The man behind the 1911 poster
One of the most iconic images of the M1911 is the Great War recruiting painting “First to Fight” by James Montgomery Flagg.
Flagg’s portrait, made from a sitting by then-U.S. Marine Capt. Ross Erastus “Rusty” Rowell, graces man caves and military museums around the world.
According to the Marine Corps Museum, who provided the photos:
Flagg combined two important attributes of the Corps in the painting “First to Fight and Always Faithful.” He used quick strokes of the brush to create this work and only lightly painted the white stripes of the flag. And like many of the artists working for the Recruiting Bureau, Flagg donated his services.
As for Rowell, the Iowa State College grad and former U.S. Geological Survey topographer joined the Marines as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1906. Following WWI, he became a Marine aviator and early flight pioneer, later commanding VO-1M in Nicaragua during the Banana Wars and Commanding General, Marine Aircraft Wings, Pacific (MAWP) during WWII. He retired after 40 years of service in 1946, ranked major general. He is buried at Arlington.