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D-Day Plus Seven

Here we see what Normandy looked like a week after Overlord in combat artist and Combat Gallery Sunday alum Dwight Shepler‘s 1944 watercolor, “D-Day Plus Seven, Omaha Beach Head, Landing scene with the Landing Ship Tanks on the beach discharging their cargo.

Courtesy of the U.S. Navy Art Collection, Washington, D.C. Accession #: 88-199-EY

Official caption by the artist:

On Omaha beachhead the wreckage of assault has been thrust aside and reinforcements pour from LSTs which line up to spew forth their mobile cargo. It was not an uncommon sight to see thirty LSTs “dry out” and discharge their load on one ebb tide, and float away on the flood. The tide was 20 foot. With the sight repeated on Utah beach and the British beaches, the lift carried by various amphibious craft was enormous. The great offensive that broke out at St. Lo, swept through Avranches to ship off Brittany and swing for Paris, was mounted with men and material that came in over the beach.

As a footnote, classicly-trained Shepler learned his trade at Williams College and worked at the Boston Museum School of Fine Art prior to the war, then enlisted as an officer in the Navy Reserve in 1942 at age 37 to lend his brush to Uncle Sam. He took part not only in Normandy but in the landings at Ormoc Bay and Lingayen Gulf and operations at Corregidor and Bataan. In all, he produced more than 300 works for the military before returning to civilian life where he went back into teaching art and producing landscapes, sports scenes, and portraits. He passed in 1974.

His best-known work is perhaps The Battle for Fox Green Beach”, showing Warship Weds alum, Gleaves-class destroyer USS Emmons (DD-457) bombarding in support of the Omaha Beach landings.

“The Battle for Fox Green Beach,” watercolor by Dwight Shepler, showing the Gleaves class destroyer USS Emmons (DD 457) foreground and her sister ship, 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

 

Combat Gallery Sunday: Opening Up the Beach edition

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: Opening Up the Beach edition

U.S. Army combat artist/infantryman Mitchell Jamieson, who we covered on our 75th Anniversary of D-Day post, spent a week after landing at Normandy on Day 1 with the men of the U.S. Navy’s 6th Beach Battalion, the precursor to today’s Beachmaster Units, as they worked on Omaha.

Writer A.J. Liebling described the 6th as “sailors dressed like soldiers, except that they wore black jerseys under their field jackets; among them were a medical unit and a hydrographic unit. The engineers included an M.P. detachment, a chemical-warfare unit, and some demolition men. A beach battalion is a part of the Navy that goes ashore; amphibious engineers are part of the Army that seldom has its feet dry.”

Navy Beach Company personnel, Normandy. Note their red half-circle insignia on their M1 helmets

[ORIGINAL CAPTION] INVASION … Carrying full equipment, American assault troops move onto a beachhead on the northern coast of France. Landing craft, in the background, jams the harbor. June 6, 1944. Omaha Beach. [If you note, he is a Navy man and has the same Beach Company markings on his helmets as above.] National Archives # 111-SC-189902.

Landing on the Fox Red sector of Omaha Beach, the young men of the unit grew old quick as the tended their task of moving out the wounded and clearing the beach of obstacles so that larger landing craft could move in.

Jamieson chronicled them well.

Placing a Charge on a “Belgian Gate”

Placing a Charge on a Belgian Gate dday beach demolition Mitchell Jamieson 88-193-hq

NHHC 88-193-HQ

“Naval demolition men are preparing a charge that will blow up this “Belgian Gate” type of obstacles, which is a framework of steel mounted on rollers, with the flat side facing seaward, about 10′ high and 8’wide. The explosive charge used for this type of obstacle was very pliable and could be bent around steel or stuffed in crevices. Tetrytol, a stronger charge, but not easily handled was also used.

These demolition units were started as part of the beach battalions and were trained intensively for this type of work. After they cleared channels through the barriers and the beach was secured, their most important job was over, but there still remained plenty of demolition work to do on the beach.”

Naval Demolition Men Blowing Up Obstacles

Naval Demolition Men Blowing Up Obstacles DDay Mitchell Jamieson 88-193-hp

88-193-HP

“Another beach obstacle was the log ramp. This was nine to ten feet high, consisting of two upright logs driven into the sand, one short and one long, with a third log placed on top slanting backward from the sea. This was constructed to catch an incoming landing craft and slide it upward towards the mine placed on the end. Stakes pointing seaward with mines attached were a variation of this, but perhaps the most commonly used obstacle was the hedgehog or tetrahedron or “element C” as it was variously called. This was an ingenious contrivance of three steel rails, riveted together and flattened on their ends to prevent sinking too far into the sand. All these devices were used in combination, usually with “Belgian Gates” and log ramps, forming an outer barrier with hedgehogs and stakes thickly placed inside all along the beach. Some of the beaches were found to be much more formidable in barriers than others.”

Old Campaigners (Cold and Wet)

The Old Campaigners Mitchell Jamieson Navy's 6th Beach Battalion in the Omaha sector. 88-193-ig

88-193-IG

“These are men of the U.S. Navy’s 6th Beach Battalion in the Omaha sector. The terrible, confusing experience of the landing and the first two days on the beach had by now turned into a routine pattern of hard work, sleeplessness and the kind of living conditions generally described as “rugged.” The men already had the look of old campaigners, each adapting himself in his own way to his surroundings. Beach battalion losses were heavy here. They hit the shore with the first waves, but in this sector where resistance was so fierce, the work of organizing the unloading was virtually impossible until it was secured to some degree. The sign in the background pointed to one of the exits from the beach, which was just to the right of the picture. The men live in foxholes between here and the water’s edge.”

Many of Jameison’s paintings are in museums across the country, to include the Smithsonian.

D-Day through the brush of a GI who was there, 75 years ago today

D-Day, as seen below in eight, often haunting, paintings from U.S. Army combat artist Mitchell Jamieson, who landed in Normandy on Utah Beach with an M1 Garand and a sketchbook on 6 June before making his way to Omaha, where he remained with Navy Beach Battalions for a week living in a foxhole on the beach before eventually moving inland to continue his war.

Dawn of D-Day Off The Coast of France:

Mitchell Jamieson Dawn of D-Day Off The Coast of France 88-193-hm

88-193-HM

“At this moment, the first assault waves and demolition parties are on their way and these men, who are to go in later can only wonder what awaits them and stare at the distant coastline, barely discernable. The boats suspended on davits above their heads with their dark shapes oddly express the taut, waiting threat of this dawn off the Normandy coast.

The far off rumble of explosions could be heard and mysterious processions of small invasion craft crossed the ship’s bow. Each ship with its barrage balloon, gleaming above it in the faint light, seeming to be symbols designed to ward off evil spirits rather than objects of modern war. Now and then flashes appear fitfully on the horizon and, in the sky above, our fighter planes sweep by to support the invasion.”

Morning of D-Day from LST:

Mitchell Jameison Morning of D-Day from LST 88-193-hi

88-193-HI

“Coordination is an important part of the invasion. As the LCTs move in formation to execute a turn to head towards the coast with their assault troops, the transports and LSTs are seen in the distance. Overhead a P-38 Lightning used as a fighter and bomber aircraft during the invasion has just been hit, trailing a stream of white smoke and flame with a cruiser and destroyer to right, bombing objectives ashore.”

Burnt Out LCT on American Beach

Mitchell Jamieson Burnt Out LCT on American Beach 88-193-ie

88-193-IE

“This is typical of some of the gutted wrecks along this most tragic of beaches. It had mobile anti-aircraft vehicles aboard and had been so completely ravaged by flame after being hit that its agonies had left it with a look somehow permanent and fixed in rigidity, as though suffering rigor mortis, in a way like a human corpse. A smashed LCIL is in the surf beyond the pontoon barge and an LCVP, or the remains of it, is in left foreground”

[Of note, the Gleaves-class destroyer USS Corry, nine LCILs, 21 LCTs, USS LST-715, and USS PC-1261 along with the Royal Norwegian Navy destroyer Svenner and RN destroyer HMS Wrestler were all lost off Normandy on 6 June 1944.]

The Dragon – Wrecked M4 Tank

Mitchell Jamieson The Dragon - Wrecked M4 Tank Dday 88-193-hs

88-193-HS

“This burnt-out General Sherman tank was evidently hit by a German “88” [a high-velocity 88mm anti-aircraft artillery gun which was also used as an effective anti-tank weapon] and set afire. It was then partly covered with sand, probably by our bulldozers clearing an exit from the beach. A little further back from the water, a tank ditch extended for a considerable length. Part of the tank’s amphibious air-intake duct, which allowed the tank to be driven through shallow water from ship to shore, was broken off. To the right, a group of African-American troops, amphibious “duck” [DUKW – a type of wheeled land and water vehicle] drivers, gathered around a fire.”

The Sea Wall At the Eastern American Beach (Utah Beach)

Mitchell Jameison The Sea Wall At the Eastern American Beach (Utah Beach) 88-193-IC

88-193-IC

“This was the scene at the easternmost of the two American beaches (Utah Beach) at about 3 p.m. on D-Day. The fighting had moved inland, but all along the seawall, which extends a considerable length of the beach, men dug themselves in – hospital corpsmen, beach battalion members, Sea Bees, and anyone whose work was on the beach itself. The beach first aid station was a short way down from here, and the wounded and dead are in the sand in front of the sea wall. The tide was out at this time, and the wounded could not be evacuated back to the ships because of the difficulty in getting landing craft in and out. An enemy artillery battery, located some distance inland from the beach but still in range, sent shells steadily over the Americans, impeding work. An ammunition truck was hit and burned at the beach’s far end. A lone LCI unloaded her troops and the men filed across the beach and started inland. In this section, beach obstacles were not as formidable as in other areas, and the demolition parties were able to clear the way for landing craft with few losses.”

First Aid Station on the Beach

First Aid Station on the Beach DDay Mitchell Jamieson 88-193-HT

88-193-HT

“These wounded were awaiting evacuation to the ships, but the difficulty was in getting craft to the landing beaches to take them. It was low tide when many landing craft were stranded in the shallows by the swiftly subsiding water. In the meanwhile, the medics did what they could for the wounded and tried to get them out of the line of fire. A trawler was set afire just behind the sea wall and exploded spasmodically with a shower of steel fragments whining overhead. One man died, and a corpsman covered him with a blanket. Wounded were being brought back from the fighting inland, but at this stage of the invasion the wounded did not receive anything like prompt care and evacuation, although the medics and corpsmen did everything in their power.”

[Note: Of the 156,000 Allied personnel who hit the beaches on 6 June, over 10,000 became casualties, half of those killed in action. One unit, A Company of the 116th Regiment, part of the 29th Infantry Division, lost 96 percent of its 197-strong complement to death or wounds on the morning of D-Day in the surf line at Omaha Beach. “Within 20 minutes if striking the beach, A Company ceased to be an assault company and had become a forlorn little rescue party bent upon survival and the saving of lives,” noted one contemporary Army report. ]

Burial Ground Above the Beach

Burial Ground Above the Beach Omaha Dday Mitchell Jamieson 88-193-II

88-193-II

In the center of Omaha or Western American beach sector, the ground is fairly flat for perhaps two hundred yards, then rises sharply in a series of hills which command both the beach and the valley exits from it. Here the land levels off and fields, bordered with hedgerows, stretch back inland towards the little town of Colleville-sur-Mer and the Cherbourg road. In June 1944, if you followed the slender white tape through the mined areas up one of these hills, it was not long before you found yourself in a different world.

This was because it really belonged to the dead and because the transition from the active clatter and dust of the beach was so abrupt. This field, high over the Western American beach, became the first U.S. national cemetery on French soil of World War II. Up here the beach sounds were faint and the German prisoners digging graves seemed to be unaware of them. Over the field, there was the sound of pick and shovel and the oppressive, sickening stench of corpses, brought in for burial in truckloads, each wrapped in a mattress cover with his I.D. tag and a little bag of personal belongings to be sent to his next of kin. In the center of the field, the diggers worked in a new section while a guard with a Tommy gun looked on with expressionless features. One soldier who spoke German went around with a long stick for measuring the depth of graves and gave instructions with a great concern for details.

The work had a steady, slow and appalling rhythm. At intervals a corpse was borne on a stretcher by four Germans to a freshly dug grave and lowered without ceremony, then the earth was shoveled in again. Some of the prisoners stopped work for a moment and watched as this was going on. Others mechanically went on with digging.

In this picture a truck has come back from the front, the vehicle brutally and grimly called the “meat wagon,” and prisoners take off the corpses, laying them side by side, row on row while darkness set in over the field.

As a footnote, Maryland-born Jamieson studied at the Abbott School of Art and the Corcoran School of Art and in the 1930s was hired by the Treasury Department’s Art Project to paint murals in public buildings across the country. Volunteering for the Army as an infantryman in 1942, the 27-year old artist was soon reassigned as a combat correspondent. After the war, he continued painting and died in 1976. He has a number of works in the Smithsonian as well as in other museums.

A glimpse back in time

With the post today about HMS Centurion‘s figurehead, this 1877 painting by noted maritime artist James Tissot, entitled “Portsmouth Dockyard” seemed appropriate.

Portsmouth Dockyard by James Tissot 1877 Highlander ironclad and ship of war

Note, over the amourous Highlander’s shoulders, a then-modern ironclad battleship, and several legacy ships-of-war, with their white painted figureheads prominent.

Combat Gallery Sunday: Inside the dugout edition

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: Inside the dugout

The below, from the LOC, are all sketched by Howard Brodie, who voluntarily left his sweet gig as a sports artist for the San Francisco Chronicle to draw for Yank magazine as an Army combat artist in WWII and got close enough to his subjects (he volunteered as a medic when needed) to receive a bronze star.

Drawing shows two privates, John Minihan of Rockford, Illinois on the right, and Sal de George of Manhattan on the left, kneeling to operate a machine gun from their dugout during the American offensive on Mt. Austen during the World War II Battle of Guadalcanal. Their gun is the iconic M1917 Browning water-cooled sustained-fire GPMG

It is closely related to this one, which was not as fleshed out:

Sketch shows an enlisted man, John H. Minihan of Rockford, Illinois from the side. He kneels as he operates his machine gun from a dugout on the island of Guadalcanal during World War II.

Similarly, this sketch by Brodie is in the same vein, but is inside a fortress made of aluminum rather than jungle earth:

The drawing shows a World War II gunner wearing an oxygen mask as he stands before an open slot in a B-17 airplane firing his machine gun during the Battle of Guadalcanal.

Brodie later went back to war, with his pencils, and covered Korea, French Indochina, and Vietnam.

He died in 2010.

Thank you for your work, sir.

Combat Gallery Sunday: Le porte-drapeau de l’Armée

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: Le porte-drapeau de l’Armée

Jean-Baptiste Édouard Detaille was born in Paris in 1848, notably while Charles-Louis Napoléon Bonaparte was President and before the aforementioned leader seized power and proclaimed himself Napoleon III, the sole emperor of the Second French Empire.

Detaille, using family connections that dated back to the original Napoleon, studied with noted military painter Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier in the 1860s and traveled abroad to North Africa and the Mediterranean in his late teens, which helped influence his later work.

Detalille himself had served during the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, as a young man, in the 8e Bataillon d’Infanterie Mobile, later attached to the staff of Gen, Auguste-Alexandre Ducrot, commander of the 2e Armee in defense of Paris. So you could say that the artist knew something of what he painted.

A mounted officer, 1877, via the Art Institute of Chicago

His two-volume/150 plate “L’Armee Francaise. Types et Uniformes,” published in 1885 (Paris, Boussod, Valson et Cie,) on Japanese paper, is an epic work of 19th Century uniforms. Many of these images come from that volume.

L’armée française – 1.er volume by Édouard Detaille vol 1 title page showing the old Napoleanic Army meeting the 1880s modern French infantry Credit line: (c) Royal Academy of Arts

Officier Indigene de Tirailleurs Algeriens

Sapeurs du Génie Tenue de Campagne

Grenadier de la Garde Impériale Rezonville, 1870

Hussards (Hussars)

French Carabiniers, 1806

French Ecole Spéciale Militaire, 1885

French Chasseur a Cheval

French cavalry

French campement de Zouaves, 1886

Etat-major d’un général de division

French hussards de l’Armée du Rhine, 1790s

Fantasia de Spahis

‘Officier de dragons.’; Édouard Detaille, Types et uniformes : l’armée française, https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/art-artists/work-of-art/O27687
Credit line: (c) Royal Academy of Arts

French Tirailleurs Indigènes Grande Tenue

The Defense of Champigny during the Battle of Villiers, 1870. In the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. MET DT259753

click to bigup

Le rêve (The Dream), above, by Edouard Detaille, painted in 1888, depicts French soldiers asleep in their camp with the first rays of dawn on the horizon. These young conscripts of the Third Republic are seen during summer maneuvers, probably Champagne, at the time it painted. They dream of the glory of the Grand Armee of Napoleon, then of taking revenge for the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870. This was one of the most popular propaganda pieces of the interwar period between 1871-1914 in France and indirectly helped stir the pot on WWI. It is currently at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

After the Russo-French Rapprochement in 1891, he took to covering the uniforms of the Republic’s newfound allies.

Carabiniers à Cheval en Russie, 1893

The Cossacks of the Imperial Russian Guard

He was busy working on uniform images right up until his last days.

Test uniforms created in 1912 by Édouard Detaille for the French line infantry. From left to right : trumpet in parade uniform, private in service uniform and kepi, private 1st class in parade uniform, private in service uniform and leather helmet, officer in parade uniform, officer in service uniform and bonnet de police (side cap), private in field uniform and leather helmet, private in field uniform and kepi. Via Musée de l’Armée/Wiki.

The artist died in 1912 in Paris, aged 64, only months before The Guns of August forever removed all of the romantic notions of beautiful uniforms with red trousers and shiny cuirasses from warfare.

Thank you for your work, sir.

Combat Gallery Sunday: A Dear Visit

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: A Dear Visit

Maximilian Franz Viktor Zdenko Marie Kurzweil was born 12 October 1867 in the small Moravian town of Bisenz (Bzenec)– then in the Austro-Hungarian Empire now in the Czech Republic– the son of a failing sugar manufacturer. Once the family business tanked altogether, young Max relocated to Vienna where he attended school and later, with an eye for painting, the esteemed Academy of Fine Art (Akademie der bildenden Künste), an institution that famously twice-rejected young Adolf Hitler for lack of talent.

Obligated to perform his military service to Kaiser Franz Josef, Max in 1891 enlisted in the Imperial Army as what was termed a “one-year-volunteer” or Einjährig-Freiwilliger. A curious practise at the time in Central Europe (also mimicked in France and Russia), such a volunteer– typically an educated young man of means– paid for their own room, board, uniforms and personal equipment while serving (for free) with an active duty regiment as a nominal cadet corporal, filling their spare time studying military textbooks. At the end of the year, providing they were found to be of officer material after a review and examination administered by a board, these volunteers would pass into the reserve as a subaltern.

Max was accepted as an EF with the famous k.u.k. Dragonerregiment Nr. 3, which dated back to 1768 and had covered itself in glory during the Napoleonic Wars. Based in Stockerau on the outskirts of Vienna, the German-speaking unit was typically referred to as the “Saxon Dragoons” (Sachsen Dragoner) due to the fact that the honorary colonel-in-chief of the unit was the king of Saxony. Serving from June 1891 to June 1892, Kurzweil passed his review and moved to the regiment’s reserve list as a lieutenant, fulfilling his obligation to the Kaiser by 1902, at which point his name was put on the retired list.

It was just after he left active duty that Max painted what I feel was his most endearing work. Ein Lieber Besuch (A dear visit), is an oil painting he finished in 1894 showing a young man, surrounded by Austrian dragoons which you take to be his comrades, in hospital being visited by what is perceived to be his warhorse. It was no doubt very familiar to the artist in many ways.

It was an early footnote in Max’s career, as he returned to Vienna, moved in the same circles as Klimt, summered on the Dalmatian coast and in Brittany, spent lots of time in Paris, helped found the Secessionist movement at Vienna’s Künstlerhaus, took a French wife, and fell in love with a pupil– Helene Heger.

Then came war.

At 46, Kurzweil, childless, listless and moody (his wife had been separated from him as she was in France when hostilities began) he was too old to lead a cavalry troop but was nonetheless recalled to active duty. Assigned to work on the Serbo-Montenegrin Front as a war artist, he returned to Vienna on leave in May 1916, where he met his lover one last time at his studio and entered into a suicide pact using his service pistol. He is buried in Vienna’s Hütteldorfer Cemetery.

A self-portrait

However, his simple but poignant horse painting had become a very popular postcard in war-torn Austria, surely evoking memories of love and loss to many.

As for the 3rd Dragoons, stationed in Krakow, then on the Austrian frontier, in 1914 as part of 3. Kavallerietruppendivision, they fought the Russians on the Eastern Front and, late in the war, lost their horses, converting to foot infantry. In 1919, they were disbanded, although, in 1967, Panzerbataillon 33 of the reformed Austrian Army adopted the old regiment’s lineage. Today, PzB 33 uses Leopard 2A4 tanks.

Ein Lieber Besuch since 1965 has been in the collection of the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere in Vienna, who have several of Kurzweil’s works. He is considered today to be one of the most important Austrian artists of his era. Additionally, his art is in the American Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco and the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia

Thank you for your work, sir.

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