Keep in mind today the real reason why the mail doesn’t run, public employees have a three-day weekend, and why your mailbox is full of tasteless fliers.
Tag Archives: memorial day
Too often, in our rush to squeeze in summer activities this three day weekend, we forget the reason we are observing it.
Here we see the Essex-class attack carrier USS Bennington (CVA-20) as she passed Battleship Row in Pearl Harbor on 31 May 1958, Memorial Day.
Just under the surface to her port is the wreck of the Pennsylvania-class battleship USS Arizona (BB-39) in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Memorial Day, 31 May 1958. Note the outline of Arizona‘s hull and the flow of oil from her fuel tanks.
Bennington‘s crew is in formation on the flight deck, spelling out a tribute to Arizona‘s crewmen who were lost in the 7 December 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
“The Constant Reminder,” Painting, Acrylic on Illustration Board; by Robert Adam Malin; 1998; Framed Dimensions 22H X 32W, NHC Accession #: 98-110-E
The subject depicts a modern attack submarine leaving Pearl Harbor with the topside watch noting Battleship Row in the distance with the USS Arizona Memorial gleaming in the sunlight.
Remember to thank and to think of a veteran today.
While in Louisville last week I spent a day crawling around the stone gardens of Cave Hill Cemetery. Dating back to the Victorian era, Cave Hill encompasses something like 296-acres and contains over 135,000 markers going back to the 1850s.
Of course the part of the reservation I was most drawn to was the National Cemetery of the same name on their grounds that started off with the interment of Union soldiers from the Louisville garrison in 1861.
The site was the location of sculptor August Bloedner’s marker to the 32nd Indiana Infantry Regiment– the oldest surviving memorial to the Civil War, carved from St. Genevieve limestone in January 1862 after the Battle of Rowlett’s Station in Munfordville, Kentucky.
Throughout CHNC are passages from Kentucky poet and Army officer Theodore O’Hara, the “Bivouac of the Dead,” written in 1847 after the war against Mexico, to remind those who tread the grounds who paid the lease.
Among the stones is one piece of earth that “is forever England” that of Pvt. James Henry Hartley, Machine Gun Corps, British Military Mission. He died at Camp Zachary Taylor* 20 April 1918 during the Great War and his distinctive monument was paid for by private donation of the Camp’s officer corps.
*Of note, one of those who passed through Camp ZT was F. Scott Fitzgerald, there in 1918 about the same time our good Tommy passed, Fitzgerald took some inspiration for The Great Gatsby from Louisville. His character Daisy is from Louisville and the Seelbach Hotel in Louisville is the site of a wedding between two of the characters.
Hidden among the grounds at Cave Hill are graves to a number of generals in wars from the 1860s through WWII.
These include Maj. Gen. Lovell H. Rousseau, who led Indiana troops at the Battle of Buena Vista in the Mexican war and carried out a reasonably well executed Union Cavalry raid in Alabama in 1864.
Pittsburgh-born Bvt Brig. Gen. James Adams Ekin, famous for being a member of the military commission trying the conspirators involved with the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, rests in a less assuming grave a short walk away from Rousseau.
And speaking of less-assuming, there is Brig. Gen. Alpheus Baker.
A South Carolina native who gained command of the 54th Alabama Infantry in 1862, Baker served throughout the Civil War in scraps from New Madrid to Vicksburg and Atlanta to the final Siege of Mobile and Carolina campaigns, mustering out as a general of brigade (commanding the 37th, 40th, 42nd and 54th Alabama) just before his 37th birthday. Retiring to Kentucky and resuming the practice of law, he was buried in a common soldier’s grave at his request among the 500 dead Confederate prisoners-of-war at Cave Hill who were held in the Louisville Prison Camp.
And in the words of Theodore O’Hara:
Their shivered swords are red with rust,
Their plumed heads are bowed;
Their haughty banner trailed in dust
Is now their martial shroud,
And plenteous funeral tears have washed
The red stains from each brow,
And their proud forms in battle gashed
Are free from anguish now.
Today, I’m refraining from posting my typical drivel and instead will leave you with this image of veterans from the War Between the States. The practice we know today as Memorial Day (the remembrance part, not the obscene excuse for 25 percent off bedsheets part) started in 1868 as Decoration Day, ordered by the commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, the veterans’ organization for Union Civil War veterans, for the purpose of decorating the graves of the nation’s veterans both of that war and those that preceded it.
Over time, it has merged with Confederate Memorial Day (which started in 1866) to become the tradition we know today.
Please use any extra time you normally spent reading this blog that you now have to spare and put it towards the reverent respect of all those who have served our great country and paid a price we can’t begin to repay.
Much as once a week I like to take time off to cover warships (Wednesdays), on Sunday, I like to cover military art and the painters, illustrators, sculptors, and the like that produced them. As always, remember to click to embiggen.
Combat Gallery Sunday: The Martial Art of Tom Lea
With this edition coming on Memorial Day weekend, I felt it best to highlight one of the most somber artists to ever cover a military subject. Further, this incredibly skilled painter did so not from photographs or through dry research, but from his own first-hand experience garnered at sea both frozen and aflame and on the bloody sand.
Thomas Calloway “Tom” Lea, III was born in El Paso, Texas on 11 July 1907. Growing up in that rough and tumble border town during the era of Poncho Villa, he had to have an armed escort to school over remarks his father, the mayor, made during that time. Leaving home in the 1920s, Lea studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and under noted muralists (remember this later).
In the 1930s, he got his first steady work as a WPA artist, painting murals in federal buildings across the state as well as in such far off places as Washington D.C., New Mexico, Illinois, and Missouri.
In 1941, LIFE Magazine asked him to sketch troopers of the El Paso-based 8th Cavalry Regiment (1CAV DIV), which he did and in turn evolved into other requests to supply images of aviators and cannoncockers at nearby bases.
By the fall, he was afloat on a U.S. Navy destroyer bobbing along the Atlantic Ocean on the very active Neutrality Patrol in which the man from West Texas saw the world from the heaving decks of Uncle’s tincans.
Next, he shipped out on one of the “original 8” carriers of the U.S. Navy, USS Hornet (CV-8) for a 66-day run across the Pacific. There, in fierce service off Guadalcanal in late summer 1942, he spent more than two months on a front line carrier in the thick of the war and sketched as he found.
On 21 October, he left the Hornet, pulling away on a fleet oiler that would land him back at Pearl Harbor. The cleared sketches would appear in LIFE in March and April 1943, sadly, after the carrier had been sunk. You see, the ship in which Lea had spent those hectic two months was sent to the bottom, sunk in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, 26 October 1942– just five days after he left.
Back at Pearl Harbor, Lea showed Admiral Nimitz some of his drawings. One of them was the one above. Underneath the drawing, he inscribed a quotation from Deuteronomy: “Moreover the Lord thy God shall send the hornet among them, until they that are left, and hide themselves from thee, be destroyed.”
Admiral Nimitz looked at the drawing for a long time, then turned his head to Lea, and said: “Something has happened to the Hornet.”
That was how Lea found out that the aircraft carrier he had been on, together with his friends, perished.
This he immortalized in a painting ran by LIFE of how he pictured the ship going out– fighting.
Next, fate found him landing with the 7th Marines at the green hell that was Peleliu. The 11 paintings he produced from that front line horror are some of the most haunting military art of all time and should be viewed by any politician who claims there is no alternative to starting a war.
From the El Paso Times:
After taking his paintings to Life headquarters in New York, Tom heard what happened: The paintings were lined up so the managing editor Daniel Longwell could review them. Longwell entered, looked, and said: “Print every damn one of them in color, and I never want to see them again.”
It was also his last wartime assignment.
After the war he remained active and produced art for books and novels, while trying his hand as an author and historian.
Much as he was born in El Paso and lived most of his life there, he also passed away there in 2001 at age 93. He is buried in the city next to his wife, whose portrait reportedly took him the longest of all paintings to complete.
His work is on public display a numerous U.S. Army museums and bases, the Smithsonian, the White House, as well as galleries and museums across the Southwest.
Thank you for your work, sir.
A Nation that does not honor its heroes, will not long endure- – Abraham Lincoln
Invictus (by the English poet William Ernest Henley (1849-1903)
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.