Parting Shot: Truly Tough Vantage Point

Charles Hoffbauer painting in a trench during World War I

A recent conversation on social media centered around this photograph of Charles Hoffbauer painting from a battlefield trench in World War I.

The artist had enjoyed art world success when he enlisted as a private in the 274th Infantry Regiment during the war. Soon he was experiencing the horrors of war, and trying to depict a bit of it so folks back home could begin to understand. “I volunteered to go to the front, and was sent near Rheims,” Hoffbauer wrote in a 1915 letter. “After a period of most bloody battles … my regiment is now checking the Germans before Rheims. We live in trenches, and are rapidly returning to the state of civilization of the cave man. I am writing this letter in a little hole … six feet underground … My fountain pen and the telephone apparatus hanging near me (for I am a telephonist) are the only remains of civilization … thousands and thousands of men will die….” Another letter reported, “I went to Soissons too. Soissons is entirely ruined and the battlefield was awful to look on. Everywhere tanks and airplanes battered down and out of order, dead horses and men and guns and ammunition spread over the fields, an awful sight.”

Hoffbauer was promoted to sergeant and received the Croix de Guerre for bravery in the Battle of the Somme, according to Wikipedia.


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