In yesterday’s Veteran’s Day post, we saw a few of the murals that soldiers created while stationed at Keesler Air Base in Biloxi during World War II. Today, after an introduction to how the “Soldier Art” program operated on the base from its director, T/SGT Paul Magriel of the Camouflage Division, we’ll see some of the oil paintings, mostly of life on the base. In these you can see the closely packed barracks, all standardized buildings, and that iconic water tower, ever-present. The fact that most of these are views of the base at night or dusk may show that this was when the soldier artists had free time, or maybe it was just the most pleasant time of the day, when the heat of the sun finally died and things got relatively quiet.
The Soldier Art program has been functioning at this station for a period of one year and during this time has been instrumental in improving the general appearance of the field.
What this has meant to the moral of the soldiers here is in constant evidence. The psychological effect of decorated and painted day-rooms cannot be overestimated. Aside from the fact that they have been developed into pleasant places in which to spend a few liesure hours, they are a constant reminder to the personnel that the Armed Services are concerned and interested in their social welfare.
The program at this field has been conducted with but one purpose in mind: to improve the appearance of the buildings where the men spend most of their spare time, Service Clubs, Recreation Halls, Day-rooms, Theatres and other places of general assembly. Our unit has also been responsible for the painting and decoration of the Red Cross Hospital Recreation Hall and the remodeling and decoration of the Officers’ Club.
We have been fortunate in having a number of talented artists stationed here. Some of them worked with us in their spare time and others have left to carry on elsewhere in other endeavors. The scope and variety of their work and their contribution to this field are partly represented in this book.
There has been very little painting which would come into the category of Art for Art’s sake. The easel pictures, many of them first rate, were designed as part of the day-room decoration scheme. That they add to the interest of an interior is self-evident and moreover it is important that some of the painters in the Armed Services can keep their talents alive and flourishing. Certainly much of the soldier art that has already been produced in this country is of a high quality and constitutes an important documents record of life in the army.
We of the Camouflage Section of the Special Service who have been charged with the responsibility of carrying out this art program are grateful to the Commanding Officer of the field, Colonel Robert E.M. Goolrick. It is due to his enthusiastic interest and encouragement that the few of us engaged in this work have had the opportunity of creating and producing for the entire station.
In this way we make part of our contribution to the present conflict. We hope that our work has been in some measure an instrument of education, an aid to the moral of this station and a present reminder of the freedoms and culture for which all free men fight.
T/SGT. PAUL MAGRIEL
Director, Camouflage Section
of Special Service