Jump to content

INFO REQ: Artist Illustration


Recommended Posts

world war I nerd

Another great illustration Courtney.


Something that just dawned on me was that in 1917 as soon as troops boarded the ship they were confined to the lower decks until the vessel was out of sight of the U.S. coastline. At the time the War Department was concerned about German spies working on the docks keeping track of how many U.S. troops sailed for France. Because the initial numbers were so low, they didn't want German intelligence to find out just how low the figures actually were.


In fact when General Pershing and his staff sailed for Europe in May of 1917, each enlisted man and officer was ordered to show up wearing civilian clothing in an effort to fool any German spies lurking on the docks. Unfortunately one officer didn't get the word and he showed up in uniform spoiling the ruse.


Sometime in 1918 the practice of keeping the troops out of sight below decks was discontinued. Therefore the majority of the troops that sailed for France up until the spring or summer of 1918 never got to see America fading in the distance.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks Brian! - Well, I guess this will just have to be chalked up to artistic license. Of course, we can never know precisely where Phil and his buddies were on the Adriatic. One can hope that there were always some exceptions to the rule, and since the book the illustration will be in doesn't claim to be a documentary or an unerring historic record… maybe that lets me somewhat off the hook? :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Great illustrations Cortney!


One thing I'm not sure of, is whether or not the men would be allowed above decks in the harbor. I seem to recall reading a unit history that explicitly mentioned the men were kept below until they cleared the harbor; I guess to prevent spies from observing a fully laden troopship which would be a juicy target. Then again, the spies only had to have eyes on their head to see the troops embarking at the piers!




Edit: Just turned to page three and see WWINerd has already pointed this out.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks RC!… One way I could excuse myself might be to say that… all we see are ten men on the fantail of the Adriatic, and that this might possibly be some sort of briefing of a select few men who will be organizing various tasks and duties aboard ship during the two-week voyage. The rest of the men are below deck.

I know. Poor excuse.

I'll soon have another question to ask the knowledgeable folks on this fine forum on the subject of Chateau-Thierry, the 102nd Infantry/Yankee Division and how Private Edwards' company/regiment/battalion may have been equipped while Pvt. Edwards was acting as runner between various advanced posts near the woods of Trugny and Epieds. I'll state my query more clearly after I gather more info, along with a preliminary sketch.

Thanks all!

- Cort



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello all - Thanks so much again for all your contributions and references helping toward making my work as true-to-history and authentic as possible.
15 years ago, I did an illustration showing Pvt. Edwards writing his last letter to his parents. With much less reference and research available to us back then, I portrayed him on July 19, 1918 in a rough dugout trench with his buddy. I assumed that it was daylight, Phil is writing his letter, and on the surface, a soldier (officer? enlisted man?) walks, wearing his OD shirt (no service coat) and in his hand is a paper document of some sort. A lone plane flies overhead. Apparently, there is little or no impending danger, given the relaxed attitudes.


One could assume that the soldier at the surface is collecting letters from soldiers to be taken back to a rear area for safety. Private Edwards' "last" letter was indeed sent home. I have no idea if the letter was found on his body when he was KIA two days later, or if it had been handed off for safekeeping away from the battle zone.


My question is twofold … (and we broached the subject somewhat before)

First question:

Does anyone know if there were regulations prohibiting the removal of the service coat in battle zones/combat areas, etc? … And if so, how strictly might those regulations have been observed? I think we've all seen photographs of U.S. soldiers in their shirtsleeves, without the service coat, and sometimes in situations which look like they are in the midst of action, but without exact historical context for each photo, it's tough to judge what is being portrayed in the photo.


There is the danger of reading regulations and thinking that they reflect the reality of the situation… i.e. each man dressed precisely, neat and orderly with his equipment arranged per the book.

Second question:

What would be the disposition of the field packs during an action? Would the bayonet scabbard be repositioned to the belt and the pack left behind? Would the pack be relieved of its less essential, heavier items to lighten the load? Would every situation dictate a different decision about the filed pack?

I'm attaching the illustration in question. Dependng on what we find out, I may be retouching the art to more accurately reflect what we think is an image that is more faithful to historic fact. Thanks!


Link to comment
Share on other sites

world war I nerd

In respect to wearing the service coat at the front, I suspect there were General Orders set forth by GHQ, AEF mandating what the average American Doughboy was to wear in combat. if such an order was issued I have yet to see it.


I say this because Pershing was a bit of a martinet when it came to the appearance of his soldiers. This stemmed from the fact that when American entered the Great War, French and British commanders viewed the U.S. Army as little more than a frontier constabulary force that was incapable of successfully carrying out the sophisticated type of warfare being fought on the Western Front. In Pershing's mind a poorly dressed soldier, whether in combat or further to the rear would only reinforce the poor impression that the Allied commanders initially had regarding the AEF. Because of this he was not shy about removing commanders whose troops cosmetic appearance failed to meet his high standards. Because most senior commanders wanted to keep their jobs, the practice of ensuring than one's troops were properly dressed at all times would have for the most part trickled down to smaller units.


Also, when in the trenches, whether they were active, quiet or practice, the Doughboys were under orders to sleep with all of their clothing on, even shoes as they had to be ready to stand to at a moments notice.


If any soldier was in an area that was prone to gas attacks, they would have worn their service coats to prevent mustard gas burns. Mustard gas was designed to incapacitate a soldier, not kill him. The theory being that 1,000 gas casualties would be more crippling to an army's infrastructure as those casualties would tie up many thousands of field medics, stretcher bearers, ambulance drivers & hospital personnel for as long as 60 days.


if exposed skin came in contact with mustard gas within a few hours it would blister, turn black and peel off, almost as if the soldier's skin had been flayed. I've read accounts of Doughboys that had mentioned having numerous mustard gas burns due to all the holes in their clothing. In cold and damp conditions the mustard gas lingered on the ground for days even when there was gas present in the air. Again, any soldier whose exposed skin came in contact with the lingering mustard gas would have to be evacuated as a gas casualty the next day. In another account, a platoon of replacements arrived in a gas ridden area of the front and bed down in a shell hole. As it turned out, the shell hole was contaminated with mustard gas and by morning, the gas had soaked through the inexperienced Doughboys clothing and almost all the skin from their buttocks and backs had been burned off.


My point being that a front line soldier would likely wear the service coat at all times unless he was out of danger or involved in strenuous activity like firing artillery, evacuating wounded or digging trenches.


In respect to packs, when troops were moving up to the line specifically for an attack, a mile or two before the jumping off position they were ordered to drop their superfluous equipment and form what was called the "battle pack". In nearly every case, the battle pack was comprised of only the haversack or upper half of the pack, mess kit, eating utensils, extra underwear & socks, a few toilet articles, emergency and reserve rations, as well as the bayonet and either a shovel, pick-mattock, hand ax or wire cutters, if issued, and an overcoat or rain coat when ordered. Their pack tails along with everything else were marked and left behind. In theory the discarded equipment was to be collected and returned to the men when they came out of the trenches. Unfortunately for thousands of Doughboys, their unattended personal possessions were either lost, destroyed or pilfered of anything of value and urgently needed items such as socks or underwear by whom ever happened to be passing by.


If no pack was worn, which would have been unlikely, unless the individual was a runner or member of a trench raid, yes the bayonet would have been suspended from the belt if a rifle was carrier.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

world war I nerd

I should have added that after going over, some soldiers may have removed their packs to accomplish a certain task. Unless the pack contained nothing of value, most Doughboys wouldn't risk losing whatever the pack contained, especially the rations as there was no guarantee that he'd be able to return to the exact spot where it was left. Almost to a man, the Doughboys grumbled about not getting enough to eat in the trenches. There were numerous cases of men going hungry for a day or two because rations simply could not be brought up. This made food, water and tobacco a very valuable commodity in the trenches.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks so much, WWI Nerd, for the valuable info regarding the details about the wearing of the service coat and the field pack! This will be informing my illustration showing Private Edwards' final mission as a runner, as well as how the illustration (above, showing Pvt. Edwards writing his final letter to his parents ) might be retouched or corrected. The soldier in shirtsleeves will likely be taken out.

I'm also in touch with a historian in France about the exact disposition of Pvt. Edwards' unit on July 19-21. He has walked and investigated the battlefields of Chateau Thierry, including the woods and the shell hole where Pvt. Edwards was buried (before his body was disinterred in 1921 and reburied in his home town in CT.) I'm hoping that he will shed some light on the actual location where Edwards wrote his last letter as well as where might have been the jumping off point for Edwards' last mission as a runner.

In the meantime, I'm posting another illustration with a WWI military theme. There was no problem with research or authenticity with this one since my assignment was to work directly from a photograph of the 26th Division's "Welcome Home" parade in Boston on April 25th 1919.

The challenge was illustrating all of the participants.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...