With Veterans Day upon us, it’s a perfect time to write about Lee Marvin’s understandably complex emotions regarding his time in the service after his harrowing time in the war. That harrowing experience is detailed in his own words in Lee Marvin Point Blank as never before, but what of his thoughts after the war?
Well, for starters, as the war was winding down in the summer of 1945, there’s this copy of a letter Lee’s father Monte Marvin typed to Robert Marvin, Lee’s brother, who was still overseas…..

Monte Marvin's letter to son Robert on how Lee Marvin is surviving civilian life.

Monte Marvin’s letter to son Robert on how Lee Marvin is surviving civilian life.

Reading Monte’s letter to Robert, it doesn’t take much see how bitter Lee Marvin really was after the war. He grappled with those feelings the rest of his life and channeled much of what he was feeling into his acting. Fortunately for him, he was not alone as the postwar years meant many projects and people dealing with the same feelings…..

A purposely double-xposed photo of Lee Marvin and another actor onstage at the Maverick Theater in the play HOME OF THE BRAVE.

A purposely double-exposed photo of Lee Marvin and another actor onstage at the Maverick Theater in the play HOME OF THE BRAVE.

Once he decided to become an actor, Lee Marvin spent more time in uniform in theatrical productions on stage and on film than probably any other actor and clearly, that was no accident. He felt an obvious obligation to honestly portray what he went through despite the toll it had taken on him both physically and psychologically. His undiagnosed PTSD (also explored at length in the book) raged on through years of Veterans Days, Memorial Days, and more.
When Johnny Carson once asked him if he went to any USMC reunions, Marvin joked that he only went to a few and stopped after hearing the same boring lies and war stories.  The truth is he stayed in contact with other soldiers from his outfit and when the opportunity presented itself, he did whatever he could to help the cause of his fellow Marines. Besides donations to appropriate charities, one example combined both charity and heightened awareness. At the height of his cinema popularity, he took time to host and narrate a TV special entitled “Our Time in Hell”…..

The Hollywood Reporter (left) and the L.A. Times (right) both did write-ups on Lee Marvin's appearance and donation for a TV documentary of rare WWII footage of the USMC in action.

The Hollywood Reporter (left) and the L.A. Times (right) both did write-ups on Lee Marvin’s appearance and donation for a TV documentary of rare WWII footage of the USMC in action.

The title of the show may seem obvious but it also came from an often stated short poem whose author is unknown but who’s sentiment is not:
“And when he gets to heaven,
to Saint Peter he will tell:
‘Another Marine reporting, sir,
I’ve served my time in hell.’ ”

Publicity photo for OUR TIME IN HELL.

Publicity photo for OUR TIME IN HELL.

I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say Lee Mavin did much to help us understand what veterans have done for us and what they went through at a very high cost both during and after their service. So, in honor of that tremendous sacrifice, thank you veterans and may you always be treated with the dignity and respect you deserve. Happy Veterans Day!


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Letter to Lee
With the entire world at war in the 1940s, the Marvin family did their part in the fight against the fascist Axis. Oldest son Robert enlisted in the army at the outbreak of WWII, while Lee joined the Marines before finishing high school. Marvin family patriarch Monte was also desperate to get into the fight and had sought out the advice of his sons. Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank are fully aware of the touching letter Lee wrote his father on the subject, but what of Monte’s response?
As shown in the letter to Lee below, by early April 1943, Monte had pretty much made up his mind and wrote both of his sons back telling them so. At the time, Lee had just become his company’s platoon sergeant — a position he did not hold very long — and had then sought out his father’s advice on how to perform his duties. Having been in a similar position in an earlier war, Monte delicately yet firmly advised his son. Between the lines, one can easily read Monte’s anxiousness to get in the war, his concern for his son, and his hopes for the future….

Civilian Lamont 'Monte' Marvin (left) poses with his son Lee (right), who had just completed his Marine Corp. basic training in December, 1942.

Civilian Lamont ‘Monte’ Marvin (left) poses with his son Lee (right), who had just completed his Marine Corp. basic training in December, 1942.

“Dear Lee:
I have just received your letter and hasten to answer in view of the questions you ask me. First, though, I want to thank you for your excellent opinions on the matter of my getting back into the army. Robert also wrote me a fine letter expressing much the same view. I went to the recruiting station today and they felt I should apply for a commission as a new order came out on the subject about a month ago. In any case, they said they were sure they could get a waiver on my age if I don’t make out on the commission. I have to apply for it in NY, as that is where we live, so will see them tomorrow afternoon. Lacking a college education may stand in my way, as it has in past attempts, so in that case I shall probably enlist very soon. Even though Mother will be very lonely, she thinks it is the best thing for me to do.
But whether I do anything about it or not, just receiving those two letters means much to me. I shall always keep them as reminders of what fine sons I have, not that I need any reminders though.
Now Lee, as to your new job. It is difficult as hell to tell you how to handle a bunch of roughnecks, or is it leathernecks. But the first thing you need to have a clear understanding about is your duties and responsibilities. I am sure you know these. If you have any questions on this point, seek an opportunity to talk with your superior on the subject. He knows you are new at it and such a discussion at the outset is very much in order. But once having had that talk, don’t keep running back to him. If you do, he’ll begin to wonder whether you can handle the job. Then knowing your duties and responsibilties , carry them out to the letter. If it is your job to get the men out for roll call, then get them out. It is better to do that then to report them absent if they are in the barracks. If they are out of sight, however, there is nothing you can do about that. If you let them stay in bed, depending upon reporting them absent you are placing a burden upon your lieutenant because he is not supposed to bother with things like that. Of course, I don’t know what the Marine rules are as to physically handling the men but I remember when I got in the army we didn’t oversleep because we would get batted over the feet with a club. As you say, you can’t give them an inch. You will simply have to go through the barracks and herd them out if necessary. But don’t make a habit of that either, because then they may come to depend upon being prodded all the time.

Having been a Lieutenant in WWI, Monte Marvin joined the army in his forties as a sergeant in WWII stationed in Europe.

Having been a Lieutenant in WWI, Monte Marvin eventually joined the army in his forties as a sergeant in WWII stationed in Europe.

It is hard as the devil to give you any general rules that work in particular cases. The only thing to do when any of these situations comes up is to quickly figure out what your duty is, and then do it, just as quickly. Your 180 lbs of weight will help, but don’t throw it around. Don’t make any unreasonable requirements of your men, and be fair and square with them, remembering nevertheless that the Service comes first, personal consideration second. Don’t be wise with them, or overbearing, just quiet, efficient, and goddam firm. If you let them get away with it once, they will be back for more. Above all, don’t ever let them get the idea that you have to lean on the lieutenant to get them to obey. You make them obey because you are the platoon sergeant! Any outfit that requires a lot of punishment is not a very good outfit. Well handled outfits need little of that, and it’s all due to the officers and non-coms.
The reason I am giving you some of the finer points is because I know you can handle the job. The one iron-bound rule to follow at all times is if it is your job to see that they do certain things, you make them do it, even if you have to pick them up and lam them down. That is the reason for your being in the job. Do as little reporting as possible. See to it that you don’t have to report anyone. Of course, for any infraction of the rules which is beyond your responsibility, you should then report it.
Now don’t think I am criticizing you for reporting the four men who stayed in their bunks. That was the proper thing to do at the beginning, before you had a chance to establish yourself with the men. But try not to have to do it too often. Of course, if you come across a guy who is unmanageable, turn him when you are convinced you can’t handle him. But I doubt you will have anyone like that to deal with. As for the dirty rifles, make them clean them, and make them keep them clean. Because when the lieutenant inspects the platoon, it will be your responsibility if the rifles are dirty. At least you should feel it is your responsibility. Then you will always have an outfit that is on its toes.
I really shouldn’t have gone into such detail because you have what it takes. You really don’t need much advice. You have been in the Marines long enough to see how a good sergeant handles himself. It was just that I wanted to give you a few points because I feel you might eventually have a chance at officers school. They are looking for guys like you. Of course, in the Marines, they require that the officers have a lot of real hard experience and the place to get that is is in the ranks, not in officers training school. Then too, they want leaders, and leaders are usually quiet guys. They don’t throw their weight around too much but they are always there in a pinch.
So good luck to you, son. I know you will make the grade. And we are all proud of you! Keep me advised. Love from us all,

Lee and Monte Marvin pose for LIFE Magazine's photographer in the Woodstock family home in 1965.

Lee and Monte Marvin pose for LIFE Magazine’s photographer in the Woodstock family home in 1965.

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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….


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.'”



Hi Visibilty Wrap by Hirsch






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





















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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