EJN #1: Remembrance

Edward G. Nilges: “Remembrance of Edward Joseph Nilges”, pencil, wash and pen on paper Sep 1 2010

Edward Joseph Nilges served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team as a Lieutenant and Captain from 1944 to 1945, in the Vosges in the south of France and in northern Italy. The 442nd Combat Team’s enlisted men and some officers were second generation Nisei or Japanese-American and many of the Japanese men had families that were interned during the war. Edward Joseph Nilges was killed in action at the battle of Mt. Folgorito in April 1945 as the Germans were pushed to the north of their “Gothic Line”.

This shall document the painting project as it happens.

1. It looked like Eisenhower until I remembered something a coworker had said at Princeton. I’d brought the kids to work. He said, “I knew those were your kids, I could tell by their noses”.

He looked again, and saw it was
A letter from his Wife

(Lewis Carroll, The Mad Gardener’s Song). I looked at the photograph and lengthened the nose. It dominates the face as the mountains dominated the valleys in the Po Valley where he died.

2. The garrison cap, known as a wedge cap in the Canadian forces, the forage cap in the UK, and the cunt cap to an irreverent pal who wore it in the Berlin Brigade in 1961, is a size too small in my drawing and for this reason looks Italian. He wouldn’t like that at all. He had zero respect for Italian men during the war. They didn’t go to Mass, but he did: with aging women dressed in black and the priest droning Latin.

3. He is forcing a smile through an unforced military gaze, keen, sharp-eyed, knowing. He is no longer quite young at 29. My grandfather’s clay for this reason forms the underlying structure.

4. My effort is only passable.

…als im Kampf erschlagen Gamuret! – Wagner, Parsifal

I have not tagged this with my uncle’s name for I do not wish this content to overwhelm other memorial sites on Google. This is art by one named the black sheep, dumber even than Kundry.

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