Military Wiki

American official war artists have been part of the American military since 1917. Artists are unlike the objective camera lens which records only a single instant and no more. The war artist captures instantaneous action and conflates earlier moments of the same scene within one compelling image.[1]

""We're not here to do poster art or recruiting posters .... What we are sent to do is to go to the experience, see what is really there and document it—as artists."
Sgt. Kristopher Battles, USMC.[2]


In World War I, eight artists commissioned as captains in the U.S. Corps of Engineers. These men were sent to Europe to record the activities of the American Expeditionary Forces.[3]

In 1941, the Navy Combat Art Program was founded in order to ensure that competent artists would be present at the scene of history-making events. Eight active duty artists developed a record of all phases of World War II; and all major naval operations have been depicted by Navy artists. During the Korean War, the program was revived with two military artists in combat contexts. Since then, artists have been sent to other combat zones, including the Persian Gulf.[1]

The U.S. Army War Art Unit was established in late 1942; and by the spring of 1943, 42 artists were selected. In May 1943, Congress withdrew funding the unit was inactivated.[3] The Army's Vietnam Combat Art Program was started in 1966. Teams of soldier-artists created pictorial accounts and interpretations for the annals of army military history. These teams of five soldier-artists typically spent 60 days of temporary duty (TDY) in Vietnam embedded with various units. The U. S. Army Center of Military History (CMH) currently includes an Army Art Collection with about 40 representative war artists.[4]

In 1992, the Army Staff Artist Program was attached to the United States Army Center of Military History. Army artists are a permanent part of the Museum Division's Collections Branch.[3]

There are significant differences in the artwork created by the branches of the U.S. military:

""When you go over to the Air Force, the art is all airplanes. In the Navy, it's all ships. Army art tends to be more about the battle, and the Army loves trucks. They're fixated on vehicles. But the Marine Corps is fixated on Marines."
— Anita Blair, chief strategist at the National Security Professional Development Integration Office.[2]


Rice distribution at Carrefour in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010. Oil sketch by Sgt. Kristopher Battles, USMC

Military art and the work of American military artists includes both peacetime and wartime. For example, USMC combat artist Kristopher Battles deployed with American forces in Haiti to provide humanitarian relief as part of Operation Unified Response after the disastrous earthquake in 2010.[5]

Select artists

World War I

World War II

Vietnam Era

Soldier Artist Participants in the U. S. Army Vietnam Combat Artists Program

  • CAT I, 15 Aug - 15 Dec 1966, Roger A. Blum (Stillwell, KS), Robert C. Knight (Newark, NJ), Ronald E. Pepin (East Hartford, CT), Paul Rickert (Philadelphia, PA), Felix R. Sanchez (Fort Madison, IA), John O. Wehrle (Dallas, TX), and supervisor, Frank M. Sherman.
  • CAT II, 15 Oct 1966 - 15 Feb 1967, Augustine G. Acuna (Monterey, CA), Alexander A. Bogdanovich (Chicago, IL), Theodore E. Drendel (Naperville, IL), David M. Lavender (Houston, TX), Gary W. Porter (El Cajon, CA), and supervisor, Carolyn M. O'Brien.
  • CAT III, 16 Feb - 17 June 1967, Michael R. Crook (Sierra Madre, CA), Dennis O. McGee (Castro Valley, CA), Robert T. Myers (White Sands Missile Range, NM), Kenneth J. Scowcroft (Manassas, VA), Stephen H. Sheldon (Los Angeles, CA), and supervisor, C. Bruce Smyser.
  • CAT IV, 15 Aug - 31 Dec 1967, Samuel E. Alexander (Philadelphia, MS), Daniel T. Lopez (Fresno, CA), Burdell Moody (Mesa, AZ), James R. Pollock (Pollock, SD), Ronald A. Wilson (Alhambra, CA), and technical supervisor, Frank M. Thomas.
  • CAT V, 1 Nov 1967 - 15 March 1968, Warren W. Buchanan (Kansas City, MO), Philip V. Garner (Dearborn, MI), Phillip W. Jones (Greensboro, NC), Don R. Schol (Denton, TX), John R. Strong (Kanehoe, HI), and technical supervisor, Frank M. Thomas.
  • CAT VI, 1 Feb - 15 June 1968, Robert T. Coleman (Grand Rapids, MI), David N. Fairrington (Oakland, CA), John D. Kurtz IV (Wilmington, DE), Kenneth T. McDaniel (Paris, TN), Michael P. Pala (Bridgeport, CT).
  • CAT VII, 15 Aug - 31 Dec 1968, Brian H. Clark (Huntington, NY), William E. Flaherty Jr. (Louisville, KY), William C. Harrington (Terre Haute, IN), Barry W. Johnston (Huntsville, AL), Stephen H. Randall (Des Moines, IA), and supervisor, Fitzallen N. Yow.
  • CAT VIII, 1 Feb - 15 June 1969, Edward J. Bowen (Carona Del Mar, CA), James R. Drake (Colorado Springs, CO), Roman Rakowsky (Cleveland, OH), Victory V. Reynolds (Idaho Falls, ID), Thomas B. Schubert (Chicago, IL), and supervisor, Fred B. Engel.
  • CAT IX, 1 Sept 1969 - 14 Jan 1970, David E. Graves (Lawrence, KS), James S. Hardy (Coronado, CA), William R. Hoettels (San Antonio, TX), Bruce N. Rigby (Dekalb, IL), Craig L. Stewart (Laurel, MD), and supervisor, Edward C. Williams.

Recent conflicts

See also



Further reading

  • Gallatin, Albert Eugene. Art and the Great War. (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1919).
  • Cornebise, Alfred. Art from the trenches: America's uniformed artists in World War I. (A & M University Press, 1991).
  • Harrington, Peter, and Frederic A. Sharf. "A Splendid Little War". The Spanish-American War, 1898: The Artists' Perspective. (London: Greenhill, 1998). ISBN 1-85367-316-1

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