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Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

World War II Navy Art by Coale
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World War II Navy Art by Coale

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World War II Navy Art: A Vision of History: Coale

Griffith Baily Coale (1890-1950)

Commander, USNR

A native in Baltimore, Maryland, Coale spent three years studying art in Munich, Paris, Italy and Spain. Subsequent to his return to the United States, he resided in New York City and became nationally known through his many famous murals and paintings. Sensing the imminent onset of world conflict, Coale convinced Admiral C.W. Nimitz to establish the Navy Combat Art Program and in August 1941, he was commissioned in the U.S. Naval Reserve with the rank of Lieutenant Commander.

He immediately left for an assignment in the North Atlantic, where he witnessed the sinking of the USS Reuben James. Several months later, after the attack of Pearl Harbor, Coale traveled there to gather material for a mural commemorating the tragedy. In his six and a half years with the Navy, Coale witnessed action in every ocean, including the Battle of Midway and British operations in Southeast Asia. Life magazine reproduced the "North Atlantic Patrol" series which was later published in book form, and he also wrote another book based on his experiences, "Victory at Midway."

Coale retired from the Navy in 1945 with the rank of Commander. He returned to his home and studio at Stonington, Connecticut, and resumed private work until his unexpected death in 1950.