Clinton Ford Exhibit
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Update: Sadly, artist Clinton S. Ford, Sr., has passed away.
Exhibit: Clinton Ford, Painter of Wartime Memories
From November 9, 2000 to December 11, 2000 The Richard Bland College Library hosted a showing of some of Clinton Ford's art work. Mr. Ford, a native of Richmond, Virginia, enlisted in the Virginia National Guard when he was 18. In 1941 he was called into active duty. His folk art tells the story of his experiences in World War II at Normandy, Holland and at the Battle of the Bulge.
For years Mr. Ford was unable to talk about this part of his life, but through his association with art teacher Michelle Delano, who encouraged him to use his art to tell his story, he has produced over 100 canvases. He works in oils and acrylics, using vivid color and lots of texture, sometimes incorporating found objects in his work. This art display with its strong recollections of wartime memories makes the viewer stand back, breathe deep and contemplate the reality of these scenes.
Each photo has a title and can be enlarged. Just position the cursor over the photo for that option and click to enlarge. For further information on each photo, in Mr. Clinton's own words, go to the bottom of the page.
#1: Normandy, June 9, 1944: We worked at night, but I tried to catch a little sleep. The next morning I was leaning up against a big tree, and day-dreaming of back home. I could almost see The Whitetower Hamburger floating by when a grenade went off at our feet. Then we saw a young German running towards us. With a short supply of ammo, we had to move, or fight with our hands. We needed more ammo and troops together right then. I sort of "pledged" that I wouldn't pass up The Whitetower when I got home - I'd make it my first stop.
#2: Old French Man, Normandy, somewhere near Cherbourg: We came across a small home; looked about 10 ft. square. There were grapevines all over the front, except a small entranceway. No one was living there, we thought. So, I told them, "I'll check it anyway." When I kicked the door open, he started to shout "shoot, shoot, shoot! Shoot me - I'm old, and I can't take it any more!"
#3: German Machine Gun: "While on patrol at night we came face to face with a German machine gun. Zeek was lead man and spoke Polish and German. He asked if everything was OK. The Germans replied 'yes.' Zeek said 'just checking up on you.' He whispered to me, as I was behind him in second place, to about face and calmly walk where we came from. that was the next hedgerow. If I drew this as a night picture, you couldn't see the men properly."
#4: Tanks in Field: This is a scene of a tank coming through an open field - there were always mines. You had to look for fresh dug dirt. The supply trailer brought k-rations and so on. We didn't see supply trailers often enough. Canned hash was the main thing. The crackers were good. I keep thinking, what did we eat? When did we eat? I know what it is to be hungry.
#5: Night Jump - Normandy, June 6, 1944, 12:20: "We missed our first time over the jump site because the light we were to jump by was shot out. So the Jump Master came back and asked, 'Why didn't you jump?' Then he told us, 'When you see the tail of the plane go up - get out.' There were two islands off the coast. The pilot flew between them and dumped us out at approximately 250 feet. When I was landing, a German soldier was in the hedgerow. When I looked at him, his rifle clicked three times while I was getting out of my chute. So he threw his rifle down and ran. I managed to get with three others. We started our combat mission that night. I say thanks that his rifle didn't fire. He was such a good-looking youth to be in the War."
#6: Airborne Spearhead Attacks 1944: This picture is of parachutes and a glider that were not destroyed in the 'night jump.' sort of how it was then, with parachutes floating to the ground. The man in front is waiting for the men to get out of the glider. It also shows some of the stragglers coming down.
#7: Ground Troops: Shown are soldiers combing the woods for enemy troops, always having to be prepared to fight for a way back out. Even in the brush, they are looking for machine guns & Germans 'waiting for you.' Yet, the invasion was successful.
#8: Clearing Minefields: This picture is of a squad of men clearing the beaches near swamps the Germans had flooded before we jumped. Here is a grassy field with buried mines to keep our tanks from coming in their direction. Most of these men were trained in clearing mines, and were in our demolition crew.
#9: Crash Landing: "This is a picture of a C-47 crash. The men standing around are checking for identification. Most of my pictures are taken from times after combat. They are unreal, and often forgotten. But to have a plane drop near where you are, and to see the explosion and debris strewn all over the place, then to come upon the plane with men that never made it still hooked up to jump is something you never forget. I have pictures still embedded in my brain that will be erased one day."
#10: Nijmegen Bridge, Holland: 'The 508th Parachute Infantry jumped four miles southeast of Nijmegen on Sept. 17, 1944, at 13:30 hours. Our company was assigned to take the beautiful Nijmegen Bridge. G Company went on-point as leaders. We were their backup and we followed them closely as we took the bridge. The motion picture, 'A Bridge Too Far,' tells of the action we saw there. This was a scary time, as we did not know whether the Germans would blow the bridge as we went over, or if planes would destroy it from above with our troops on it. On the other side of the bridge, we held our outpost for some weeks. The 'Jerrys,' as German soldiers were called, could be depended on to spray or open fire with machine guns and mortar fire to keep us honest, and we knew about what time of day they would begin."
#11: Hotel on Lake Geneva (Evian France): As you can see, the Hotel is in the left-hand corner. A quarter-mile down the tram line was a building, and swimming pool. Then you could see the city of Geneva on the Swiss side of the lake. On the French side was this beautiful hotel at Evian. We had one week of R&R there - no girls, just a few G.I.s and nothing to do but go for a swim and back to the room, look at the spectacular scenery, and rest. That was badly needed after a year on the front lines.
#12: Vino Factory: "This was a building near out outpost. From there we could see both Americans and Germans come and go with containers of wine and gin. Since we had no water to drink, a shot of wine was customary with 'C' or 'D' rations. Occasionally a hot meal was served out of the containers near us. We were in a holding pattern."
#13: German Caissons: Some civilian, or Frenchmen, took this picture. The Germans are fully armed and dangerous. The poor horse is pulling the load. Soon they will be in battle with Americans. A lot of them won't make it home. Beautiful sunset, buildings on fire, the war goes on.
#14: First Aid Station: Looks kind of quiet, yet a few hours after this scene the Germans launched another attack, and things began to happen. More people were wounded & killed. This was a Command Post & First Aid Station. This one had a volunteer nurse and doctor. Of course, wounded were patched up as best as they could be in the field, then sent back to the Aid Station. Help was always short. You could still hear the calls for "Medic!"
#15: Germans Dead, Holzheim: This is a short story about dead Germans piled up near Holzheim. There was always one more next mission to fight or to surrender. The 82nd airborne with a fighting strength of 10,000 captured over 200,000 prisoners. Even a whole division surrendered. This story about Holzheim has a lot more history to it than I can remember. I know we didn't just shoot them and pile them up.
#16: Battle of the Bulge: This is a snow scene like the others. The men are headed to the Siegfried Line. Right now, it's just a big line on their maps. No matter what our destination - the Germans were always between us and it. There are a lot of woods, and of course, huge piles of snow and blowing wind. As they enter the woods of the Ardennes Forest there will be the elements and the enemy, and the war will go on - more battles, more dying. The G.I.s were pushing a 'weasel,' a tank-like jeep with tracks on it, back up the road.
#17: Battle of the Bulge: Another snow scene in Belgium. Troops are on the move on a small road toward the 'front.' Last man to bring up the rear is always facing rear, so the enemy won't entrap us. There are always Germans across the hill, or in the woods. We fight and take the town, and then they come back and run us to high ground. Next morning, we meet again. More casualties - wounded and dead. Most of the survivors are still glad to be alive. And, hope to live to tell the story.
#18: Artillery: "The value of artillery was appreciated by every airborne infantryman fighting. It softened up the enemy by blasting his defense and terrifying him for an attack. Thank you artillery."
#19: Show off War Trophy: "Here we are showing off a German Flag we took from a town in Holland. We had a couple of days to rest and get ready. It seems someone was always taking pictures on road stops. When in combat or on patrol we never had time, except to fight."
#20: Headed for Schmidt: 'This shows some of the wreckage of the trip while passing some of the war torn cities. Snow was the worst enemy and too deep. Each town had its own war. They were all different and some had more casualties than others."
#21: Moving Toward the Ardennes Forest: "This is a picture of the forward advance, where the Germans broke through the American Line, better known as the Battle of the Bulge. We were holding the Nijmegen Bridge, when they called us to close up a hole in the Ardennes Forest Line (the Bulge). There was two feet of snow. We were carrying supplies to the forest, and getting ready to move toward Ardennes and the Siegfried Line, near Rodt and Wallerode. We had Christmas Dinner near Erria, Belgium, Dec. 24."
#22: Bunker at Port of Le Havre: This is a picture of a bunker of the port of Le Havre, France, where we left to go back to England to get reserves and reorganize, to get ready for our jump at Nijmegen, Holland. The bunker is damaged. It's now a place for tourists to take pictures, and think of their loved ones who did not make it home.
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