Combat on Canvas
Art and artifacts from the Marine front lines, now on display in Washington.
- By Rebecca Maksel
- AirSpaceMag.com, January 24, 2012
Marine First Lieutenant Alfred Cunningham reported to Annapolis, Maryland, for flight training on May 22, 1912—recognized today as the birth date of Marine Corps aviation. “It’s interesting to note that when we’ve celebrated the centennial of Army aviation and the centennial of Naval aviation, the dates were based upon the dates that each service ordered its first airplane,” said General Jack Dailey, director of the National Air and Space Museum, at the exhibition opening. “The Marine Corps didn’t have any airplanes—that hasn’t changed much, by the way—so we had to take the date that our first pilot reported for training.”
This 1920 recruitment poster, illustrated by Howard Chandler Christy, “encouraged folks to look at Marine aviation and want to join and be a pilot,” said Joan Thomas, art curator at the National Museum of the Marine Corps.
Christy began his career as a war artist following President Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders in Cuba. Although Christy preferred to depict pretty girls over men at war, notes the Smithsonian’s American Art Archives, “his World War I poster, ‘Gee!! I Wish I Were a Man’ is second in popularity only to [James Montgomery] Flagg’s ‘I Want You!’”