World War Two Mural by Horace Day.

With the expectation that the United States would be drawn into war, Congress passed the Selective and Training Act of 1940 requiring all men between the ages of 21 and 35 to register with their local draft boards. This resulted in a massive influx of inductees into training camps around the country. To house this multitude of new recruits, temporary barracks and recreation halls were constructed at a cost of over $165,000,000. To brighten-up these new drab wooden buildings, artists began to paint murals as decoration actively encouraged by the Special Service Division of the Army Service Forces. So successful were the art programs that the Division published a 32-page booklet entitled Interior Design and Soldier Art as a manual for those wishing to improve the appearance of the recreation halls, service rooms, and other communal buildings. With the end of the war in 1945, many of these temporary buildings were demolished and the murals were in most cases destroyed. Today, with a few exceptions, only photographs and newspaper clippings attest to this rich source of 20th century American art.

Horace Day Jukebox
At Camp Howze near Gainesville in Texas, one artist, Private Horace Day, painted a series of six panels describing “G.I.” music for the Music Room of the Service Club No. 2.  However, aware that such buildings were only temporary, Day asked that he be notified when the camps became redundant. In a memorandum dated November 20, 1943, Day recommended that as the paintings represented the camp life of the 86th Infantry Division, they should go to that unit after the war. However, this was not the case and at least two were returned to the artist in November 1945. Several years ago, the artist’s son donated a large body of artwork from the war including two oil on canvas murals, one of which is depicted here (measuring 111 x 174.3 cm). It represents a  group of tired, resting soldiers following a rigorous day of training, clustered around a large jukebox in the center of the picture. Such scenes were common and served to make the young recruits feel at home as well as building a sense of camaraderie.

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