Combat Gallery Sunday : The Vietnam Combat Artists Program

Much as once a week I like to take time off to cover warships (Wednesdays), on Sundays (when I feel like working), I like to cover military art and the painters, illustrators, sculptors, and the like that produced them.

Combat Gallery Sunday : The Vietnam Combat Artists Program

Usually on CGS, we cover individuals, but this particular weekend is dedicated to the 40~ soldier artists of the U.S. Army’s Vietnam Combat Artists Program:

Between 15 AUG 1966 and 14 JAN 1970, nine Combat Artist Teams (CATs) operated in Vietnam traveling with various units, gathering information and making sketches of U.S. Army related activities. They would embed with troops on the ground for 60 days then rotate to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii for 75 days to decompress and paint from their sketches, photographs and imagination. The work then became government property curated by the  U.S. Army Center of Military History to help document the war.

Private  First  Class Jim  Pollock was sent to Vietnam as a soldier artist on US Army Vietnam Combat Art Team IV from Aug. 15 to Dec. 31 1967 and has a 26 page article (with more than a dozen varied images) of his experience online. In this work he described the varied nature of the art produced.

The  idea of rotating teams of young soldier-artists from a variety  of  backgrounds and experiences through Vietnam was innovative. What was even more remarkable is that these soldier-artists were  encouraged to freely express and interpret their individual experience  in  their own distinct styles. The artists responded enthusiastically to  their artistic free reign, and the resulting products were wide-ranging and comprehensive.

Styles and media used were as diverse as the artists themselves, some  chose detailed literal images while others preferred expressive almost abstract explosions striving to replicate the horrors of war. Certainly,  a  lasting legacy of the army’s soldier art program is that it helped bring military art into the modern era.

After the Battle Tan Hep, Vietnam By Michael R. Crook, 1967.

After the Battle Tan Hep, Vietnam By Michael R. Crook, 1967.

COMBAT IN THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS Vietnam by Bruce J. Anderson

COMBAT IN THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS Vietnam by Bruce J. Anderson

Member of a Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol by Bruce J. Anderson Vietnam

Member of a Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol by Bruce J. Anderson, Vietnam

Soldiers Getting the Word by Theodore J. Abraham Vietnam

Soldiers Getting the Word by Theodore J. Abraham Vietnam

Mortar Attack Counterfire Ronald A. Wilson, CAT IV, 1967

Mortar Attack Counterfire Ronald A. Wilson, CAT IV, 1967

The Cave by Ray Sarlin, 1970

The Cave by Ray Sarlin, 1970

Vietnam_3a7ced_5400483

Roger Blum, Vietnam Combat Artist Team I, discusses his painting Attack at Twilight,

Roger Blum, Vietnam Combat Artist Team I, discusses his painting Attack at Twilight,

Attack at Twilight Roger Blum, Vietnam, 1966

Attack at Twilight, Roger Blum, Vietnam, 1966

“Last Stand” – Phillip W. Jones, 1967-68 vcap

“Last Stand” – Phillip W. Jones, 1967-68 vcap

“Unreal Realities” – Ronald A. Wilson, 1967 vcap

“Unreal Realities” – Ronald A. Wilson, 1967 vcap

“Looking Down the Trail” – James Pollack, 1967 vcap

“Looking Down the Trail” – James Pollack, 1967 vcap

Killed In Action” – Burdell Moody, 1967 vcap

“Killed In Action” – Burdell Moody, 1967 vcap

“Wounded” – Robert C. Knight, 1966 vcap

“Wounded” – Robert C. Knight, 1966 vcap

“Swamp Patrol” – Roger Blum, 1966 vietnam combat art project

“Swamp Patrol” – Roger Blum, 1966 Vietnam combat art project

Easter Sunrise Base Camp English, Vietnam By Michael R. Crook, 1967

Easter Sunrise Base Camp English, Vietnam By Michael R. Crook, 1967

Street Scene Vietnam By Kenneth J. Scowcroft, 1967

Street Scene Vietnam By Kenneth J. Scowcroft, 1967

Viet Cong Suspects Vietnam By Ronald A. Wilson, 1968

Viet Cong Suspects Vietnam By Ronald A. Wilson, 1968

Much of their work is on display across the nation in various military museums, installations and federal buildings while Pollocks’s essay is part of the Library of Congress and he continues to be outspoken about his time in South East Asia as well as the program as a whole.

Much of the paintings are available online at the CMH’s website.

Thank you for your work, gentlemen.

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