Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

A Vision of History
Description

Seeing that historic events were unfolding in the rising tension of the "undeclared war" of the North Atlantic, New York muralist Griffith Baily Coale convinced Admiral C.W. Nimitz to send Navy artists into action to record military activities in ways that cameras and the written word could not. The Navy Combat Artist Program was approved and in August 1941 Coale became the Navy's first combat artist on active duty.

Eventually the Navy sent eight artists to serve in combat areas and record their impressions of the action. This small number produced over 1,300 drawings, watercolors, and paintings, which were used to illustrate books and magazines, and toured the country in exhibitions designed to inform and raise public morale. They documented a variety of actions in the European and Pacific theaters, including the Normandy invasion, campaigns in North Africa, and the invasion of Okinawa. Their art captures the experiences of war and the men and women who fought in it.

The captions you see here are the artists' own words, oftentimes written on the reverse of the paintings, giving their unique insight into the events as they saw them.