Remembering the veterans

One night in 1940 at a square dance in Arlington, Vermont, Norman Rockwell spotted a young man named Robert Buck. Buck was too short for military duty, but he was perfect for a Rockwell model, and he soon became one of the most famous soldiers of World War II. To Rockwell, Buck looked like Wee Willie in the children’s book Wee Willie Winkie, so he became Willie Gillis, Jr., the star of 11 Saturday Evening Post covers.

In the first cover of the series, Willie appeared carrying a package from home with a big red sign saying “food” on it. He promptly became the most popular fellow in his outfit. In later covers, Willie appeared in bed on leave, on KP peeling potatoes, and even peering from photos on his girlfriend’s wall. Rockwell’s most serious portrayal of Willie Gillis, Willie at Prayer (page 56), showed the pensive young soldier meditating in church, an idea that carne from the artist’s work on the famous Four Freedoms painting, Freedom of Religion.

Many other Post artists, including Mead Schaeffer, Stevan Dohanos, John Falter, Howard Scott, and Albert W. Hampson, depicted World War II service men and women, as well. You’re in the Army Now, Hampson’s 1941 painting of a new army recruit (page 56), might well be considered the Post’s first WWII cover. Comparing Hampson’s young, green soldier with the war-wise former Flying Fortress pilot in Rockwell’s 1945 picture Tight Civvies (left center) pretty much tells the story of many veterans who came home from World War II.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Saturday Evening Post Society

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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