Focus on the John Hay Library #2

Featuring new, interesting, and unusual items 
from the Library's Special Collections


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 American 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 Magazine masthead

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.

Taking Japanese prisoner to the rear on Bougainville

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'.

Refueling a C47 at Tontouta

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.

Marines searching out a 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 PBS website.


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