The Jan. 16 front-page article “The art of war awaits a home” noted that 42 civilians and military artists were selected to document World War II through art. It was a chance brush with scarlet fever that opened the door for one of those artists.

In January 1941, New York artist Ludwig Mactarian, then about 30 years old, was drafted and ordered to Fort Dix, N.J., for training as a soldier in the 113th Infantry. He was exposed to scarlet fever at Fort Dix and was placed in an isolation camp. As a civilian, Mactarian had painted murals in government buildings as part of the Works Progress Administration. In isolation he learned of a $12,000 prize for a contest to paint a 12-by-50-foot mural in the new War Department Building in Washington. He impressed company officers with sketches and they provided him materials, a private workroom in the Men’s Service Club and time to work.

While Mactarian, my great-uncle, did not win this competition, his work caught the attention of the War Art Advisory Committee. He served as a war artist with the 337th Engineering Battalion . His paintings illustrate the grit of the combat engineers’ life as they slogged north through Italy in 1944 clearing debris and building bridges in the devastated Italian landscape. It’s terrific that the Army Historical Foundation is building a gallery for viewing the works of famous war artists such as Norman Rockwell, Tom Lea and Ludwig Mactarian.

Gregory Bartolett, Dumfries