This week, to commemorate Veterans Day, I’ll be reprinting segments of a rare and wonderful book I came across on abebooks.com called Art and the Solder: Keesler Field, Mississippi. Published in 1943 and compiled by Capt. A.M. Klum, a Special Service Office in the Army Air Corps, the book shows that even in the midst of preparing for war, the soldiers and airmen at Keesler used their talents to beautify their rather raw environment.
These are the first pictures I’ve ever seen of the interiors of Keesler’s World War II-era buildings. As you may recall, Thomas Rosell posted pictures of these standard-issue buildings last year, and in that post he noted that only one of the WWII buildings remains. This means that most, if not all, of the murals shown in Art and the Soldier are probably long-gone and the pictures in the book are all that remains.
Today, the Forword by the Commander of Keesler Field, Robert E.M. Goolrick, along with a few of the images in the chapter titled “Building Improvements.”
A NATION AT WAR is increasingly conscious of the blessings of peace, but individuals of a nation are not all educated to the full enjoyment of a peaceful era nor the means at their disposal for the pursuit of happiness when peace prevails. The conditions of modern war in which the flower of manhood and womanhood of the nation are mobilized, and under the direct control of the Government, offer an ideal opportunity for the further training and ennoblement of all the people, not only for the rigors and exacting pursuit of war, but for the better appreciation and understanding of many collective things that in after life will make better people and a better nation–and incidentally, that during war will improve the morale, happiness and bravery of the soldier.
In this camp the training of officers and men is vigorous, exacting and tough. This training is carried on during the twenty-four hour period in three shifts. Many soldiers have scarcely an hour a day to call their own. Reproduced in this book are some of the things that are being done to try to make that hour a little more enjoyable. Over 220,000 trainees have left this camp for various destinations, and we believe that each one of them will carry a little inspiration from the efforts of the artists of Keesler Field.
To those who have been accustomed to enjoy the beautiful in any of its forms, these endeavors may perhaps serve to soften the transition to a drabber, sterner environment. Those who come from inaccessible places, where art in its various forms is seldom heard or seen, may find enjoyment and a stimulation for things artistic.
If every opportunity should be taken during the war in every camp to improve our soldiery in all phases of culture as well as to make first rate, first line soldiers, a more comfortable peace for all would ensue and perhaps one that would be more lasting.
This book, “Art and the Soldier,” which shows a small portion of the various works done by the Special Services at this Station is published with confidence that those who see it will understand the motive of the efforts portrayed.
ROBERT E.M. GOOLRICK
Colonel, Army Air Forces,
This series, focusing as it does on murals and other artwork, fits into the theme introduced by Mark Davis in “Restoring Picayune’s Disappeared WPA Mural” and followed by Suzassippi’s “Old Pontotoc Post Office.”