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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The Art of War

For those who have never done so, such as myself, it is impossible to ever really know what it is like to experience warfare. Writers as varied as Ernest Hemingway, Ernie Pyle and Dalton Trumbo have famously come close, as well as the photography of Robert Capa and others. Words, pictures, even film, do not do justice to what actual combat inflicts on the human psyche. Lee Marvin spent most of his career trying to get that point across to an audience as his time in WWII proved to be one of the most defining aspects of his life. Even before becoming an actor, Marvin was so overwhelmed by what he went through, he sought to get the emotional impact of the war down on paper in both words and images. I myself knew it was impossible to even try so when writing that chapter of LEE MARVIN: POINT BLANK, I let Marvin write it himself via letters home he wrote during the war.
During WWII, the U.S. government attempted it as well in an effort to get across to its citizens what their friends and family were going through overseas. Commissioned by the War Dept. in 1943 under the auspices of The Army Corps of Engineers, 42 artists (half civilian, half already in the military) were asked to channel the “essence and spirit of war” into their work. The Navy created their own such commission following the sinking of the Ruben James and it’s artistic rendering. The USMC public relations director Robert Denig, who had sent field correspondents and photographers into battle, went one better. He expanded the program to include artists who would be trained as Marine recruits tasked with going into battle as soldiers and artists. Also LIFE magazine and artwork commission by the Abbott Pharmacuetical company (!) got into the business of sending artists into battle. The belief was that the emotional impact of artwork could say more than words or photos ever could. Amazingly, these artists were not hampered by gov’t censorship or propoganda requests. Instead, they created what the saw. By the end of the war they had created more 2,000 pieces. For example, here’s some images Marvin himself might have experienced….
– Dwayne Epstein


ScoreAnotherForTheSubs by Thomas Hart Benton


Death of the Shoho by Benney


The two paintings above, although badly reproduced, do evoke the image of what Marvin may have gone through as a combat Marine going into batle since the enemy was often encountered even before landing on the beachhead. Once Marvin did make one of his 21 landings, the next paintings was what inveitably followed….


Porters and Soldiers Carrying Equipment by Boggs


Taking Cover by Fredenthal

The title of the above image shows what followed in the steaming jungle, which could often be shattered without warning by next image. In Part II, combat itself…….

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Memorial Day Tribute

For Memorial Day, which is just weeks away, I’ve chosen to scan and upload a photo page from one of the inserts highlighting Lee Marvin’s time in the USMC in the Pacific during WWII. It became such an important and defining part of his life that these rarely seen photos available for viewing in Lee Marvin Point Blank are posted to highlight the point.

It’s been the cliche to say a picture is worth a thousand words but cliches are often borne of truth and in this case the cliche applies. The images below speak volumes of Lee Marvin’s time in the Marines. For example: Check out the youthful (albeit drunken) look in Marvin’s eyes in the photo of him in the Jeep with his buddies stateside before shipping overseas. Comapre that image to the one below in which he shows some of the captured Japanese arms with fellow Marine Wade Rayborn. It’s not just the mustache. Marvin looks at least a decade older with the look in the eye of a man who’s seen and done a lifetime worth’s of war experience. However, in truth the photos are just months apart!

photo page

Photo page from Lee Marvin Point Blank

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