Victor Lundy had dreamed of helping to rebuild Europe after the war, but now he found himself fighting on the front line. As both friend and enemy fell before his eyes, he documented the horrors of combat in the only way he knew how – by picking up a pencil and turning to his creative side.
Lundy was born on February 1, 1923 in New York City. As a child he had a passion for – and, indeed, skill for – art. Indeed, his parents noticed that he had a particular talent for sketching and mechanical drawings.
Later, with his parents’ backing, Lundy studied architecture at New York University. It was here that he developed a keen interest in the style known as Beaux-Arts. It’s a type of architecture – elaborate and neoclassical in style – that originated in Paris, France.
During his time at university, however, Lundy developed another passion. Specifically, with World War II in full swing, the young architect began thinking about helping to rebuild a ravaged Europe.
Then, at the tender age of 19, Lundy made a decision that he hoped would allow him to make this dream into a reality. Namely, he signed up to the U.S. Army Specialized Training Program, where he hoped to put his architectural skills to good use.
Two years later, however, Lundy found his military career going in an entirely different direction. With the Allied forces preparing to invade France, Lundy was shipped off for training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina. The young man was about to go to war.
From the moment he arrived at Fort Jackson in May 1944, it was clear that Lundy wasn’t about to give up his passion for art. In fact, he put pencil to paper and began sketching scenes from everyday life around the facility.
During training, Lundy went through the typical motions alongside the rest of the infantry. Of course there were mandatory marches, planning sessions and cramped living conditions to deal with. However, there were also occasional opportunities to relax.
Moreover, some of Lundy’s most fascinating sketches from this period are those showing his fellow soldiers during downtime. Whether playing craps for cigarettes or taking a nap in a swinging hammock, these glimpses show the soldiers’ humanity. And it makes what was to come all the more heartbreaking.
Towards the end of August 1944, Lundy’s time had come. It was time for him to leave Fort Jackson and fight for his country. He boarded a train to New York Harbor, then a ferry, then finally a ship that would take him all the way across the Atlantic Ocean to France.
Then, on September 6, 1944, the soldiers sighted land. Indeed, Lundy’s first sketches of Europe show the bustle of activity that he spotted sailing into the harbor of Cherbourg, in a newly liberated France.
Then, from Cherbourg, Lundy and his company traveled 18 miles south to Saint-Martin-d’Audouville in Normandy. It’s here that they made their first camp. Now on the front line, the subject of Lundy’s sketches began to change. In fact, they started to reflect the harsh realities of war being carried out around him.
In one drawing, Lundy sketched a fleet of Allied bombers on their way to Germany. In another, he captioned a seemingly picturesque view of the Atlantic wall in Quinéville, France, with the somber words “6 killed.”
Another sketch shows a German soldier lying dead in the grass. Lundy added the words, “One of the 4-men German patrol who didn’t get back,” and he used an uncharacteristic splash of red color to convey the gruesomeness of the scene.
Most of the time, however, Lundy’s work was simple and drawn in pencil on three-by-five-inch, spiral-bound sketchbooks. He worked with black Hardtmuth lead, a type of pencil that was, at the time, manufactured in Czechoslovakia.
Conversely, as well as the macabre moments that characterized front-line life, Lundy found time to draw more sedate subjects. Many of his sketchbooks, indeed, are filled with portraits of his comrades; young men caught up in a war so very far from home.
Among these are pictures from snatched moments of pleasure that Lundy was lucky to experience on his travels. A café in Quinéville where two French girls bought him cider, for example, and a house where he was treated to cognac and roast chicken.
Specifically, Lundy’s sketchbooks illustrate May to November 1944, although some of them have been lost over time. The last volume, meanwhile, is splattered with blood – the result of an injury that Lundy sustained towards the end of his time in France.
Despite his injury, Lundy survived the war and returned to America, gaining his architecture degree from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. He later started his own architectural firm, beginning a long and illustrious career designing buildings. These included the U.S. Tax Court in Washington, D.C. and the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce in his adopted Florida hometown.
Eventually, Lundy passed his entire archive of architectural material to the U.S. Library of Congress. The work included eight sketchbooks filled with drawings from his time as a soldier during World War II. And, despite being more than 70 years old, they continue to provide a fascinating insight into the personal lives of those caught up in arguably the greatest conflict humankind has ever seen.