The Wall vs. “Three Soldiers”

“If you wish to save the last of your dignity, do not call your best actions a ‘sacrifice’: that term brands you as immoral… If a man dies fighting for his own freedom, it is not a sacrifice….”

Ayn Rand, “Atlas Shrugged”, p. 1029 (HC)

We who fought in Vietnam were there for any number of reasons, not many thinking that he was fighting for his own freedom. My own reason for it was the adventure of the thing. Whatever the motivations may have been, it is true that there was a sacrifice—and that brand lies with the politicians and intelligentsia that landed America in Vietnam, not with the individual warrior.

The Wall

“The black gash of shame and sorrow.”

I see a lot of Vietnam Vets at Facebook, blogs et cetera posting things glorifying the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (“The Wall”).  I cannot do that. I didn’t like it in 1982 when it was built. And I do not like it now. It is a memorial to sacrifice.

“If you wish to save the last of your dignity, do not call your best actions a ‘sacrifice’: that term brands you as immoral… If a man dies fighting for his own freedom, it is not a sacrifice….”

Ayn Rand, “Atlas Shrugged”, p. 1029 (HC)

This wall is a memorial to sacrifice. The “purpose” of that wall, wrote the New Republic, is “to impress upon the visitor the sheer human waste, the utter meaninglessness of it all…To treat the Vietnam dead like some monstrous traffic accident is more than a disservice to history; it is a disservice to the memory of the 57,000 [killed in Vietnam].”

“….a V-shaped wall, period, a wall of polished black granite inscribed only with the names; no mention of honor, courage or gratitude; not even a flag. Absolutely skillproof, it was. Many veterans were furious. They regarded [Maya Ying Lin's] wall as a gigantic pitiless tombstone that said, ”Your so-called service was an absolutely pointless disaster.” They made so much noise that a compromise was struck. An American flag and statue would be added to the site. Hart was chosen to do the statue.

Naturally enough, Lin was miffed at the intrusion, and so a make-peace get-together was arranged in Plainview, N.Y., where the foundry had just completed casting the soldiers. Doing her best to play the part, Lin asked Hart — as Hart recounted it — if the young men used as models for the three soldiers had complained of any pain when the plaster casts were removed from their faces and arms. Hart couldn’t imagine what she was talking about. Then it dawned on him. She assumed that he had followed the lead of the ingenious art worldling George Segal, who had contrived a way of sculpturing the human figure without any skill whatsoever: by covering the model’s body in wet plaster and removing it when it began to harden. No artist of her generation (she was 21) could even conceive of a sculptor starting out solely with a picture in his head, a stylus, a brick of moist clay and some armature wire. No artist of her generation dared even speculate about . . . skill.”

The Lives They Lived: Frederick Hart, b. 1943; The Artist the Art World Couldn’t See

by Tom Wolfe

Reprinted from The New York Times Magazine, January 2, 2000

Hart with clay model

Hart with models

"Three Soldiers"

“Three Soldiers”
Frederick Hart
Bronze Sculpture

Heroes Against The Wall

Vietnam Veteran James Webb Jr., a Marine Platoon leader awarded the Navy Cross, resigned from the National Sponsoring Committee of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, to protest the memorial design.  He said “I never in my wildest dreams imagined such a nihilistic slab of stone.”

Tom Carhart, a veteran and outspoken opponent of the minimilistic design referred to it as “the black gash of shame and sorrow”. it commemorates the war “as some ugly, dirty experience of which we were all ashamed.”  Cahart, a West Point graduate who led an infantry platoon of the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam, and received two Purple Hearts was in 1981 a civilian lawyer at the Pentagon.

Adm. James Stockdale, a prisoner of war awarded the Medal of Honor, also resigned.

The Marine Corps League withdrew its support for the memorial as insulting and denigrating those who came home from Vietnam and those who did not.

“Three Soldiers” by Frederick Hart

” A trio of tired soldiers…of warriors larger than life.”

(Ellen Goodman, Boston Globe, 09/23/1982)

“Mr. Hart is a sculptor in the ‘neo-traditional’ mode, which means you can tell what the sculpture is about merely by looking at it.  The three soldiers look like three soldiers, tired and heroic.”

(Ben Wattenberg, The Washington Times, 08/12/1999)

“Hart captured in stone something vivid, urgent, and alive.”

(David C. Adams, The Free Radical Online)

“…there is about them the physical contact and sense of unity that speaks of bonds of love….

And yet each one is alone.  Their true heroism lies in these bonds of loyalty, in their aloneness, and in their vulnerability.”  (Frederick Hart)

Views of the Marine Corps

“The few. The proud. The Marines.”  What does that mean?  “Few” means rare.  Pride is “the recognition of the fact that you are your own highest value…”
- Ayn Rand, For The New Intellectual, (PB) 130-31.

The Marines are legendary. “Send in the Marines”. “First to Fight”. Marines know what to do, and do it with elegance and superb skill.

Here are quotes about the Marines from those who, with one exception, are not Marines:

Army Emblem
“There are only two kinds of people that understand Marines: Marines and the enemy. Everyone else has a second-hand opinion.”
- Gen. William Thornson, U.S. Army

“The safest place in Korea was right behind a platoon of Marines. Lord, how they could fight!”
- MGen. Frank E. Lowe, USA; Korea, 26 January 1952

“Why in hell can’t the Army do it if the Marines can. They are the same kind of men; why can’t they be like Marines.”
- Gen. John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, USA; 12 February 1918

“I have just returned from visiting the Marines at the front, and there is not a finer fighting organization in the world!”
- General of the Armies Douglas MacArthur; Korea, 21 September 1950

“We have two companies of Marines running rampant all over the northern half of this island, and three Army regiments pinned down in the southwestern corner, doing nothing. What the hell is going on?”
- Gen. John W. Vessey Jr., USA, Chairman of the the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the assault on Grenada, 1983

US Navy Emblem

“The raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next five hundred years.”
- James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy; 23 February 1945

“The Marine Corps has just been called by the New York Times, ‘The elite of this country.’ I think it is the elite of the world.”
- Admiral William Halsey, U.S. Navy

Eleanor Roosevelt

“The Marines I have seen around the world have the cleanest bodies, the filthiest minds, the highest morale, and the lowest morals of any group of animals I have ever seen. Thank God for the United States Marine Corps!”
- Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady of the United States, 1945

Winston Churchill

“I am convinced that there is no smarter, handier, or more adaptable body of troops in the world.”
- Prime Minister of Britain, Sir Winston Churchhill

Communist Troops

“Do not attack the First Marine Division. Leave the yellowlegs alone. Strike the American Army.”

Orders given to Communist troops in the Korean War; shortly afterward, the Marines were ordered to not wear their khaki leggings.

General Vandergrift

“The bended knee is not a tradition of our Corps.”
- General Alexander A. Vandergrift, USMC

to the Senate Naval Affairs Committee, 5 May 1946

The Money-Making Personality

“It is this small minority that carries our world on its shoulders.

“Loneliness is the underground to which we have condemned the Money-Maker–a bewildered loneliness that is not erased by his occasional moments of boisterous gaiety. It is the loneliness of sensing that he is the victim of some incomprehensible injustice. His coldly uncommunicative manner hides his enormous, frustrated benevolence, his childlike innocence–and his profoundly earned pride.

“Toward the end of his life, Colliss P. Huntington–one of the builders of the Central Pacific Railroad…made a startling change in his manner of living. He had lived his life in Spartan austerity, contemptuous of all material luxuries…but in his sixties he turned to a sudden, frantic orgy of extravagance, indiscriminately buying palatial residences, French furniture, real works of art…the sort of things he had condemned his partners for buying.

“Among these haphazard acquisitions, there was a painting, depicting an ancient scene, for which he paid $25,000–an action that seemed incomprehensible to his contemporaries. But here is what Huntington wrote about that painting in his autobiographical notes:

“’There are seven figures in it?three cardinals of the different orders of their religion. There is an old missionary that has just returned; he is showing his scars, where his hands are cut all over; he is telling a story to these cardinals; they are dressed in luxury. One of them is playing with a dog; one is asleep; there is only one looking at him?looking at him with that kind of an expression saying what a fool you are that you should go out and suffer for the human race when we have such a good time at home. I lose the picture in the story when I look at it. I sometimes sit half an hour looking at that picture.’”

The Missionary's Adventures

The Missionary’s Adventures
Jean-Georges Vibert (French, 1840–1902)
Oil on wood
39 x 53”

“What story was Huntington seeing? He was seeing a lonely, unappreciated fighter….He was seeing the Money-Maker, the fighter for man’s survival in the jungle of inanimate matter?the man who alone remembers that the world’s work has to be done.”

Ayn Rand, “The Money-Making Personality“, The Objectivist Forum, February, 1983. P. 8-9


Red is the River, by T.V. Olsen (1983)

T.V. Olsen (1932 – 1993) was an American western fiction author. In the Twentieth-Century Western Writers, Second Edition (1991) he stated, “My only purpose in writing is to make a living. All of my work is pure entertainment and nothing more…” As one who has read everything by Olsen I can get my hands on, I know better. Olsen’s books are uneven. Many grab you only to find the endings to peter out, as if he’d given all he had in the plot and character development, then rushing to a flat conclusion. “Red is the River” is one that’s fully developed. In all of his books his characters are more than real, larger than life. His men are often physically large, sometimes up to seven feet tall. In “Red is the River” the protagonist (46 years old, married 22 years to his wife, Selma) is Axel Holmgaard, “a large man, rawboned and slab-muscled, standing six feet three in his bare feet, he had less of the clumsy hugeness of a bear than the rangy spring-sinewed bigness of a catamount.” Olsen is best at his understanding of man-woman relationships and marriage. His sex scenes are never modern graphic. He gives the reader enough concretes and lets it go as that.

 The Jewish Bride
Oil on canvas
5′ 5.55″ x 3′ 11.83″

“The big hands were inside her dress again, continuing their movements, gentle and knowing and unhurried, teasing up the hungers of her woman’s body that he knew as well as his own.

“She moaned softly, throwing back her head. ‘Oh Gud—Gud!

“Axel reached for the lamp and momentarily held it in one palm, watching her with eyes in which warm blue lights kindled. ‘You know, sometimes I forget you’re still a pretty good-looking old woman’.

“In a moment the light died away. Selma struggled with her clothes, her fingers awkward with haste. In the hot drumroll of her blood, the flaming tingle of her skin, the rainy chill on her nakedness was scarcely noticed. She lay back on her blankets, cupping her hands over the deep mounds of her breasts. Slightly flattened by her lying down, they peaked at the nipples with a bigness of tension.

“’Mister,’ she whispered. ‘Oh mister….

“Suddenly he was a warm naked presence bending above her in the dark, unseen and not yet touching, yet known by every sense of her being.

“And then, abruptly and hotly, there was touch.


“Ahhh…oh yes! Yes!

“Her body arched to meet the hard invasion of his maleness. She took it into her and possessed it with the undulating rhythm and controlled fury of a familiar passion. Her awareness crested in the all-giving all-taking all-blending union of woman and man: one and together, ever and always.”

T.V. Olsen wrote an article he titled “What Do Americans Want in Westerns?”:

“…a commercial Western fictioneer of today would do well to regard each book as a new creative challenge in development of plot and situation and highly varied characterization, with mature and intelligent concepts of theme and treatment—but strive simultaneously to recapitulate more truly the traditional elements that have made the Western beloved of Americans: the historical feel of the place and the people and the times, the sense of freedom of a wild and wide-open land, sex presented more honestly but still not sensationally, tough-minded men who did what they damned well had to and never mind about Mr. Jones, a swift, close-knit pace carried by lots of fast-moving action, and the decisive triumph of good over evil by a protagonist who can make mistakes and commit an occasional wrong because he is understandably human.”

I Don’t Have the Gift

The artist hears the compliment “you have a gift”.  As if the hours and days and decades the artist has invested in the self-taught study and development of his craft are somehow received by him in some manner which he cannot possibly apprehend.  Whatever struggle, whatever time, whatever his life-long devotion—none of this is in any way a measure of his ability if it’s nothing but a gift. But such concerns are not his to reason why.  None of this can be laid at his command, as his own achievement at all.  All of it is just an unasked-for gift.  The sentiment is well meaning, but God forgive those who offer that compliment, for they know not what they say.

The most beautiful way it’s ever been presented to me is that “you have been a tremendously good steward of His gifts.” Whatsoever things are of good report, this is one that weighs that “gift” against my own real achievement.  It brings the gift down to earth where I actually live and work, giving me some control over it all—at least for the duration of my lifetime, albeit as God’s property, not my own.

What if the artist rejects that “gift”?  What if, instead of saying “oh, it isn’t my achievement, it’s just my job.  I was just doing my duty”, he says “I’m damn proud of my achievement!”  Wouldn’t that be a refreshing admission that one never hears.

Leonard Peikoff shows the proper way to look at the artist, in his book “Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand”:

“The artist is the closest man comes to being God.  We can validly speak of the world of Michelangelo, of Van Gogh, of Dostoyevsky, not because they create a world ex nihilo, but because they do re-create one.”

Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, “Art”, p. 417 (HC)

Ayn Rand writes,

“Style is the most complex element of art, the most revealing and, often, the most baffling psychologically.  The terrible inner conflicts from which artists suffer as much as (or, perhaps, more than) other men are magnified in their work.”

The Romantic Manifesto, Ayn Rand, “Art and Sense of Life, p. 41 (SC)

One might suppose that Michelangelo, perhaps the greatest artist in history, thought of his talent as a gift from God.  After all, he was under the thumb of Popes as employers, even though payment from the Church was often slow and minimal. The style of his unfinished “St. Matthew” shows his struggle, his melancholy triumph.

Michelangelo St. Matthew

St. Matthew
107 x 29′

I accept the compliments, albeit misguided, of “you have a gift” as earnest heart-felt admiration for my work.  But the accumulation of them over the years compels me to qualify my acceptance with a bit of admonition to those who so lightly offer them:

It is not in any way a gift that I unwrap around myself that enables me to create a work of art.  I would never accept such an unasked-for gift for I am responsible for whatsoever things might be true, might be lovely in my artworks.

I don’t say that my work is new or great.  I do not compare my talent to the great master, Michelangelo.  I offer here only a caution.  To those who believe my Art is a gift, I plead they give it a second thought.

“Have you heard the moralists and the art lovers of the centuries talk about the artist’s intransigent devotion to the pursuit of truth? Name me a greater example of such devotion than the act of a man who says that the earth does turn, or the act of a man who says that an alloy of steel and copper has certain properties which enable it to do certain things, and it is and does—and let the world rack him or ruin him, he will not bear false witness to the evidence of his mind! This, Miss Taggart, this sort of spirit, courage and love for truth—as against a sloppy bum who goes around proudly assuring you that he has almost reached the perfection of a lunatic, because he’s an artist who hasn’t the faintest idea what his art work is or means, he’s not restrained by such crude concepts as ‘being’ or ‘meaning,’ he’s the vehicle of higher mysteries, he doesn’t know how he created his work or why, it just came out of him spontaneously, like vomit out of a drunkard, he did not think, he wouldn’t stoop to thinking, he just felt it, all he has to do is feel—he feels, the flabby, loose-mouthed, shifty-eyed, drooling, shivering, uncongealed bastard! I, who know what discipline, what effort, what tension of mind, what unrelenting strain upon one’s power of clarity are needed to produce a work of an—I, who know that it requires a labor which makes a chain gang look like rest and a severity no army-drilling sadist could impose—I’ll take the operator of a coal mine over any walking vehicle of higher mysteries.  The operator knows that it’s not his feelings that keep the coal carts moving under the earth—and he knows what does keep them moving. Feelings? Oh yes, we do feel, he, you and I—we are, in fact, the only people capable of feeling—and we know where our feelings come from.”

Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, p. 783 (HC)

Neither my art nor my feelings nor my life is a gift.  My life?  My Catholic parents made babies out of a sense of duty; mine was practically accidental.  My feelings?  These are expressed for all the world to see—in my art.  All of this has been kept alive by me over a period of some sixty years of hard labor.

Christian Thought As Artistic Inspiration

The fables of Christianity offer the imaginative artist marvelous subjects! I have found the subject of Christian theology of so high a grade of interest that I did feel compelled to create an artwork based on one of it’s major themes. But more on that in a later post….

The Pietà by Michelangelo is one of my favorite sculptures. The faces of the subjects are sublime. Mary’s is ideal perfection in form and features showing her acceptance of death, and in that acceptance, her worship of it. Christ’s face is other-worldly peaceful.



That sculpture is all the more fantastic in its portrayal of the theme of the virgin birth. Here the Pietà shows the love of the mother for the son she bore while she was a virgin. Again, only in art can one appreciate so exquisite a science fiction as this.

Pietà Michelangelo Buonarroti (1498–1499)

The Pietà must have been Michelangelo’s personal favorite too, for it’s the only one he signed. (See it carved into the sash the Virgin wears on her breast.)

Pieta Signed

Michelangelo shows an immaculate harmony of the mystical mind and a corresponding perpetual youth in the Pietà.

In literature I find this Christian fable of the virgin birth addressed most wonderfully in Mark Twain’s “Fables of Man”.

It’s fabulous that in his chapters on “Little Bessie” he makes Bessie “nearly three years old” and later “only three and a half years old”. Yet Little Bessie grasps the absurdity of the concept of Christianity’s virgin birth better than most adults. This is because Little Bessie, too young even for a modern mind destroying pre-school, gets her education from the mysterious—almost mystical—Mr. Hollister, the village atheist.

Meet Little Bessie in a discussion with her mother:

Mamma, is Christ God?

Yes, my child.

Mamma, how can He be Himself and Somebody Else at the same time?

He isn’t, my darling. It is like the Siamese twins—two persons, one born ahead of the other, but equal in authority, equal in power.

I understand it, now, mamma, and it is quite simple. One twin has sexual intercourse with his mother, and begets himself and his brother; and next he has sexual intercourse with his grandmother and begets his mother. I should think it would be difficult, mamma, though interesting. Oh, ever so difficult. I should think that the Corespondent—

All things are possible with God, my child.

Yes, I suppose so. But not with any other Siamese twin, I suppose. You don’t think any ordinary Siamese twin could beget himself and his brother on his mother, do you, mamma, and then go on back while his hand is in and beget her, too, on his grandmother?

Certainly not, my child. None but God can do these wonderful and holy miracles.

And enjoy them. For of course He enjoys them, or He wouldn’t go foraging around among the family like that, would He, mamma?—injuring their reputations in the village and causing talk, Mr. Hollister says it was wonderful and awe-inspiring in those days, but wouldn’t work now. He says that if the Virgin lived in Chicago now, and got in the family way and explained to the newspaper fellows that God was the Corespondent, she couldn’t get two in ten of them to believe it. He says they are a hell of a lot!

My child!

Well, that is what he says, anyway.

Oh, I do wish you would keep away from that wicked, wicked man!

He doesn’t mean to be wicked, mamma, and he doesn’t blame God. No, he doesn’t blame Him; he says they all do it—gods do. It’s their habit, they’ve always been that way.

What way, dear?

Going around unvirgining the virgins. He says our God did not invent the idea—it was old and mouldy before He happened on it. Says He hasn’t invented anything, but got His Bible and His Flood and His morals and all His ideas from earlier gods, and they got them from still earlier gods. He says there never was a god yet that wasn’t born of a Virgin. Mr. Hollister says no virgin is safe where a god is. He says he wishes he was a god; he says he would make virgins so scarce that—

Peace, peace! Don’t run on so, my child. If you—

—and he advised me to lock my door nights, because—

Hush, hush, will you!

—because although I am only three and a half years old and quite safe from men

Mary Ann, come and get this child! There, now, go along with you, and don’t come near me again until you can interest yourself in some subject of a lower grade and less awful than theology.

Bessie, (disappearing.) Mr. Hollister says there ain’t any.

—Mark Twain, “Fables of Man”, “The Myth of Providence”, “Little Bessie”, Chapter 6 (1908 – 1909)

“Raphaella di Piero”

You’ve captured the experience of the interrelationship of the arts in various art works.  Haven’t you?  You hear a piece of music that brings to mind visual arts, or in a literary work, you hear a piece of music, or see a favorite painting.  Looking at a painting you might hear some music and a quote from a book. Here’s my experience in reading Bill Bucko’s new novel “Raphaella di Piero”. I read it first a couple of years ago in manuscript form and loved it.  Now published, it’s always good to hold a book as a physical object.  And to love the story even more. Not to give anything away in terms of plot, I will say simply that I love and treasure this book.  Its theme is the great one:  VALUING, about valuers … and those who fail to value.  That is to say, Bucko has presented an appealing character, (the title name) showing, in her, the importance of independent thinking and acting according to one’s rational judgment. There’s a scene on page 19 that always brings to mind, for this reader, a work of art that he’s profoundly aware of.

Robert Tracy
13½ x 10½”

In Bucko’s book “Girls” fits nicely into his serious theme.  Does a serious theme, and a character of a rebellious nature, preclude an element of the light hearted?  Bucko’s answer is “No!”  The theme in “Raphaella di Piero” belongs, musically, to Liszt’s Legende “ St. Francis of Paola Walking on the Water” that Ayn Rand says “conveys…a passionately dedicated struggle and triumph.”

“The Romantic Manifesto”, Art and Cognition, p. 52

Yet on page 19 one can hear the benevolent universe premise of Chopin’s “Butterfly Etude”. Read this grand novel for yourself.  See if it corresponds to your own sense of life. By recommending “Raphaella di Piero” I hereby expose my own soul in my love of this book, and challenge anyone to have the courage to delve into the world of Bill Bucko.  You will come away with an experience showing that “Animus vinci non potest, nisi voluntarie”. With that last enigmatic quote I say buy the book—you’ll find the answer therein.

Marine Corps Graphics

I’ve made hundreds of these graphics starting around 2000 through 2005. I learned a lot in Photoshop with these. The “Three Soldiers” graphics were done from photos taken for me by an old friend, Gonzalo E. Mon, who knew that the sculpture by Frederick Hart is one of my favorite sculptures. (See my page The Wall vs Three Soldiers.) The Eagle, Globe and Anchor variations were done with a single photograph I took of a wooden plaque and scanned.

Blog’s Back

Two, now three, posts in two days.  And two days’ preparation before that, I’ve got my blog back up and running.  Lots more to do but it’s nice to be back where I can have a word or two.

This was my first banner from 2005.