Two of the GIs hauling the boat downstream are shirtless, their bayonets sheathed at their belts. Another walks through the water naked, a pipe clenched in his teeth. Two more sit in the boat, ammo pouches slung over their shoulders, rifles at the ready.
A wounded man sits with them, his head slumped on his arms. Another smokes a cigarette.
In the lower left corner of the black and white sketch, the caption reads: “Bringing wounded down Matanikau River.”
They are Howard Brodie’s GIs. Ragged, shirtless, helmets unstrapped, beards overgrown, men bent with the exhaustion, heat and misery of the World War II fighting on the South Pacific island of Guadalcanal.
They are lean, sinewy, sometimes faceless, as they slog, laden with rifles, grenades and entrenching shovels through the heat and wet of the jungle.
Aug. 7 marks the 75th anniversary of the start of the grim Guadalcanal campaign, which went on for six months in 1942 and ’43 and killed almost 40,000 Japanese and Americans.
Brodie, a 27-year-old former illustrator with the San Francisco Chronicle, was then an Army combat artist, who, with graphite and crayon, sketched his comrades as they huddled in foxholes and dugouts, and marched along remote trails.
On an illustration of a line of weary-looking soldiers filing past a dead Japanese, Brodie wrote: “the stench … was nauseating.”
On a detailed drawing of two rumpled soldiers in a bunker, he wrote, “sketched this inside a dugout — PFCs John … Minihan (R) + Sal De George … handle their 30 cal heavy machine gun.”
Brodie, whose Guadalcanal sketches are in the Library of Congress, then worked for the Army’s weekly Yank magazine, published during World War II.
He went on to sketch the war in the Europe. His memorable drawing of the German execution of American prisoners outside Malmedy, Belgium, in 1945, captured the horrified faces of the GIs at the moment the Germans open fire.
He also covered the Korean War, drew stark portraits from the early years of the war in Vietnam and drew religious themes.
He was perhaps best known for as a courtroom artist. Working often for CBS, he sketched such figures as mass murderer Charles Manson, U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy’s assassin Sirhan Sirhan, and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
In combat, Brodie never carried a weapon, according to his 2010 obituary in the New York Times, and was awarded a bronze star medal for valor.
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