There’s a quote that goes like this, “Home is where the art is.” Unless you can consider the trenches of WWII as your home, it would be possible to create the spectacular trench art our soldiers made during their free time in the warzone. Not that they considered the trenches their home sweet home, but they were still able to make museum-worthy pieces.

Art in War

Making artistic use of shell cases. Photo; Trench Art of World War I

It might be quite difficult to believe, but time could be slow while on the battlefield at times, soldiers had to come up with past times. Trench art, for instance, has been practiced ever since the beginning of wars. The prisoners of war created ship models from their rations’ bones. Civil War soldiers would use bullets to carve charms or trinkets. During the Trench Warfare in WWI, the troops would create trench art using a brass cartridge in hours of boredom. In World War II, the more modern tools and artillery gave them better opportunities to produce more of these arts with varied materials to choose from.

Trench artists created not only arts and crafts as souvenirs for their loved ones, like ashtrays or pieces of jewelry. They also created necessary tools and cookwares, sometimes even forbidden things in POW camps such as musical instruments or tools to escape; all while utilizing whatever they had, exhibiting their creativity and resourcefulness.

National WWII Museum

The National WWII Museum in New Orleans has a mission, to tell “the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world—why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today—so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn.” With that, they launched an exhibition featuring 150 pieces of WWII trench art that the war veterans themselves mostly donated. The exhibit also features the background and the origin of these creators.

SOLDIER | ARTIST: Trench Art in World War II

SOLDIER | ARTIST: Trench Art in World War II is on display from March 4, 2021 – January 2, 2022, in Senator John Alario, Jr. Special Exhibition Hall.

According to their website, “The National WWII Museum’s newest special exhibit, SOLDIER | ARTIST: Trench Art in World War II, takes an in-depth look at a military pastime known as “trench art”: the creation of art, souvenirs, and tools out of discarded materials and the waste of war. Just as evaluating any other art form can reveal the life experience of its creator, the artifacts featured in this exhibit offer visitors a unique way to connect to the WWII veterans who made them—whether they did so out of boredom or necessity.”

The museum made sure to put safety measures in place and enhanced its sanitizing and cleaning protocols to make sure that everyone would have a safe, COVID-free visit. Ticket purchases should also be booked in advance.

Here are some of the pieces that could be found in the exhibit:

P-38 sculpture made from bullet casings and is also an ashtray. Photo; National WWII Museum

 

A vase was made from a 105mm shell casing. Photo; National WWII Museum

 

A violin made from wood scraps by an American soldier held in a German prison-of-war camp. Photo; National WWII Museum

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