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, photographers and the like that produced them.
Combat Gallery Sunday: The Martial Art of Dwight Shepler
Dwight C. Shepler was born in Everett, Massachusetts, in 1905 and studied art at Williams College then became a member of the American Artists’ Group and the American Artists Professional League. When the war came, the 36-year-old bespectacled Shepler volunteered for the Navy and, in recognition of his skills and education, was assigned to the sea service’s Combat Art Section as an officer-artist.
As noted by the Navy, “he first traveled with a destroyer on Pacific convoy duty. From the mud of Guadalcanal, through the years of the Allied build-up in England, to the memorable D-Day on the French coast, he painted and recorded the Navy’s warfare.”
Artwork: “Gunners of the Armed Guard” Artist: Dwight C. Shepler #80 NARA
Artwork: “Liberator Fueling” Artist: Dwight C. Shepler #119 NARA
Field Day at Scapa Flow, a Northern British Base NARA DN-SC-83-05415
“Four Sisters of Londonderry” showing a four-pack of brand new U.S. Navy Benson-class destroyer destroyers including USS Madison (DD-425) USS Lansdale (DD-426) and USS Hilary P. Jones (DD-427) Artist: Dwight C. Shepler #97 – The U.S. National Archives (1983-01-01 & 1983-01-01)
Scapa Anchorage, in the collection of the National Archives, shows Shepler’s talents as a landscape artist. You almost don’t notice the Royal Navy battleships and cruiser force
The same can be said with this work, entitled St. Mawes Rendezvous, NARA DN-SC-83-05410
But then, there is war…
He observed the landings at Normandy in the ETO and Ormoc Bay and Lingayen Gulf and operations at Corregidor and Bataan in the PTO.
Opening the Attack Painting, Watercolor on Paper; by Dwight C. Shepler; 1944 D-Day D Day Arkansas French cruisers George Leygues and Montcalm. NHHC 88-199-ew
“The Battle for Fox Green Beach,” watercolor by Dwight Shepler, showing the Gleaves class destroyer USS Emmons(DD 457) foreground and her sistership, the USS Doyle, to the right, within a few hundred yards of the landing beach, mixing it up with German shore batteries on D-Day
Heavy propellers of a Rhine Ferry are swung aloft as Seabees complete the assembly of the pontoons which make up the strange craft at the invasion port somewhere in England. Drawn by Navy Combat Artist Lieutenant Dwight C. Shepler, USNR. Artwork received 12 June 1944. NHHC 80-G-45675
“Task Force of Two Navies” Watercolor by Dwight Shepler, USNR, 1943, depicting U.S. and British warships in the Pentland Firth during an operation toward the Norwegian coast, coincident with the Sicily invasion, July 1943. Alabama (BB 60) is in the lead, followed by HMS Illustrious and HMS King George V. Three British carrier-based fighters (two “Seafires” and a “Martlet”) are overhead. Official USN photo # KN-20381, courtesy of the U.S. Navy Art Collection, Washington, DC, now in the collections of the National Archives.
“First Reconnaissance – Manila Harbor. Painting, Watercolor on Paper; by Dwight Shepler; 1945; Framed Dimensions 31H X 39W. Two PT’s prowled inside the breakwater entrance of Manila Harbor on February 23, 1945, first U.S. Naval vessels to enter in three years. Treading the mine-strewn waters of Manila Bay, PT’s 358 and 374 probed into the shoal harbor waters where countless enemy vessels sat on the bottom in mute testament of the severity of the fast carrier strikes of the fall of 1944. Manila smoked and exploded from the final fighting in Intramuros and the dock area.” (NHHC: 88-199-FY)
Minesweeper Before Corregidor Cleaning a pathway through the mines off Bataan peninsula, these hardy little minesweepers can work under severe Japanese coastal bombardment. Despite Army air cover overhead, the enemy shore guns sank the motor minesweeper YMS-48 and damaged the destroyers, Fletcher and Hopewell. On the following day, a naval task group landed Army troops on the peninsula and a short time thereafter resistance ceased on Corregidor and Bataan.Painting, Watercolor on Paper; by Dwight C. Shepler; 1945; Framed Dimensions 30H X 39W Accession #: 88-199-GK
Preparations For Getting Underway DN-SC-83-05402
He also did a number of historic scenes for the branch.
Watercolor painting by Dwight Shepler of the USS South Dakota in action with Japanese planes during the Battle of Santa Cruz which took place October 11-26, 1942.
This image was used in a number of adverts during the War.
The Spider and the Fly — USS Hornet CIC at Midway. During World War II, battles were won by the side that was first to spot enemy airplanes, ships, or submarines. To give the Allies an edge, British and American scientists developed radar technology to “see” for hundreds of miles, even at night.Painting, Oil on Canvas; by Dwight Shepler; 1945; Framed Dimensions 28H X 40W Accession #: 88-199-GN
Japanese dive bomber swoops down in a kamikaze attack on USS Hornet (CVA 12) and is disintegrated by the ships anti-aircraft fire before it can hit the carrier. This is a copy of a watercolor painted by Lieutenant Dwight C. Shepler, USNR, Navy Combat Artist, from memory of an actual combat experience. Photographed released August 10, 1945. U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. 80-G-700121
On 5 September 1813, the schooner Enterprise, commanded by Lieutenant William Burrows, captured the brig HMS Boxer off Portland, Maine in a twenty-minute action that saw both commanding officers die in battle. Enterprise’s second in command, Lieutenant Edward R. McCall then took Boxer to Portland, Maine. USS Enterprise versus HMS Boxer in action off the coast of Maine. Artist, Dwight Shepler. Enterprise was commanded by Lt William Burrows. Unfortunately, NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 47013-KN
For his service as a Combat Artist, the Navy awarded Shepler the Bronze Star. He left the branch in 1946 as a full Commander, USNR, having produced more than 300 paintings and drawings.
U.S. Navy artists, (left to right), Lieutenant William F. Draper, Lieutenant Dwight C. Shepler, and Lieutenant Mitchell Jamieson, conferring with Lieutenant Commander Parsons in the Navy Office of Public Relations, Washington, D.C., November 20, 1944. NHHC 80-G-47096
After the war, he continued his career as a pioneer watercolorist of the high ski country and later served as president of the Guild of Boston Artists.
Dwight Shepler, Mount Lafayette, and Cannon Mountain, N. H., n.d., watercolor, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Ford Motor Company, 1966.36.179
He died at age 69 in Weston, Mass. His works are on wide display from the Smithsonian to the Truman Library and various points in between. His oral history is in the National Archives.
Thank you for your work, sir.