THE AMERICAN SOLDIER: A Photographic Tribute to Soldiers and Marines

Army, April 2008 | Go to article overview

THE AMERICAN SOLDIER: A Photographic Tribute to Soldiers and Marines


Their faces show the full emotions of war through the decades: A Civil War encampment reflects the fatigue of combat; a Korean War soldier struggles against bitter cold; a family shares the joy of reunion during a homecoming from the current conflict in Iraq. These emotions are captured in a unique touring exhibition of photographic images that will be on display at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Arlington, Va., from May 14 through September 2.

The exhibit, entitled "The American Soldier-A Photographic Tribute to Soldiers and Marines from the Civil War to the War in Iraq," consists of 116 images from early use of photographic apparatus to today's digital cameras and features American ground soldiers and marines in the Civil War, Spanish-American War, the Boxer Rebellion, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The idea for this unique public collection dates to 1995, when curator Cyma Rubin was inspired by a photograph of a World War II GI that appeared on the cover of The New York Times Magazine. In 2004, Rubin and her staff at New York-based Business of Entertainment began gathering the photographs that make up the exhibition. They examined more than 4,000 images that chronicled nearly 150 years of American military history. The decision was made to focus on the lives of American soldiers and marines through the wars that America has fought since 1861.

"Our exhibition underscores just how much our soldiers and marines have given us through their service for our country," Rubin explained. "When a photographer opens the shutter on a camera, that moment in time is captured forever-and in this collection of images there's something new to see each time you look at the photographs."

Since beginning its U.S. tour last year, the exhibition has been a resounding success. Its first venue in Hot Springs, Ark., attracted 132,000 visitors, followed by more than 355,000 visitors at North Carolina State University during each 90-day engagement. At the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum in Shreveport, the exhibit opening was accompanied by a Civil War battle reenactment, complete with cannon firings.

In 2006, while preparations were under way, it was brought to the attention of EADS North America-prime contractor for the Army's newest helicopter, the UH-72A Lakota. The company decided to co-sponsor the exhibition and facilitate its appearance at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. EADS also is hosting an exhibition opening and reception that will raise money to benefit the primary support organizations for soldiers, marines and their families, the Army Emergency Relief and the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society.

"We saw this as an excellent opportunity for the business community to assist these critical relief agencies, while also raising the public profile of an exhibition that truly brings home the sacrifice of our soldiers and marines," said EADS North America Chairman and CEO Ralph D. Crosby Jr.

Crosby, who served as a U.S. Army officer in Vietnam, said it is particularly appropriate that the exhibit's Washington, DC-area appearance will be at the women's memorial. Located at Arlington National Cemetery's ceremonial entrance, this is the only major national memorial honoring women who have served in the nation's defense during all eras and in all services. The memorial was dedicated in 1997 and draws some 200,000 visitors annually

"The contribution of women in military service is highlighted throughout the exhibit, from its earliest photos to the collection's most recent," Crosby noted. "One of the oldest photographs is of the Union Army Women's Volunteer Unit during the Civil War, while contemporary images highlight the role of women soldiers in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts."

Two of the Civil War photographs illustrate children as young as 12 to 14 years of age serving in both the Union and Confederate camps; another dramatic photo captures the aftermath of battle in Antietam, Md. …

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