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John Hay Library #2
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THE ART OF YANK MAGAZINE:
THE WORLD WAR TWO DRAWINGS OF ROBERT GREENHALGH
Over the last six years, the
Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection has
been acquiring original sketches, drawings and paintings done by
artists who served in the armed forces during World War Two. These have
come in the form of gifts from over 30 artists and currently number over
1,600 original pictures. While the majority of these were drawn by artists
for their own pleasure, some were created by official artists assigned
to the various fronts by the army and the Marine Corps. Other pictures
were drawn for Life magazine while a few were published in the famous army magazine, Yank,
which first appeared on June 17, 1942.
Yank was the most widely read and most popular magazine in the history
of the army and by the end of the war, twenty-three editions had been published.
At the height of Yank's operations, there were printing presses in Honolulu, Cairo, Tokyo, Okinawa, Rome, Trinidad, Saipan, and other places, and the weekly achieved a worldwide circulation of 2,600,000; it is thought to
have been read by ten million. The weekly which was staffed entirely by
enlisted-soldiers printed its last issue in December 1945, realizing for
the War Department a profit of $1,000,000.
The magazine itself employed artists and writers both in its New York
headquarters and at the front, and one of these artists, Robert Greenhalgh,
recently donated a number of his original sketches. There are over 70 original
ink and pencil sketches in the group drawn all over the Pacific including
New Caledonia, Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Guam and the Solomon Islands.
Greenhalgh would spend his days making quick sketches and then in the evenings
using candlelight, he would work his sketches up so that they could be
reproduced in the magazine. Each picture had to be approved by the military censor and the stamp of the latter
appears on all the drawings.
In October 1943, Greenhalgh was on board an aircraft carrier when it
attacked the Japanese airbase on Wake Island. His sketches were reproduced
in Yank on November 19, 1943, under the caption 'WAKE ISLAND RAID. A YANK
staff artist with the Pacific Fleet sketches scenes on an aircraft carrier
during one of the most destructive single attacks ever delivered to the
Japs'. The caption went on to quote the artist: 'When the first striking
planes came back to the carrier, you could see holes in some of the wings
and cowlings. But when the last strike returned, there were no bullet holes,
no torn fabric and the pilots climbed out unhurt. They said they didn't
see a living soul on the island when they flew away for the last time.
Our cruisers laid off shore over there and shelled the Jap positions without
ceasing until the guns on Wake were silent'. Four of his sketches show
scenes from this event. Two pictures were used in the February 25, 1944
edition to illustrate an article written by Sgt. Barrett McGurn entitled
'Modern Living on a beachhead in Bougainville'.
Several weeks later on May 19, Yank ran another article by McGurn this
one dealing with the second battle of Bougainville with illustrations by
Greenhalgh. The picture below appeared on page 4 with the caption 'From
a jeep, an American watches curiously as a big MP takes a little Jap prisoner
to the rear'.
The cover of the issue of October 6, 1944 bore the headline 'A Yank
Artist's Front-line Sketches from Guam'. Inside were eight sketches by
Greenhalgh who drew them while covering the Marine brigade's operations
from its landing to the capture of Guam airstrip. 'Slogging around in the
rain and mud', he wrote, 'I got my notes soaking wet and now they are almost
obliterated. Then the transport with my art equipment pulled out. But I
found some materials on a flagship, so I was in business again'. One of
his original sketches which was reproduced in Yank appears below and shows four marines searching out a
Japanese sniper's nest.
Mr. Greenhalgh was profiled in the PBS documentary,
They Drew Fire, which was broadcast in Spring 2000, and further information on his wartime career and reproductions of some of his sketches can be found on the
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