This World War II Hero’s Art Said What Words Couldn’t

The aristocrat-turned-commando Guy de Montlaur was a hero of the French liberation. His paintings of D-Day depict scenes that haunted him his entire life.

Comments: 98

  1. What beautiful, moving works. I am so glad that we are starting to focus on the human and emotional toll of war rather than glamorizing it.

  2. I've never heard of this man or his works, and am very grateful to the Times for having published this piece. I'm forwarding this to a friend who is a West Point graduate and lives in New Orleans.

  3. So few comments! Is anyone paying attention to the reality and vividness of this man's experience? It makes me think that we have forgotten--unfortunately--his generation's and his own heroism, even though we owe them a great debt. Very Impressive art! We need to recognize and honor such artists!

  4. @A.L. The artist's life and his paintings say what needs be said. It is a humbling saga.

  5. @A.L. The comments are few : The paintings are attempts by the painter to ease his pain of experiencing hell on earth . This is not art for decoration. These images take us to a battle that the artist who experienced it can never forget. Not images of the glory of war and heroism. These are images of an unbearable personal experience of fighting, death, and dying as it happened... experience that could not be forgotten or erased.

  6. I certainly haven’t forgotten. I have studied it all my life. The sacrifice and the effort to prevail were beyond belief

  7. Lovely and paintings. What beautiful and powerful story because it speaks for so many. Of course World War was traumatic.

  8. Thank you, NYT!

  9. Would there be any wars if the people at the top went first? Incredible art, thank you NYT.

  10. When I was 16 years old I watched World at War one Sunday night on PBS.It was and hour color film on the invasion of three Japanese islands in WWll. War is death ,destruction and a living nightmare.Why is it still going on is the question.The Art is cool but it wasn't worth the experience .

  11. This article is an example of why I subscribe to the NYTimes. More of this, please.

  12. As good as deKooning, that's for sure.

  13. @Horace, An American-born French aunt of mine submitted at age 19, drafts of large-scale maps for the invasion of Normandy on D-Day to General Marshall and his staff. She never spoke of the above to my recollection. In 1955, my brother and I, joined her and our cousins in East Hampton, where she was active in art circles and curator of exhibitions (Guild Hall) which included the abstract works of Jackson Pollock, Wilhem de Koening, James Brooks, and many others. She would let us play hide-and-seek behind the blank canvases of Pollock which she stored for him. This piece by Dave Philipps introducing the artwork of Guy de Montlaur is of interest to this viewer, who finds these paintings of his, extraordinary and filled with slashing violence. Whether his work can be compared to another is in the eye of the beholder, but the depth of feeling revealed in 'Fire' to name just one, would cause a brave soul not to blink on waking up and viewing the above. Joining others in thanking the N.Y. Times for bringing this conflicted artist to its readership's attention, and forwarding to an Austrian friend, 'In Memory of What I Cannot Say", powerful, and depicting the tragedy of what cannot be understood.

  14. The French were the only occupied country that cooperated with Hitler's Germany. They welcomed the Nazi occupation, served in the German army, helped deport their French Jews to the concentration camps. Nazi flags were displayed on all the French buildings. The resistance was a minimal, rag tag group. But, the French have celebrated them and mythologized them ever since the U.S.A "liberated"France. The French know that they were Nazi cooperators and that haunts their image of themselves. Not because they didn't like the Nazis, but because Nazi Germany was defeated.

  15. What an insult to the French! @JAG who clearly has an axe to grind with a revisionist history. Where are your experts or citations to support such an inaccurate portrayal of France? I lived with a French family whose grandfather’s farm was taken over by the Nazis and yet the family still had the courage to harbor resistance fighters in the barn.

  16. @JAG The French history after their surrender in 1940 was very mixed, and the participation in the resistance often exaggerated. But if one actually reads the history of this time, one really cannot make judgments about them that can be fair. Germany was a country that prepared and was ready to conquer the world. France, the U.K., and the U.S. and all the little countries, as well at the U.S.S.R. were not. The crushing victories of the Germans deeply disheartened all who lost to them in 1940 and 1941. France was totally defeated and the French who still had heart to fight were a small proportion. Even as late as early 1944, the U.K. really did not want to face the Germans in full mechanized warfare in Northern Europe where they had interior lines which meant they could quickly move troops from East to West, again. People like de Montlaur were the exceptions, not the rule.

  17. @AMOB I do not doubt that they harbored resistance fighters in the barn but how long and how frequently from 1940 to 1945? It does not matter. All German men of a certain age assured me that they had only fought Russians when I visited in 1969.

  18. Without people putting down feelings beyond words in painting, music, dance, even the lesser arts of video and photography (lesser because not possible without technology), we’re nothing more than dust motes in the wind. Thanks for the enlightening profile.

  19. The art is not easily understood. The strokes and colors convey feelings but not clearly and simply. One needs to compare the images to get any kind of idea what is being expressed. Even then, without knowing the context, it's very vague. I am sure that people who have been educated in the code of abstract art that tries to express feelings probably find it as clear as a well formed work of declarative sentences.

  20. @Casual Observer I love his paintings— and knowing the history of his work, I love his work even more. To me, abstract painting conveys emotions or feelings that can’t be captured in more realistic work. My heart aches for him.

  21. @Casual Observer As is the case with most abstract art the lack of specific identifying forms in the chaos and clash of blinding colors probably represents the overwhelming undifferentiated psychological memory of the carnage that he was unable to bring to the surface to articulate.

  22. "...as Americans were landing on beaches farther to the west." Yeah, if we are to believe the last 75 years of Hollywood myth-making. Which direction were the Canadians in then?

  23. @Brian Grover The Normandy waterfront runs East to West from about Caen to the Cotentin Peninsula. The Canadians, British, and free French invaded Sword, Gold, and Juno beaches near Cain, and were East of Omaha and Utah beaches and Point du Hoc, invaded by the Americans who were to secure the Cotentin Peninsula.

  24. @Casual Observer The Boys of Pont du Hoc will live forever. I was a child when the war ended, so I know from history. My uncles who were young, ages 25 and 26, became captains in the Navy due to early losses of officers. They left law school and never returned. They stayed at sea after the peace, joined Mobil Oil and Standard Oil to become Captains on tankers. One became a VP, and retired on Bali. The other took tankers through Puget Sound. They never talked about the war, except for the time the Captain of an aircraft carrier told my father about going through the Islands to bring young Marines to hospitals in Hawaii. He said the Marines deserved every honor and benefit we had. I don't remember him saying much else.

  25. No, we don’t think that our veterans from WW2 did not suffer from PTSD. We only did not label it as such. My father clearly had it from 3 years of fighting in New Guinea and the Phillipines. Uncles had it from various sources. They had it, they just didn’t have the name for it. After all, what’s in a name?

  26. Thank you NYT for a glimpse into the life and work of Guy de Montlaur. His work is so powerful and vivid and arresting. Had never seen examples of his paintings, but he deserves to be listed with the greats of his time.

  27. A great article, and a powerful exhibit of great art. Thank you.

  28. Thank you for this article and telling us about this talented man and his life after Normandy and all of it.

  29. I never assumed that WWII vets came home psychologically unscathed. It was unprecedented savagery in both theaters, compounded by elements that were unimaginably awful. My dad fought on Saipan and he talked about it. It left a permanent mark on me

  30. @Mark Actually, the strong propaganda did not support sympathy for those who were taken out of combat due to battle fatigue. They were pictured as just too weak to make a useful contribution. It did give sympathy to those who served and suffered from all kinds of symptoms, afterwards. Only the people who endured combat themselves seemed to have much sympathy for the ones who cracked. The focus was upon encouraging everyone to give it all that they could and to bolster their willingness to face all the violence.

  31. @Mark One of my Mother's comments about my Dad was" Good thing we don't own a gun, he would kill himself." My Dad was very effected by his time serving as a Sergeant in a tank division. His paid a price.

  32. My dad also fought on Saipan with the USMC 2nd Division. He was part of the second wave. He somewhat resented all the attention Normandy got over the D-Day on Saipan that occurred just 9 days later on 6/15/44. Like Normandy, Saipan was extremely bloody and a major turning point in the war. Once secured massive bombing of Japan began since planes could fly round trip for the first time. Saipan also was where Enola Gay and Bockscar took off to drop their atomic bombs.

  33. I'm no great expert but I believe Montlaur's unit was 1er Bataillon de Fusiliers Marins Commandos. Kieffer was the commander not the namesake - in case anyone wants to find out more about them. I enjoyed the interesting article and agree the painting is first rate and affecting.

  34. Fine painting, of an important moment in the history of the Second World War and of the nation of France. Charles J. Miller, who served with the United States Army in the central Pacific, was in peacetime a self-taught artist who painted a vivid, detailed, colorful important visual record of what he had seen in the Pacific: landings, airfields, the pressure and the release of military life. It does not really stretch things to say that he said as much about the Pacific War as the Bayeux Tapestry says about the Norman Conquest. Charles Wright's paintings can be seen in his home state of New Hampshire, at the Wright Military Museum. I first saw them when they were featured in the Boston Globe. The Wright Museum has also put together a traveling exhibit. Here is the link:https://www.wrightmuseum.org/traveling-exhibit/

  35. Art that needs no words. Presentation says it all and it is frightening. Excellent.

  36. It is naive to think or say that no war veterans before the current ones suffered from PTSD...it was not called that, but so what? WWI had "shell shock"...I'm sure every war had a name for what happened to young men thrown into scenes of horror and brutality. A fascinating article!

  37. @RLiss To: RLiss "Battle Fatigue" was another one used in WWII, as I recall. Can't forget Patton "slapping some sense" into a "coward" suffering from battle fatigue who couldn't face going back. Politicians have been playing soldiers with living human beings for centuries. Trump was quoted as saying that his ramp up in the Arabian Gulf is his way of making up for not having served.

  38. @marcia Making up with other people’s lives again...

  39. Some amazing art! Thanks for this article.

  40. I had seen the self-portrait before but didn't know his personal history then. Looking at the rest of his paintings now, it makes sense for the glaring slashes of colour and the eyes in his portrait... I comprehend the sensitive, artistic soul which must have taken a battering in the WW-II. His paintings has something of a roadside-accident quality... you are dreading the gore but still cannot look away. And thank you for pointing out that film, Let there be Light. I've taken care of soldiers (for other diseases) but who also had PTSD at VAs. Watching that film, reminded me of their raw and desperate struggle, reciting their tales, death a constant thread. It is the eyes you don't forget, and despite black and white, I can see it is the same expression again and again.

  41. How hauntingly beautiful. It makes me sad that it took horrific events for him (and the millions of other veterans too) to create these pieces of art.

  42. Tremendous work. Thank you NYT for the article. I'm depressed lately because Americans seem to have forgotten what we fought for. The brutality of the Nazis was unspeakable. They were an affront to all civilized values. Yet today we have a resurgence in America of all places, and so many young people have no sense of this horror, the horror of totalitarianism, of a dictator who held a great nation in thrall to his insanity, his vision of ethnic purity. Racism is stylish now, antisemitism rising sharply, with deadly consequences. Truth is trampled by lies. This is how the Nazis ruled. So the French soldier finds truth in paint because words were meaningless and utterly incapable of expressing incomprehensible horror. But it isn't just young people who don't remember. We have little resistance on the Right to a would-be dictator who is being enabled by an American political party who not so long ago was willing to bomb Iraq into democracy. I keep waiting for them to wake up - wake up and defend the Republic before it's too late.

  43. @Sophia “As the memory of World War II, the Holocaust and the Gulag fades, so too does the antipathy to the illiberal ideologies that spawned Europe’s past horrors. This is evidenced in the rising electoral success of populist authoritarian parties of the extreme left and right, none of which have anything new to say, yet claim the mantle of ideological innovation and moral virtue.” James Kirchick, “The End of Europe” What Mr. Kirchick writes is equally valid for what is happening in these times in these United States.

  44. My grandfather fought in WW2 in SE Asia and then as part of the occupation forces in Japan for three years, going into Nagasaki just a week after the bomb had been dropped there. What a silly thing to say we thought they didn’t suffer from PTSD - he was in and out of veteran’s hospitals for the rest of his life due to self-harm and catatonic depressive spells. There were so many like him and it affects everything now. As with Iraq, he was disgusted by the culture of rebuilding contracts and was convinced that Japan had been egged on by those same people in the first place. As were many countries. They don’t deserve our children.

  45. Well-written, insightful and informative. Thank you, for presenting this particular aspect of the D-Day invasion.

  46. Dark, dark shades of Picasso's "Guernica." We all express angst, pain and the search for understanding in different mediums and manners.

  47. his work reminded me of Picasso as well, I really almost like it better

  48. @GMR A rhetorical question is in order. Would we be talking about a 1937 event in Guernica were in not for that painting and Picasso's fame? I am thrilled that Guy de Montiaur is getting his due. Fame is elusive but there is justice. Finally.

  49. My parents had a friend, a surgeon, who tended to the wounded in WW2. He was so affected by the carnage that he ended up in a mental hospital where he died during an electric shock treatment.

  50. @Molly K. They gave my grandfather electrick shock ‘therapy’ too. The idea was to wipe his memories.

  51. @Molly K. My grandfather, a stretcher-bearer in WWI, ended up in a mental ward too. I'm glad they weren't using electroshock therapy then. Still, his relatives agree that the war changed him forever. I remember him as angry, an understandable outcome of someone who's been so close to carnage.

  52. By law, giclee prints of these paintings, made large, should hang inside and outside every Recruiting Office.

  53. @Fourteen14 and voting booths.

  54. My father was a chaplain's assistant that accompanied troops landing on Utah beach. He didn't talk about it except to say that when they finally advanced off the beach into the "hedgerows", that there were dead Germans who were still tangled in the bushes. As a religious person, he had to deal with that. In fact, I never realized his experience until I met a chaplain's assistant who had served in Vietnam. His point: we dealt with those that the medics wouldn't spend time on. I'm not sure what my father's outlet was. Not art. Not overt. But he found ways.

  55. I find this work visceral, shockingly intimate, miraculously abstract and eloquent. Sometimes painfully so. So glad to be introduced to this artist and his work!

  56. Such color, such composition, and such pain. Wow. These paintings are Montlaur's exposing his soul to us, if we could only understand his message. There is some Picasso to his paintings, but not even Picasso could paint those colors in such a composition. He never felt life the way Montlaur did. Montlaur's paintings explode with more pain than Picasso ever could feel. I wish I could get to New Orleans to view this exhibit. I wish I could find fabric with his colorways. I would make the most beautiful curtains from the colors and compositions.

  57. @Teedee Montlaur's paintings are great, and I'm sure he experienced pain such as Picasso - and others who didn't experience war -never did. But the rest of your comment betrays your total ignorance about Picasso, a prolific genius who reinvented painting and who by the age of 15 had mastered all the technical elements of his craft.

  58. @Teedee Picasso risked being murdered by the Nazis after he did 'Guernica.' I was privileged to view that work at MOMA; today you must travel to Spain.

  59. Ugo Giannini was also an artist who landed on the shores of Normandy on June 6th, 1944, on Omaha beach. Along with his rifle, he carried a sketch pad and pencil. While dodging bullets and advancing forward, he sketched the scenes of war all around him. Almost miraculously, Ugo and the sketches survived D-Day and the war. Like so many other veterans, he did not talk about D-Day or his war experiences and his drawings went undiscovered until after he died. Now, the only known drawings done on D-Day have been gathered together in a book called Drawing D-Day and his drawings have been displayed in the US and in France. For the next several weeks, the drawings are on display in Lynchburg, VA as part of the 75th D-Day memorial service conducted by the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, VA. https://www.newsadvance.com/news/local/drawing-d-day-images-of-the-historic-invasion-from-a/article_bf90653f-00e9-5a40-b7d3-d2656bb7ac95.html

  60. This is a moving article that is nonetheless marred by the casual and ahistorical nature of this statement: "We tend to assume that soldiers who fought in World War II returned home unscathed, that psychological injuries like post-traumatic stress disorder only came with later generations." No one who has even a passing knowledge of the effect of combat on veterans assumes this. Films made after WWII ("The Men," "The Best Years of Our Lives" and others depicted what was then called "combat fatigue." So did films made after the Korean War. Anyone encountering the history of WWI has encountered the term " shell shock." The point is that these terms were popularized and in fairly common use long before this century began. The author might have used "I" rather than "we." The tendency to use the word "we" as in "we know" or "we think" has become far, far too common, especially in outlets "we" are expected to take seriously, like the New York Times.

  61. Unfortunately, most people who watched such films were more influenced by the John Wayne type-films where soldiers moved on after getting a "through and through" shot in the shoulder ("Just a scratch, Sarge!"). Ask most Viet Nam war vets and they carried the WW2 fantasy of war into the Southeast Asian jungles.

  62. @blueingreen66 Not to be overly pedantic, the term "shell shock" comes from World War I. Not only was it recognized then but some of the pioneering therapies used to fight it date from that time. So, yes, shell shock, battle fatigue, PTSD was an issue before the Second World War.

  63. @East Coaster in the Heartland: John Wayne did not do military service in World War II. While other actors and directors served, he appeared in 13 films.

  64. His paintings are a compelling and searing cri du coeur.

  65. These paintings are extraordinary - beautiful and agonized. Thank you for this story and photos.

  66. Some 44 years ago I dated a World War II veteran. Frank sustained shrapnel woulds to his back in Italy. While he noted that I talked in my sleep (about the legal concept of promissory estoppel, of all things, because I was in my first year of NYU Law), he slept on his stomach like a baby. I can only imagine the kind of horrors Frank experienced in combat. All he shared with me was recuperating in a hospital in Italy, and Marlene Dietrich and Orson Welles entertaining everyone there. The war, and the mores of his time, prevented him from fully accepting the love I gave him deeply. He was a promising artist before the war, and, unlike M. Montlaur, Frank never captured any of his experiences in paint or drawing, even as catharsis. Frank was branded by the social norms and the time in which he lived; I was lucky coming of age in peace and tolerance when I did. But not a day passes when the bittersweet memory of our year together comes back, along with the wish that we could meet again.

  67. Combat PTSD is the current name for "soldier's heart," the term from our Civil War. "Homesickness" was the word that came to describe battle-weary soldiers yearning for home. Various terms have described the human response since the first wars. And, so, I have seen a map of a French village with shops, homes, barns and livestock drawn by an American WW2 vet--with three American tanks on the road that snaked through the village. The tanks had exited the village. He pointed to the loft of a barn from where a German was perched. A tank gunner saw the gunflashes and launched a response, killing the German and blowing apart a section of the barn. This was during the Battle of the Bulge. The vet mobilized a cluster of memories from out of his head and onto paper. Without words. A graphite pencil sketch on the back of an old calendar page. And then he spoke, unfolding his story like he unfolded the map. He separated himself from those events by one degree. One step. A start. These events that haunted & tortured him since the war were not as overwhelming. He was worn-weary from the burden of those events, replaying daily. For decades. Decades of containing & suppressing. Art and is a powerful, healing device. The art of Mountlaur is intensely expressive with color and brush strokes. I am grateful the NYT published this piece and thankful to the artist's daughter for sharing her father's works. I hope he died a comfortable death.

  68. In WW2, it was called "combat fatigue."

  69. My Grandmother was a British nurse during WWI. My Grandfather served in the trenches from beginning to end. He was mildly gassed, but otherwise suffered little physical harm. Many years later, he told my mother that he had never fired his machine gun at enemy soldiers (a more common event than we assume), but over their heads. My Grandmother was one of the first nurses to be trained as a Psychiatric nurse, and mainly cared for “shell shock” patients. While neither of them spoke much about the war, other than passing comments, it was clear that as a 16 year old at the start of the war, she was traumatized by her patients’ symptoms. Particularly hard was the fact that they were supposed to return them to a functioning state so that they could be sent back to the front again. Many soldiers in deep distress were executed in the front lines for cowardice.

  70. Men of that era looked so distinguished with their tobacco pipes.

  71. @John Doe My father was a solider of that era and looked distinguished with his pipe... until his lung cancer. As a child I would lie in bed at night and hear him cough in the bathroom. It led eventually to a sad, long decline to an early, ugly death. There was nothing distinguished about it. My sister and i probably would suffer to a greater degree from our dad's second-hand smoke if my mother did not refuse to let our dad smoke in the house. Almost every photo we have our father shows him with his pipe. To this day I regret buying him Three-Star Blue tobacco for his birthdays and was too young and stupid to try and make him stop. It makes me think of how distinguished soldiers look going off to war as compared to how many looked who managed to survive. No wonder the government hid the photos.

  72. My father a combat vet in WW2, who had battles tuberculosis (and was drafted!!!) took up smoking during the war. Luckily, by the 50s/60s, he smoked only at night, and no more than 4 cigs a night. Unlimited Cigs, and cheap bottles of booze were readily available even 1 mile behind the front lines in a Field Hospital.

  73. Those haunting paintings strike as turbocharged with a level of drama, angst, and swirling memories hurled together in the same pot before being thrown back into the beholder's eyes. Rather hard to remain indifferent to the outburst of energy meshed with the impetus summoned to carry out and convey such impulse right onto the board. A visually striking body of works, so timely and relevant in light of the recent commemorations. There is something reminiscent of the Ecole de Paris in the pictural treatment of the surface whereas the subject of war, at will unspools memories of Otto Dix, Goya's disasters of war series. The solid palette knife work seen crisscrossing all across the canvas paired with a solid sense of color offers a true reflection on the sense of an experienced drama, just as that referred in the article and that ungraspable for the rest of us. It's also soothing to note that despite war efforts having snatched this man away from a fledgling artistic career temporarily, he was nonetheless able to return to art afterward. Finally, thanks, both to your service that played a key role in our liberation and likewise to your contribution to Art.

  74. These are masterful. Thanks for sharing them.

  75. The more abstract, the deeper the pain and horror experienced. Thank you for shedding light on this forgotten artist NYT!

  76. Very present. In a very different way (painting), it reminds me of Eugene (Sledgehammer) Sledge’s 1981 memoir “With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa”, which chronicled his overwhelming combat experiences during World War II in the South Pacific.

  77. @Maurie Beck Yes, Sledge's book is one of the best memoirs.

  78. @Maurie Beck A great book for sure. Read “The Boys’ Crusade.”

  79. @Maurie Beck s Same thing here. When I saw the lead painting I thought of that book.

  80. In the 1960s I spent a summer working and living at a resort. One night I awoke about 2am. There was someone outside the window of my room. It soon moved on, but I was spooked. The next morning I asked a fellow worker about it. He said it was the year-around caretaker. Most nights he couldn't sleep. His wife said he had terrible nightmares about his experiences in WWII. So he spent his nights walking the grounds of the resort. Up to that point I was totally unaware of the costs many of our WWII soldiers endured. Like mental illness in general, this was a hidden disease. Thanks for the wonderful article and photos that makes us aware of the other side of WWII.

  81. I can’t believe this guy was not more well known. Judging by these paintings he was astoundingly good.

  82. One has to love that the army did not allow the public to see the John Houston movie Let There Be Light until 1981. Wonder why men or women did not speak of the horrors of what they had witnessed and been a part of for the rest of their lives. I had several uncles who no one knew about their medals or events until they passed away. One who served with Patton's 10th Armored Division wrote poems that were published not of his heroic history, but of the horror of it all and the fact that there should never be another war. They suffered in silence and tried to move on with their lives. The film never released until the forgotten war of Korea and those men and women and of course Vietnam where 200 vets a week kill themselves. Men who survived, but ended haunted not just what they saw, but knowing that someone they killed on orders from their government had a family of loved ones. Today America about to go to war again in Iran for what reason made up by politicians has been in endless wars in my 73 years. I served in the Marines in the Vietnam debacle that our present President saw fit to buy his way out. Yes, I do write on WW II and watch all the movies from back then 90% that are pure propaganda and deal not with the butchery. One or two like The Best Years of Our Lives dealt with the real issues of men returning. One the sailor who had lost both hands had to sell his Oscar since the US did not provide health care for her. Fight for what? Jim Trautman

  83. A spigot to the soul. I hope is journey into time is filed with peace.

  84. The good war.

  85. @jamiebaldwin Not so hasty.

  86. "War....What is it good for...absolutely Nothing....."

  87. Is there any chance of this exhibit traveling to other cities? We could all learn so much from this.

  88. New to me, and it is a long journey from Hove to New Orleans but I should like to see if there is a catalogue. An unimaginable story.

  89. @Christopher Hawtree A small booklet has been printed, which includes a short biography of Guy de Montlaur and reproductions of the 30 paintings on display at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans through 10/20/2019. Please contact the Montlaur family via the montlaur.net Website.

  90. I admire the courage shown by this fine man. Even for the best of causes, such carnage exacted a heavy toll, and makes us think carefully, one would hope, before plunging into such "crusades" in the Middle East, as in 2006, and the continuing morass which is Afghanistan. I've often wondered where the psychological stress from our horrific Civil War went...thinking of people like Col. Chamberlain at the Battle of Gettysburg. I've said before, being of the Vietnam generation, but not drafted, that the bravest thing I could imagine was jumping at night into occupied France as our airborne troops did, or the British commando force led by Major Howard, which took the Pegasus Bridge mentioned here, by glider crash, written about by Stephen Ambrose, who cleaned the horrors up a bit too much. There was much pain and conflict domestically over Vietnam, but it can't compare to what these men witnessed, and I'm sure the civilians around them have their horror stories and acts of courage to relay too. May the women speak up about their experiences, and may the West spare itself a repeat of the 1930's and what followed.

  91. Thank you for this article and especially the connection to the film from John Houston. My father was an Administrative Non-Com in a Field Hospital in Patton's Third Army on the European Front. The WW2 version of a "MASH" unit, no further than a mile from the front, constantly moving east behind the combat zones. Toward the end of the war, even the tents/repurposed buildings with large Red Crosses painted were being bombarded and flacked by the German army. Dad was older (age 30 when drafted) and was a bit more sophisticated than his fellow dog faces. Late in life, he spoke about the feelings he had about the mental, as well as physical injuries he witnessed while in-taking soldiers for care. He felt most helpless with the soldiers who exhibited "combat fatigue" because many seemed to be in another world, outside the obvious pain of torn bodies.

  92. It's unfortunate the pain and horror of war from the soldier's point of view isn't as widely promoted as the chest-thumping and other aggressive displays of, largely, those we used to call chickenhawks. There is very little glory in war; it should be the very last option.

  93. This is not “abstract” art. It is the reality of life-and-death war. These paintings should hang in the Oval Office.

  94. As a veteran, I recognize the ugly side of war in these paintings as if it were text. The ugliness of war cannot be easily described with text, as Montlaur knew.

  95. To counteract the notion that those who fought in WW II and earlier wars came home mentally and emotionally unscathed, read Pat Barker's "Resurrection Trilogy." A British novelist writing about a WW I vet's long struggle with what was then often called battle fatigue. Three very fine novels still in print.

  96. If you want to begin to understand the damage done to the “unscathed “ American soldiers who cam home from WWII I recommend Paul Fussell’s “The Boys’ Crusade” and EB Sledge’s “With the Old Breed.”

  97. You say John Huston's documentary about battle fatigue, "Let There Be Light" was classified by the Army until 1981. I saw it in Berkeley in 1960. Pauline Kael, who was then manager of the Berkeley Cinema Guild, scheduled it. Watching it was a harrowing experience and an awakening.

  98. My next door neighbor was an infantryman at the Battle of the Bulge. We talked a lot about his experiences because I, too, was a veteran and he felt he could confide in me because of our shared experiences. He was clearly suffering severe, untreated PTSD almost 60 years after his service. The notion that WWII vets were "unscathed" is nonsense.