George S. Eisenberg
In 1942 I graduated from Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. Two
months later, I joined the Navy and was assigned to the USS LaVallette
(DD448), a combat Destroyer active in the Tunisian Campaign
and the South Pacific during World War ll.
I always kept a stash of art supplies in a hammock slung under the starboard
wing of the ship's bridge, close to my assigned battle station. Since
paper was scarce, the backs of "canceled charts" often became
my wartime canvases.
Action was constant. When under air attack, I was charged with tracking
enemy planes and directing all heavy guns on to the most dangerous approaching
targets, some only seconds away. When the LaVallette was not
in danger of enemy air attack, I was relieved from my station in CIC
(Combat Information Center) and given an opportunity to sketch under
fire during shore bombardments we read about in history books.
My collection of more than 360 paintings and drawings depicts a wide
spectrum of events, emotions, and individuals, ranging from portraits
of Filipinos, befriended in the South Pacific, to burial at sea, to
shipmates enjoying the long awaited arrival of mail. As a moral booster,
my cartoons, poking fun at life onboard ship, were reproduced as covers
for the sip's daily newspaper and distributed among the crew members.
My collection of images bears dates, times, and names of both shipmates
and my native friends. I also kept a copious written journal, detailing
the people and events often depicted in my WWll paintings and drawings.
The WW2 souvenirs, referenced in my written accounts and images, are
still in my possession. I have everything from a war torn Japanese surrender
flag to the bamboo hat depicted in one of my native portraits, to the
carved Philippine canoe I traded for navy issued underwear.
During my 3–1⁄4
year service, I wrote letters home, often adorned with beautiful drawings
and paintings of South Pacific sunsets, and toned down accounts of life
at sea. My immigrant parents saved all the letters, which now add another
dimension to the Sailor's Diary collection.
Today we can compare the original ship's log to the Sailor's Diary
for a full view of war in the South Pacific, and a map to locating the
people who both lost and gained from World War ll.
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