Victor Alfred Lundy was sent to Normandy to fight on D-Day. But besides fighting for his country, he saw the journey as an opportunity to capture another side of war, the human side of those involved.
When we think about the war, the first images that come to mind are usually those of the horrors of WWII. The fact that it was the first massively documented one allowed people to see the horrors of a war that, though it was affecting them in one way or another, in the past they could only know from the testimonies of the survivors. We have all seen photos of the air raids, the devastation in the cities, and even graphic images of those who were injured during battle. However, what we rarely see is how people “normalized” their lives during the war. At the end of the day, these are events that last years, and somehow, the resilient nature of humanity manages to adapt and survive. That is the case of Victor A. Lundy, a young soldier who decided to capture his experiences in sketches when he was assigned on D-Day.
Lundy proved to be very creative from an early age. His amazing talent was evident every time he grabbed a pencil, which is why his parents decided to encourage and support him when he chose a career in architecture. He enrolled at New York University, where he specialized in the Beaux Art style of architecture. However, as any young person with big dreams, he felt the need to use his knowledge to help, and thus, in 1942, when he was 19 years old, Lundy decided to enlist himself in the Army Special Training Program (ASTP) in the hopes of being transferred to Europe to help reconstruct the cities damaged during WWI.
However, by 1944, the course of the war was reaching its highest peak, and the plans of the ASTP had changed. They decided that the recruits they had could come more handy in battle rather than reconstructing cities that were still being destroyed. So, young Lundy was one of the soldiers selected to take part in the famous D-Day attack in Normandy. With several sketchbooks in his backpack, young Lundy was sent to war in the US 26th Infantry Division.
As he explained later, he didn’t really listen to the training he received and instead was more focused on his surroundings and the features of his peers. Since the moment he registered at Fort Jackson in South Carolina, he decided to start a project that would capture the everyday life of the soldiers sent to the front. As you can see, there are rarely violent scenes of the war, and that’s mainly for one reason, he captured the images he was seeing when he had his pencil in his hand. As he explains, after hours of marching, the soldiers would take a break to rest and sleep. However, Lundy used that time to sketch instead.
In the 158 surviving sketches that Lundy personally donated to the Library of Congress, we can see soldiers in their leisure time, taking naps, or playing games. He also drew his journey from the New York harbor, the ship, the landscapes when he arrived, and later the French villages he went through, mainly the buildings that impressed the young architect, and the locals he met along the way. In other words, it showed the everyday aspects of being sent to fight in one of the bloodiest and most devastating conflicts in modern history.
The eight notebooks he donated capture his experiences from May to November 1944, when he was wounded and sent back to the US. After some time recovering, he went back to school, graduating from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Later on, he became one of the most prominent architects of his generation, winning several scholarships and awards. In 1967, he joined the American Institute of Architects, one of the most important in the world.
Still, despite all the hard work and contributions to the skylines of different cities and towns, he’s still remembered best for his amazing work capturing the other side of war we hadn’t seen yet. He shows us that young energy and amazement at being in an adventure (even when he was probably going towards his own death). As he said, “war experience just hypnotizes young men,” and his sketches really show that.
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