THE ART OF WAR FROM D-DAY TO SAIPAN

From D-Day to Saipan, June is an amazing month for U.S. military and history buffs. Most Baby Boomers, such as myself, grew up learning about the incredible effort of the D-Day invasion both in school and in our homes, often firsthand from family members (my uncle Dave landed on D-Day + 3). Less known was the equally impressive effort and sacrifice in the Pacific made by the USMC during their island-hopping campaign against the Japanese.

USMC Private First Class Lee Marvin toward the end of his duty in the Pacific during WWII.

I gave myself a crash course in some of these events while researching and writing Lee Marvin Point Blank. My acquisition of information was limited of course to that which applied to Marvin’s involvement, which was considerable. His 21-landings included the likes of Eniwetok, Tinian, Kwajalein, and ended on Saipan before his regiment moved on to the bloody battle of Iwo Jima.
The statistics of these landings are of course available online and elsewhere and are quite staggering. From D-Day to Saipan, June 6th to June 15th 1944, the Allied losses were heavy in both theaters of operation but, lucky for us, they were ultimately successful.
Having never been in the military, let alone combat, I can’t begin to imagine what those experiences must have been like. Statistics, photos, and the like hardly do justice. So, being a believer in the creative image being superior in driving the point home, I thought the following graphics, depicted in real time, might serve the purpose best, at least it did for me. I have done so previously on this blog with the entries concerning The Art of War and they both garnered great responses. Here again, are more specific works of art. For the stories behind Lee Marvin’s firsthand account of those harrowing days and nights, read Lee Marvin Point Blank. Until then, these powerful images may help….
-Dwayne Epstein

A Marine, lost in thought as he approaches the beach landing, is depicted by artist Thomas Lea.

Marines landing and wading thru the surf as rendered by artist Tom Lovell.

Entitled “Flotsam and Jetsam,” USMC’s Charles Waterhouse depicts the death of his sergeant, killed on D-Day.

“Raider Fire Team” by Charles Waterhouse displays the Marines gun ho spirit in battle after landing and pushing on from the beach. Waterhouse retired as Lt. Colonel.

Marines fend off a surprise attack by the Japanese in Donald Dickson’s “Night Attack on Guadalcanal,” not unlike what Lee Marvin experienced himself and wrote about in Lee Marvin Point Blank.

Wounded Marines are transported through nearly impenetrable jungle, in “Jeep Turns Ambulance,” by Kerr Erby.

Again, artist Kerr Erby depicts a poignant moment in battle. Marines bow their heads over their fallen comrade in, “Last Rites for the Sergeant.”

 

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THE ARTOF WAR: PART II

In Part II of The Art of War, the imagery of actual warfare deepens. The artists experiences of WWII are even more graphic as they themselves plunge into actual combat. The source of these images are from a JUXTAPOZ article a few years back which detailed what the artists went through, as explained by author Annie Tucker:
“Imagine how different from the norm the creative process must have been for these artists, stripped of all the creature comforts that a typical studio houses and outfitted instead with sketchbooks, a few pencils, and about 60 pounds of military equipment apiece. In the midst of complete chaos — freezing cold or brutally hot weather, bullets whizzing by their heads, bombs exploding and men dying al around them — they couldn’t shake a burning commitment to let their fellow Americans in on what was really happening, without sugar-coating or glamorizing it in the form of PG-rated adaptations of events, including (as many movies would have us believe) as many pin-up girls, card games, and good laughs as actual combat. The artists wanted the civilians viewing their work to know that war is blood and guts and pain. It’s emotional heartbreak and desperation and missing your family. It’s seeing dead bodies with high school rings on their fingers and having men collapse in tears in your arms.”

 

 

 

 

Some artists, unable to ask their subject to stand still and pose, rendered such quick sketches as the following….

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Untitled Sketches by Eby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The painting entitled The Price, is a stark example of that experience, one Lee Marvin witnessed on a regular basis while fighting in the jungles of the Pacific Theater of Operation.  The image, reprinted in the coffee table book, LIFE Goes to War, included the following caption: “With the Marines on Peleliu, LIFE artists Tom Lea painted frightful scenes. This Marine had just landed. ‘Something exploded,’ Lea wrote. ‘He scrambled up from the ground as if embarrassed. He looked at his left arm and stumbled back to the beach. He never fired a shot.'”

ThePrice

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Hi Visibilty Wrap by Hirsch

 

 

 

 

 

On occasion, the subject had no choice but stand still for the artist, at least briefly….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1,000 yard Stare by Lea

 

 

 

 

The damage inflicted in warfare goes beyond just the physical. The Marines called the look ‘The Gooney-Bird Stare.’ Artist Tom Lea dubbed it the 1,000 Yard Stare, and with good reason…
“Battle fatigue hollows the eyes of a Marine at Bloody Nose Ridge. Lea recalled: “Last evening he came down out of the hills. He left the States 31 months ago. He was wounded in his first campaign. He has had tropical diseases. He gouges Japs out of holes each day. Two thirds of his company has been killed, but he is still standing. So he will return to attack this morning. How much can a human being endure?'”

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