Naval History and Heritage Command

A Fine Evening on the USS Mustin

Scenes from our Navy, Combat Art of the Twenty-First Century

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Scenes from our Navy, Combat Art of the Twenty-First Century

The Combat Art Program is a core component of the Navy Art Collection.  It began in 1941 when Griffith Baily Coale approached the Navy with the idea of forming a small unit of artists that would accompany sailors into action to document wartime events as they were unfolding.  The artworks they created could be used for information and morale building purposes.  The plan received approval and by 1944 he was joined by seven other artists as active duty members of the Navy Reserve.  It continued until demobilization in 1946. 


The program was revived during the Korean War with three artists who also served with the Navy Reserve as combat artists.  During the Vietnam War the program was “civilianized” with the assistance of two fine arts associations.  Select members of these groups received travel orders and supplies to go out for short periods of time to observe US Navy activities.  The artworks they created were accepted into the Navy Art Collection.  Throughout the years, active duty reservists continued to serve as combat artists, such as during Desert Shield/Storm, NATO Operations in Bosnia and Operation Enduring Freedom/Iraqi Freedom.


This exhibition displays the artwork of the combat art program of the last fifteen years from one member of the Navy Reserve formerly part of the program and the two civilian artists that are currently employed by the Navy.  They continue to travel with the fleet and to shore stations with the same mission as the early combat artists: to faithfully depict the service of United States naval forces for the enlightenment and enrichment of all people.


Captions shown in italics are written by the artist.