Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

U.S.S. Growler (SS-215)

McClelland Barclay: Heroes of the South Seas

McClelland Barclay made the following sketches that he titled, "Heroes of the South Seas," between late 1942 and June 1943. He mailed them to a friend in the United States shortly before his death aboard LST-342 on 18 July 1943. In August of that year, this friend informed the Navy of her possession of the sketches and suggested they be published in book form, with any profits turned over to Navy Relief. Possibly this had been Barclay's intention as well. The sketches were delivered to the Navy's Office of Public Relations (Pictorial Section). In the mid-1980s, they were transferred to the Navy Art Collection. Navy Art is unaware that these images were ever published, or even displayed publicly until now. 

The labels underneath the images are transcriptions of Barclay's handwritten notes, jotted down on the same sheet of paper where he sketched. Text in italics indicates that Barclay is quoting his subject. 

Always one who wanted to improve his art from first-hand experience, Barclay once told an interviewer, "I have been called a `pretty girl artist,' but I am going to get in all of the front-line action I can. I want to bring out the idea that wars are fought by men, and not just by their tools." With the dozens of portraits he created during his service, Barclay managed to bring out that idea very well. The faces of the men and women Barclay committed to paper, along with the anecdotal evidence he recorded in the margins, reminds us that individuals make up a navy. As he told the San Francisco Examiner in March 1943, "A camera cannot catch the human element of a fight, the sweat and blood and courage our boys expend every time they face the enemy. That's what I'm going back out there now to do."