Artifact Spotlight: Dying Banshee, 1953

This week we are proud to announce the opening of a new exhibit on loan from the Navy Art Collection. Fire and Ice: Combat Art from the Korean War features the work of Hugh Cabot and Herbert C. Hahn, the two official Navy combat artists whose work constitutes part of the visual record of the war from 1950-1953.

The first piece featured in our artifact spotlight is Dying Banshee, painted by Herbert C. Hahn in 1953. Hahn was a Navy reservist who was called to active duty when the Korean War broke out. He was assigned to USS Boxer (CV-21) as a photographer, but during his spare time he enjoyed making drawings of the ship and its crew as they went about their daily routines. His work was so good that Boxer's officers started taking notice. Word of his talent traveled all the way up the chain of command until it reached the Secretary of the Navy, Francis P. Matthews. Hahn was soon reassigned to the Public Information Office in Tokyo as a combat artist. He spent the rest of the war documenting the action on land and at sea.

The F2H Banshee was a single-seat, carrier-based fighter that was introduced in 1948. After the small North Korean air force was destroyed in the first few weeks of the war, many fighters like the Banshee were pressed into service as ground attack aircraft. Flown by U.S. Navy and Marine Corps pilots, Banshees attacked enemy troop concentrations and performed photo reconnaissance missions. However, flying low to the ground was dangerous. The Banshee pilot in this watercolor is struggling to gain altitude in order to eject after being hit by anti-aircraft fire.

Fire and Ice: Combat Art from the Korean War is on display at the Naval War College Museum through December 30th.


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