Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Marines in Action
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Marines in Action

Since the first day of World War II, the American public has had occasion to read a good deal about the Marine Corps and to see Marines in action as portrayed by the camera. But no insight thus afforded can compare with that offered by the work by Kerr Eby.

For long months this distinguished artist, no stranger to war, shared the dangerous life of the Marines in the Pacific. He landed with us at Tarawa, and he went from that terrible battleground to live with Marines fighting in the jungle warfare of Bougainville. He slept on the hard coral, he slogged through the jungle mud, he shared the minor pleasures and the major discomforts of the Marines at war, the good hot cup of coffee at the end of thirsty hours, the threat of enemy bombs and shells and bullets near him. Like many a Marine, he fell prey to tropical ills: one of his weeks in Bougainville was spent in a hospital.

Kerr Eby was with the Marines long enough to get the feeling of their war. With rapid sketches on the spot, whether in jungle skirmish or at beachhead landing or just living between battles, he used his art to capture that feeling and make it visible to all. It is small wonder, and yet it is the eternal miracle of art, that his finished paintings and drawings are so richly successful. They have caught the dramatic intensity and spirit of men at war, the feeling of men in battle, the sludging through the jungle and the terrible murky heat, the charge on the pillbox, the savagery, the terror, the exhaustion of battle.

Kerr Eby has made a great contribution. The Marine Corps and the public are in his debt. If he has somewhere expressed a high opinion of the Marines, let us for our part make public declaration that it is mutual, both for the life he lived among us and for the work here presented.

By Major General Julian C. Smith, USMC, who commanded the amphibious assault at Tarawa


The captions are by the artist.