Olin Dows A United States Army artist who served during World War II in Woolacombe

“Images are my language”

Olin Dows 1963

Olin Dows was born in 1904 in New York, educated at Harvard’s Department of Fine Arts and later at Yale’s Students League. By his own admission he wanted to paint from when he was 12 years of age and throughout his life would achieve this dream. During his years attending Harvard (1922-25)  he studied art, architectural drawing and portraits – the latter being a skill that would set him up for his future career.

When the Second World War swept across the globe, Olin became a war artist and was one of the few artists commissioned by the American War Department to create drawing impressions of both combat and noncombat in various parts of the world. He would go on to serve in Europe from 1942 until the end of the War in 1945.

Enlisting in the US Army in June 1943, Olin was stationed in Maryland and sent to Officer training school. But he willingly gave this up to become a war artist in Europe. 

He was appointed to be the head of a group of artists who would go on to serve in England. Stationed in Woolacombe, his North Devon assignment was to document scenes of basic training and American troops preparing for combat.

Woolacombe beach was used by the US Assault Training centre, to train soldiers in the art of  amphibious assault tactics. All they learned there would be put to use when they were thrown onto the Normandy beaches on D-Day, 6th June 1944. Those training exercises were captured in Olin’s work ‘On the way to the assault boats, ‘LST landing training’ and many others. 

As he went into battle himself in Normandy, Olin was reported to have taken with him a notebook, a fountain pen, a camera and a carbine. He stayed with his division as it fought through France and Germany, before it finally linked up with the Soviet army. 

Following the war an exhibition of his work titled ‘The Army at War’ toured the United States. 

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