It is no secret that many 10th Mountain Division soldiers in World War II were artistically inclined, perhaps because carrying cameras was forbidden (though some soldiers snuck them through anyway), or perhaps because it was a quiet way to pass time when hunkering down in a fox hole. A number of men were even known to carry pocket-size watercolor kits wherever they went. As a result, we are now the repository of an incredible collection of sketches and paintings that bring the war to us in an extremely personal way. For some, it was a means of remembering a specific time or place, as in the above watercolor by Frank J. Steinhardt, which captures a cold day spent on Kiska Island in 1943.
For Paul H. Williams, whose drawings are pictured above, it was a way to remember fellow soldiers, some of whom did not make it back home. For Arnold C. Holeywell, it was not only a way to remember scenic locations like the 86th Infantry Regiment headquarters depicted below, it was also, quite literally, a life saver.
Holeywell carried a sketchbook in his rucksack, which saved him from serious injury in the spring of 1945 when he was hit from behind with shrapnel from an exploding shell. Seeing his shredded book, it doesn’t take a giant leap to imagine what could have happened to Holeywell had the book not been in his pack that day.
Thanks in part to his sketchbook, Holeywell did come home from the war. He continued to develop his artistic talents through advertising and commercial illustration for Field and Stream magazine, Ford Motor Company’s Ford Times, and Time-Life Books. He displayed his work in both individual and group gallery shows. Holeywell was also active with the 10th Mountain Division Alumni Association and the National Association of the Tenth Mountain Division (serving as president in the 1950s) until his death in 2010.
All of the artwork pictured here, as well as hundreds of other pieces, can be seen at the 10th Mountain Division Resource Center at Denver Public Library – the official repository for all records and artifacts related to the 10th Mountain Division in WWII.
Holy cow! That's the kid of thing that seems totally fake when it happens in a movie.
No kidding! Coincidentally, I met with a 10th Mountain Division descendant yesterday whose dad had been saved from serious injury by his canteen! I guess Hollywood doesn't exaggerate everything.
There is a stainless steel portable shaving mirror. the kind that could be purchased at the PX, in the collection at the History Colorado 10th Mountain collection. It has a dent in it where it was struck by a bullet. The donor claimed that it was in his shirt pocket and it saved his life.
Wow, how lucky for that soldier! Thank you for telling us about that artifact, Donald. I may have to make a trip over to History Colorado to see if I can view it sometime.
Good to see these artifacts . Thank you
You're welcome Linda; thank you for reading!
Such an amazing artifact and story. Great post, Keli!
Thanks for reading, Katie!
This - and all of these stories - are why the DPL and History Colorado Resource Center is so key for us to support. It's our history!
And there are SO many stories to share!