherneck magazine that the Associated Press circulated the photo of “Miss Hap” and me and it was published in more than 1,700 newspapers stateside, including the New York Times and papers in Washington. It “went public” a few weeks before I landed in New York. I’m certain “that cat” played a silentbut-significant role in my being excused from brig time. After all, I had become a celebrity of sorts and the prize-winning photo made a positive rather than negative impact on the Marine Corps’ image. The cat photo garnered a considerable amount of good will all over America judging from the mail it brought in. I figure “Miss Hap” helped the Commandant see what you would call “The Big Picture.” That’s why he was Commandant and Major Whatever - HisName - Was wasn’t. Bless you, General Shepherd, sir! And thank you, little “Miss Hap.” - Sergeant Praytor, 2009 in The Graybeards (the official publication of the Korean War Veteran’s Association) - page 30, 31, 65.
"Epilogue: “Miss Hap” grew into a mascot in the Division PIO office. We had a brief reunion when I returned to Korea for Stripes. Her second guardian was Cpl. Conrad Fisher of Cicero IL. A Chicago Tribune correspondent, Walter Simmons, filed a story about the two with a picture of “Miss Hap” on Fisher’s shoulder. Conrad said he hoped to take her with him when he rotated. I like to think he did." - F.P.
The image of a handsome Marine helping a tiny animal struck a chord with the public. Praytor received hundreds of letters including many simply addressed to “Kitten Marine, Korea.”
“I got letters from girls all over the country who wanted to marry me,” Praytor told the U.S. Naval Institute in a 2009 interview. “I even got a few offers from men,” he laughed. Although officially assigned to Korea as a writer, he also took photos with his own camera and entered one of his snapshots in a competition held by Photography magazine. His photo of a wounded Marine being treated by Navy corpsman won first place. Unfortunately, he had violated a regulation prohibiting the publication of photos not cleared by military censors.
Soon after returning to the United States to accept his prize, he was facing court-martial. He was relieved to learn that he would not be charged because the commandant of the Marine Corps had decided to rip up the documents. “I assume the commandant realized I was a celebrity at the time and he let me off the hook, and for that I attribute to the cat,” Praytor said. “That little kitten saved me from the brig.”
Born Franklin Denson Praytor on September 24, 1927, Praytor spent his early years in Birmingham, Alabama. In 1947 he began work in journalism — as a police reporter for the Birmingham News. While attending Birmingham Southern College he wrote for the Birmingham Age-Herald. That led to a post as northern Alabama bureau manager for the news agency International News Service. Joining the U. S. Marine Corps in 1950, he was assigned to report on the 1st Marine Division’s combat engagements on the Korean peninsula.
After accepting his prize for winning the contest and narrowly escaping court-martial, he returned to Korea as a writer for Stars and Stripes and covered the Korean War truce-signing at Panmunjom. He also had a reunion with “Mis Hap” who had become the spoiled mascot of the Division’s Public Information Office. For the next two years of his Stars and Stripes reporting, he was based in Tokyo.
Discharged from the Marines in 1954, Praytor took on corporate communications jobs with utility companies in Houston, Texas — then moved to Oklahoma where he served as spokesman for the astronautics division of General Dynamics Corporation. Returning to Houston in 1962, he worked as an account executive with the advertising agency Foote, Cone & Belding before launching his own advertising and public relations firm, which he ran for many years.
In late 1979, Praytor moved to Durango, Colorado. There he created highly successful tourism campaigns for the City of Durango and oversaw advertising and communications strategies for a number of political campaigns. While in Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado, he was active in Rotary Club activities, holding senior leadership posts. In 1992, Praytor relocated to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he worked as a freelance writer, public relations consultant and Realtor.
Frank Praytor died on January 10, 2018 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was 90 years old and had been in poor health for several years.
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