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VFW Magazine January 2018 : Page 33

do most of the kind of work by which he’d previously earned his living. Receiving modest disability payments from the Army, he turned to art as a method of self-expression and dealing with his new life. He start-ed working with a technique called pyrography, burn-ing images onto wood panels with hot instruments. In this way, he creat-ed what Monahan calls “folksy narrative panels” — simple but moving scenes of rural home life and the outdoors. But at the beginning of the 1930s, he turned to a topic he had not tried to depict before in his art: his war experi-ence. At the same time, he changed the medium he was working in, moving now to oil paints on canvas. Completely self-taught, Pippin learned to use his left arm to hold and guide his right hand holding the brush. “His first painting on canvas was of, what appears to be, the battle in which he was wounded,” Monahan said. “So Pippin took up a whole new medium to explain the subject [of his wartime expe-riences]. He wanted to work on a bigger scale than the wood panels would allow.” That painting was The End of the War — Starting Home . He followed that with many other paintings, including some further war images, such as The Barracks and Dog Fight over the Trenches . Pippin said at one point that his war experience “brought out all the art in me…. I paint from it today.” He also chose subjects from rural black home life, American history and the Bible. Pippin’s work began to gain some notoriety around the region and then nationally. At the end of the 1930s, Pippin achieved national acclaim. His paintings were displayed in major galleries around the country, purchased by wealthy col-lectors and celebrities, and published in Time, Vogue and Life magazines. Pippin died of a stroke in 1946, but he remains an important figure in American art. J EMAIL ÔHELLFIGHTERSÕ SERVED 191 DAYS ON THE FRONT More than 350,000 black soldiers served in World War I, almost all of them in segregated units. Though most of those soldiers served in support roles, such as loading ships, digging ditches or building roads, that was not the case for the 369th Infantry Re gi ment, more commonly known as t h e Harlem Hellfi gh ters, or Harlem’s Rattlers. “They spent 191 days at the front, longer than any other Amer i can un i t i n World War I,” sa i d Jeffrey Sammons, a hi story professor at New York University. Sammons i s co-aut h or of t h e book Harlem’s Rattlers and the Great War: The Undaunted 369th Regiment and the African American Quest for Equality . He noted that sending the 369th into battle was not t h e Army’s or igi nal plan, but a comb i nation of c i r-cumstances led to the move. The regiment had been training at Camp Wadsworth, near Spartanbur g , S.C., w h ere i ts presence stoked rac i al tens i ons that military and local leaders feared would erupt into violence. Gettin g t h em out of t h e area became a pr i or i ty. “At t h e same time, t h e Frenc h were desperate for manpow-er,” Sammons sa i d. “T h ey h ad been plead i n g w i t h [General Jo h n ] Pers hi n g [commander of t h e Amer i can Exped i tionary Force on t h e Western Front dur i n g t h e war ] to turn troops over to t h em. He refused. F i nally, not know i n g w h at to do w i t h t h e 369t h , Pers hi n g turned t h em over to t h e Frenc h .” T h e Hellf igh ters be g an tra i n i n g under Frenc h command i n March 1918 and were sent to the front in May. Though they wore Amer i can un i forms, t h e sold i ers of t h e 369t h used Frenc h weapons and other gear. Over t h e next s i x mont h s, t h e 369t h d i stin g u i s h ed i tself for i ts valor and i ts success i n battle. It fou gh t i n t h e Second Battle of t h e Marne, w hi c h was t h e last major German offens i ve of t h e war, and played a key role i n t h e i mportant Meuse-Ar g onne offens i ve of t h e U.S. and Frenc h arm i es. One of the regiment’s members — Pvt. Henry Johnson, of C Company — earned t h e Medal of Honor for hi s explo i ts on May 15, 1918, in t h e Ar g onne Forest. Johnson and anoth -er Hellfi gh ter — Pvt. Needham Roberts — held off about 12 Germans who attacked t h e i r sentry pos i tion. Command S g t . Maj. Louis Wilson, of t h e New York National Guard, accepted the award on behalf of Johnson in a June 2, 2015, White House ceremony. Horace Pippin’s “The End of The War – Starting Home,” which he completed in 1933, was his first successful attempt to capture his World War I experiences on canvas with oil paint. He said that his time in the war zone “brought out all the art in me. I paint from it today.” An art historian believes that the painting depicted the battle in which Pippin was wounded. Then-Pvt. Henry Johnson, of C Co., 369th Inf., 93rd Inf. Div., earned a Medal of Honor for repulsing a German attack and saving the life of another soldier on May 15, 1918, in the Argonne Forest of France. President Barack Obama presented the award to a New York National Guard representative on behalf of Johnson in 2015. Barry Hudock is a freelance author based in Albany, Minn. JANUARY 2018   • WWW.VFW.ORG • 33

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