A Combat Artist in World War II

A Combat Artist in World War II

EDWARD REEP
Copyright Date: 1987
Pages: 224
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt130jh0t
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    A Combat Artist in World War II
    Book Description:

    Many artists have fought in wars, and renowned painters have recorded heroic scenes of great battles, but those works were usually done long after the battles were waged. Artists have also been commissioned to visit, briefly, war-torn areas and make notes of the devastation and horror. Yet few artists who were members of any armed services have drawn or painted daily while they fought alongside their comrades.

    Edward Reep, as an official combat artist in World War II, painted and sketched while the battles of the Italian campaign raged around him. He was shelled, mortared, and strafed. At Monte Cassino, the earth trembled as he attempted to paint the historic bombing of that magnificent abbey. Later, racing into Milan with armed partisans on the fenders of his Jeep, he saw the bodies of Mussolini and his beautiful mistress cut down from the gas station where they had been hanged by their heels. That same day he witnessed at first hand the spectacle of a large German army force holed up in a high-rise office tower, waiting for the chance to surrender to the proper American brass for fear of falling into the hands of the vengeful partisans.

    Reep's recollections of such desperate days are made more memorable inCombat Artistby the many painfully vivid paintings and drawings that accompany the text. Reep's battlefield drawings show us, with unrelenting honesty, the horrors and griefs -- and the bitter comedy -- of that war fought to end wars that only spawned more.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6444-1
    Subjects: History, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-ix)
  4. [Map]
    (pp. x-x)
  5. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Chester G. Starr

    During World War II in Italy; the Historical Section of the Fifth Army was an amazing group of about thirty men. Some were historians who had already earned their Ph.D.’s; others were former graduate students in history who had been caught up in the draft. Their historical studies in the field were supported by typists and excellent mapmakers (one had been an animator for Walt Disney). Still others kept in order the records turned in every month by each unit in the Fifth Army; from chemical mortar battalions to divisions and corps; when we moved, we usually needed two trucks...

  6. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  7. CHAPTER ONE Before the War
    (pp. 1-10)

    The Armistice signaling the end of World War I was declared when I was six months of age. It was November 11, 1918, and I’m told that I was separated from my mother for an agonizing period of time as she joined a frenzied, joyous throng on the Brooklyn Bridge to celebrate the great victory. On July 11, 1941, five months before the infamous Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, I entered military service as an army private. In the years intervening, I had no inkling of who did what in the military or who outranked whom, in war or at...

  8. CHAPTER TWO Official War Artist
    (pp. 11-15)

    When the Andrew Higgins Boat School closed in the late spring of 1943, I was reassigned directly back to the place I had come from, Fort Ord in Monterey, California. It was a stroke of the greatest good fortune, because this was the home of my bride of five months and our familiar stomping ground. I had courted Pat for almost a year, and only the deep poverty all privates suffered had prevented us from marrying sooner.

    I was now a member of the Third Engineer Amphibian Brigade, which soon assumed the name of the Third Engineer Boat and Shore...

  9. CHAPTER THREE The Voyage
    (pp. 16-23)

    In the early fall of 1943, amid much confusion, I was herded onto a Liberty ship along with 500 enlisted men and about 50 other officers. We would become part of a convoy numbering approximately 55 ships, and our destination was North Africa. Once having cleared the port of embarkation, we would be joined by an escort of sleek destroyers. Our ship had successfully completed her shakedown voyage, a solo roundtrip to Bombay, India, so we were reassured that she was seaworthy. Many of the cargo carriers, tankers, and other vessels in our convoy were rusty old derelicts resurrected from...

  10. CHAPTER FOUR North Africa
    (pp. 24-33)

    The following letter preceded my arrival in North Africa. It is dated 11 April 1943, or two months prior to my inclusion as a member of the art unit. A copy was provided to me in Italy, many months later, by one of my fellow artists, wisely reasoning that I might like to keep it among my memorabilia. After all, how often would a general of the armies (George Marshall) and a commanding general in the field (Dwight D. Eisenhower) take time out in the thick of a world conflict to concern themselves with a mere art project? Marshall’s letter...

  11. CHAPTER FIVE The Art Program Is Saved
    (pp. 34-43)

    In early December of 1943, during a routine day at the Psychological Warfare Branch, I received a message to report to General Eisenhower’s headquarters first thing the following morning. Bright and early the next day, brimming with excitement, I waited impatiently in the corridor outside of the general’s office. Ike soon appeared, running up and down the hall vigorously and stopping abruptly to execute a neat sit-up or two; he was dutifully carrying out his daily program of calisthenics in the tradition of all well-trained soldiers. As quickly as he had appeared, he vanished, and a colonel stood in his...

  12. CHAPTER SIX The Artists
    (pp. 44-59)

    The original group of artists that came together in Naples was composed of Master Sergeant Mitchell Siporin, Technical Sergeants Savo Radulovic and Frank D. Duncan, Lieutenant Rudolf C. Von Ripper (he had been promoted to second lieutenant for his outstanding service on the battlefield), and me. Technical Sergeants Ludwig Mactarian and Harry Davis joined us about a year later. I want to tell you about all of them in order to present a clearer picture of what different combat artists do, particularly in view of their varied backgrounds, ages, and persuasions.

    Rudolf C. Von Ripper was our senior member in...

  13. CHAPTER SEVEN Painting Begins in Earnest
    (pp. 61-76)

    After my initial attempts at painting in the footsteps of various battles, I began to acquire a feel for my assignment. In January 1944 the fighting in Italy was stalemated at what was termed the Gustav Line, and there it would remain for the next several months. Built by the Todt Organization and aided by civilians and prisoners of war forced into service, it ran from Mt. Scauri on the Tyrrhenian Sea, west of the Garigliani River, to the Gari River, and continued to follow the west banks of the Gari and Rapido rivers to Cassino. From there it extended...

  14. CHAPTER EIGHT The Anzio Beachhead
    (pp. 77-106)

    In late January of 1944 the Anzio beachhead was established, and it was there I got my first taste of sustained combat or—to be more explicit—my indoctrination into sustained peril. Heretofore it had been my custom to visit a frontline position for a few days or possibly a week or two at the most, sketch or produce small paintings, and then return to the relative calm of the rear-area Historical Section to complete the paintings, rest a bit, and prepare for the next artistic assault.

    Anzio (in ancient times Antium) and the twin city of Nettuno were once-popular...

  15. CHAPTER NINE Rome, Rest, and the Arno
    (pp. 107-121)

    Churchill and Roosevelt were not alone in their desire to see the Allies in Rome; the military, from the lowest dogface to the top brass, were captivated by the dream. As the capital and heart of one of the three Axis nations, Rome would provide a prize beyond belief, a morale booster for the fighting men and the folks at home. For all we knew, it might be years before the same could be said for the conquest of Berlin and Tokyo, the remaining Axis capitals.

    It had taken less than two weeks for the push to reach Rome on...

  16. CHAPTER TEN The Gothic Line
    (pp. 123-144)

    The enemy forces in Italy had now fallen back to their third and what would prove to be their final line of defense high in the Apennines. The Allied goal, the broad Po Valley to the north, lay before our eyes, beckoning, inviting, but as cold weather came on, there was little that could be accomplished in heavy snow and mud. The Jerries, conscripting Italian civilian labor, had constructed one line of defense behind another to which they could retreat in carrying out their relatively new strategem of keeping the enemy occupied, and it was working. Coupled with the general...

  17. CHAPTER ELEVEN The Enemy Is Routed
    (pp. 147-160)

    Radulovic and I raced into Bologna on the heels of our infantry and tanks. It was early in the morning of 21 April 1945, scarcely a week since the long-awaited offensive had begun, the fuse ignited by troops of the 10th Mountain Division. We did not yet know that the drive would culminate in the surrender of all German forces in Italy or that the fighting would soon be at an end for most of us. The infantrymen I had worked among throughout most of the winter, specifically the 133d Regiment of General Bolte’s 34th Division, rode atop the tanks...

  18. CHAPTER TWELVE Milan, Mussolini, and Victory
    (pp. 161-167)

    When the Allied armies broke from the Apennine Mountains to flood across the Po Valley, Savo and I—recognizing the futility of trying to record the rapidly changing scene—had no idea of what to do or where to go. The Germans were reported to be confused and helpless; they offered little in the way of resistance, and many were individually and collectively attempting to surrender and save their hides. We had long been stalemated by the stubborn German defenses and frustrated by the heavy mud and slush of the bitter cold winter, yet always in clear view of our...

  19. CHAPTER THIRTEEN Peace at Last
    (pp. 169-180)

    Whenever I journeyed to the front, it proved impossible to foresee what lay ahead or estimate the time I would be gone from the Historical Section. When finally I would head for “home,” the entire Fifth Army headquarters was likely to have moved, pulling the artists and historians along and then assigning them to some other remote, peripheral area. I would have to make numerous inquiries in order to discover where my personal belongings had been taken and where I would bunk. Most of the time the artists and historians lived and worked in tents, but there were periods when...

  20. Epilogue
    (pp. 181-200)

    While I was stationed at the Pentagon awaiting notification of my formal discharge from the military, Pat and I had the opportunity to visit with army friends just back from overseas and recently reunited with their spouses. We also explored the wonders of our nation’s capital, the impressive memorials in particular, and visited Congress in session. We shared slide-viewing with others and pored over the pictures I had brought back from Italy and North Africa.

    It is customary for Americans returning from vacations in exotic lands to bring home photographic documentation of their journeys, understandably centering on the subjects whose...

  21. Index
    (pp. 201-206)