Saturday, May 26, 2012
World War II combat artist Ed Reep painted this picture the morning after 17 men were killed on the beachhead at Anzio, Italy. He was very fortunate that he was not among them.
The ingenious men of the U.S. Army had dug a movie theater into the ground to avoid the shells lobbed at them by the Germans. That night, Reep decided to stay in his foxhole rather than go to Bing Crosby's Going My Way. While he was in his foxhole, a German 155mm shell landed between his foxhole and the theater. He heard screams of agony, and, already terrified, tried to pull himself together to go help. A second shell struck and he stayed put.
The next morning, haunted by the experience and wondering if he could ever paint again, he made a decision. He decided to paint right then and there.
This painting is called The Morning After. "It depicted dazed soldiers stripped to the waist and emotionless, gathering up the remnants of clothing and equipment for the fallen men and stacking it in neat piles," Reep said.
Art has the power to show us reality in all its many facets. Reep's painting shows not only the physical tragedy of war, but the emotional tragedy on the human being.
Many veterans, past and present, lived with those emotional scars. And far, far too many soldiers died a physical death. Both sacrificed. And on Memorial Day, both must be remembered.