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.