In the Highest Tradition–WWII Medal of Honor Art: Paintings by Col Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret)

By National Museum of the Marine Corps

In commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, the National Museum of the Marine Corps highlights the artwork of WWII veteran and Marine Corps artist, Col Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret).   

PFC Charlie Waterhouse WWII (1944-01-01/1945-12-31) by Courtesy of the Charles H. Waterhouse Family.National Museum of the Marine Corps

ARTIST:  Colonel Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret.)

Charles H. Waterhouse enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1943. He served with the 5th Marine Division on Iwo Jima and was wounded on the third day of the battle. After the war, he became a professional artist and served in Vietnam as a civilian combat artist for the U.S. Navy.

Charles H. Waterhouse in Vietnam (circa. 1966) by Courtesy of the Col Charles H. Waterhouse FamilyNational Museum of the Marine Corps

In 1973, the U.S. Marine Corps commissioned Waterhouse as a major in the Reserves to create paintings that depicted Marines in the Revolutionary War.

He spent the next 19 years as the Marine Corps' first official Artist-In-Residence, creating hundreds of paintings detailing the Corps' history.

Col Charles H. Waterhouse with Medal of Honor portraits by Courtesy of the Col Charles H. Waterhouse FamilyNational Museum of the Marine Corps

FINAL GIFT

After Waterhouse retired from the Corps, he embarked on a project to create a portrait and painting of every Marine and U.S. Navy Corpsman who had been awarded the Medal of Honor. Waterhouse's final gift to the Marine Corps would be 200 paintings and 106 miniature portraits of  Marine and Navy Medal of Honor recipients. He would gift the artwork to the National Museum of the Marine Corps in 2011 and 2012, shortly before his passing at the age of 89. In commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII, a selection of his artwork depicting WWII Medal of Honor recipients (1941-1945) is highlighted in this online exhibit, "In the Highest Tradition–WWII Medal of Honor Art: Paintings by Col Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret.)."                                                                                                            

First Lieutenant George H. Cannon, USMC – Sand Island, Midway Islands (circa 2000-2010) by Colonel Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCRNational Museum of the Marine Corps

WORLD WAR II BEGINS: 1941

In December 1941, during the opening days of World War II, the U.S. Marines fought heroically to defend their outposts on Pacific islands but were overrun by Japanese forces. In the one month of fighting in 1941, two Marines received the Medal of Honor posthumously for their heroism and sacrifice. Pictured here is Waterhouse's painting of Japanese forces firing on Midway island. The Marine Corps' first WWII Medal of Honor recipient, 1stLt George H. Cannon, gave his life in defense of Midway Island on December 7, 1941.

First Lieutenant George H. Cannon, USMC (circa 2000-2010) by Colonel Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCRNational Museum of the Marine Corps

Medal of Honor recipient First Lieutenant George H. Cannon, USMC

For distinguished conduct in the line of his profession, extraordinary courage, and disregard of his own condition during the bombardment of Sand Island, Midway Islands, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941.

Portrait by Col Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret)

Captain Henry T. Elrod, USMC – Battle of Wake Island (circa 2000-2010) by Colonel Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCRNational Museum of the Marine Corps

Battle of Wake Island

In this painting, Waterhouse depicts Marine Medal of Honor recipient Capt Henry T. Elrod, a pilot with VMF-211, as he fights off an overwhelming enemy force on Wake Island.

Painting by Col Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret)

Captain Henry T. Elrod, USMC (circa 2000-2010) by Colonel Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCRNational Museum of the Marine Corps

Medal of Honor recipient Captain Henry T. Elrod, USMC

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while attached to Marine Fighting Squadron Two Hundred Eleven, during action against enemy Japanese land, surface and aerial units at Wake Island, from 8 to 23 December 1941.


Portrait by Col Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret)

Colonel Merritt A. Edson, USMC - Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands (circa 2000-2010) by Colonel Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCRNational Museum of the Marine Corps

WWII: 1942

In 1942, the Marines began to push back against Japanese forces in the Pacific. Twelve Marines are awarded the Medal of Honor for their heroism. Pictured here is Waterhouse's painting of Marine Medal of Honor recipient











Col Merritt A. Edson leading men during the Battle of Guadalcanal, September 1942.

Sergeant John Basilone, USMC – Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands (circa 2000-2010) by Colonel Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCRNational Museum of the Marine Corps

Battle of Guadalcanal

In this oversized painting, Waterhouse captures Marine legend Sgt John Basilone fighting off Japanese forces during the Battle of Guadalcanal. Basilone received the Medal of Honor for his actions.

Painting by Col Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret), in the private collection of the Waterhouse Estate.

Basilone would survive the Battle of Guadalcanal and return to the States. After several years stateside, he returns to the war in 1945. On the first day of the invasion of Iwo Jima, Basilone is killed in action while leading his Marines.

Sergeant John Basilone, USMC (circa 2000-2010) by Colonel Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCRNational Museum of the Marine Corps

Medal of Honor Recipient Sergeant John Basilone

For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in action against enemy Japanese forces, above and beyond the call of duty, while serving with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division in the Lunga Area, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, on 24 and 25 October 1942.

Portrait by Col Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret)

Platoon Sergeant Mitchell Paige, USMC – Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands Group (circa 2000-2010) by Colonel Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCRNational Museum of the Marine Corps

Battle of Guadalcanal

Platoon Sergeant Mitchell Paige, USMC–Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands Group–26 October 1942

Painting by Col Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret.)

Platoon Sergeant Mitchell Paige, USMC (circa 2000-2010) by Colonel Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCRNational Museum of the Marine Corps

Medal of Honor recipient Sergeant Mitchell Paige

For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in action above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the Second Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division, in combat against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands Area on October 26, 1942.

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While this work may appear unfinished, this style was a conscious decision of the artist when he was creating these series of portraits.

Portrait by Col Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret)

First Lieutenant William D. Hawkins, USMC - Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands (circa 2000-2010) by Colonel Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCRNational Museum of the Marine Corps

WWII: 1943

In 1943, the Marines continued to invade and secure islands in the Pacific, taking the Solomon Islands, Bougainville, and Tarawa. In this painting, Waterhouse depicts 1stLt William D. Hawkins leading Marines at the Battle of Tarawa, November 1943. Hawkins received the Medal of Honor posthumously for his actions.

Battle of Tarawa

First Lieutenant William D. Hawkins, USMC–Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands–20 to 21 November 1943


Painting by Col Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret.)

First Lieutenant William D. Hawkins, USMC (circa 2000-2010) by Colonel Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCRNational Museum of the Marine Corps

Medal of Honor recipient First Lieutenant William D. Hawkins

For valorous and gallant conduct above and beyond the call of duty as Commanding Officer of a Scout Sniper Platoon attached to the Second Marines, Second Marine Division, in action against Japanese-held Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands, November 20 and 21, 1943.


Portrait by Col Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret)

First Lieutenant Kenneth A. Walsh, USMC - Solomon Islands Area (circa 2000-2010) by Colonel Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCRNational Museum of the Marine Corps

Solomon Islands

In the air, on land and at sea, the Marines continued to fight the enemy.

First Lieutenant Kenneth A. Walsh received a Medal of Honor for his actions over the Solomon Islands Area, 15 and 30 August 1943.

Painting by Col Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret.)

First Lieutenant Kenneth A. Walsh, USMC (circa 2000-2010) by Colonel Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCRNational Museum of the Marine Corps

Medal of Honor recipient First Lieutenant Kenneth A. Walsh

For extraordinary heroism and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty as a pilot in Marine Fighting Squadron 124 in aerial combat against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands area.

Portrait by Col Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret)

First Lieutenant Alexander Bonnyman, Jr., USMCR - Tarawa (circa 2000-2010) by Colonel Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCRNational Museum of the Marine Corps

Battle of Tarawa

First Lieutenant Alexander Bonnyman, Jr., USMCR fighting on Tarawa–20 to 22 November 1943.

Painting by Col Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret.)

First Lieutenant Alexander Bonnyman, Jr. (circa 2000-2010) by Colonel Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCRNational Museum of the Marine Corps

Medal of Honor recipient First Lieutenant Alexander Bonnyman, Jr.

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Executive Officer of the 2d Battalion Shore Party, 8th Marines, 2d Marine Division, during the assault against enemy Japanese-held Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands, 20–22 November 1943.

Portrait by Col Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret)

Gunnery Sergeant Robert H. McCard, USMC - Island of Saipan, Marianas Islands (circa 2000 - 2010) by Colonel Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCRNational Museum of the Marine Corps


WWII: 1944

In 1944, the Marines led the charge to capture Saipan, Guam and











Peleliu.  Waterhouse's artwork depicts GySgt Robert H. McCard, USMC fighting off enemy forces on Saipan, June 1944.  McCard received a Medal of Honor posthumously for his actions. 

Captain Louis H. Wilson, Jr., USMC - Fonte Hill, Guam (circa 2000 - 2010) by Colonel Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCRNational Museum of the Marine Corps

Battle of Guam

Captain Louis H. Wilson, Jr., USMC–Fonte Hill, Guam–25 to 26 July 1944

Painting by Col Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret.)

Captain Louis H. Wilson, Jr., USMC (circa 2000 - 2010) by Colonel Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCRNational Museum of the Marine Corps

Medal of Honor recipient Captain Louis H. Wilson, Jr., USMC

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Commanding Officer of Company F, Second Battalion, Ninth Marines, Third Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces at Fonte Hill, Guam, Marianas Islands, 25 and 26 July, 1944.

Portrait by Col Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret)

Private First Class Arthur J. Jackson, USMC - Island of Peleliu in the Palau Group (circa 2000 - 2010) by Colonel Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCRNational Museum of the Marine Corps

Battle of Peleliu

Private First Class Arthur J. Jackson, USMC–Island of Peleliu in the Palau Group–18 September 1944.

Painting by Col Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret.)

Private First Class Arthur J. Jackson, USMC (circa 2000 - 2010) by Colonel Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCRNational Museum of the Marine Corps

Medal of Honor recipient Private First Class Arthur J. Jackson, USMC

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the Third Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on the Island of Peleliu in the Palau Group, September 18, 1944.

Portrait by Col Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret)

Colonel Justice M. Chambers, USMCR - Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands (circa 2000-2010) by Colonel Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCRNational Museum of the Marine Corps

WWII: 1945

Early in 1945, the Marines landed on Iwo Jima where they raised an American flag that would forever be a symbol of their determination. In April, American forces made their last major WWII invasion on the island of Okinawa. The war would rage on until the Japanese surrendered in August. This artwork by Waterhouse depicts Col Justice M. Chambers leading the charge on Iwo Jima,



19 to 22 February 1945. Chambers received the Medal of Honor for his actions.

Corporal Hershel W. Williams, USMCR - Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands (circa 2000-2010) by Colonel Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCRNational Museum of the Marine Corps

Battle of Iwo Jima

In this painting, Waterhouse showcases Cpl Hershel W. Williams using his flame thrower to thwart the enemy on Iwo Jima, 23 February 1945.


Painting by Col Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret.)

Corporal Hershel W. Williams, USMCR (circa 2000-2010) by Colonel Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCRNational Museum of the Marine Corps

Medal of Honor recipient Corporal Hershel W. Williams, USMCR

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Demolition Sergeant serving with the First Battalion, Twenty-First Marines, Third Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, Volcano Island, 23 February 1945.

Portrait by Col Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret)

Pharmacist's Mate First Class Francis Pierce Jr., USN - Iwo Jima (circa 2000-2010) by Colonel Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCRNational Museum of the Marine Corps

Battle of Iwo Jima

Fighting alongside Marines were U.S. Navy Corpsmen, risking their lives to care for wounded Marines.

Pictured here is Pharmacist’s Mate First Class Francis Pierce, Jr. carrying a Marine to safety. Pierce received the Medal of Honor for his actions on Iwo Jima, 15 and 16 March 1945.


Painting by Col Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret.)

Hospital Apprentice First Class Robert E. Bush, USNR - Okinawa Jima, Ryukyu Islands (circa 2000-2010) by Colonel Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCRNational Museum of the Marine Corps

Battle of Okinawa

Hospital Apprecentice First Class Robert E. Bush, USNR–Okinawa Jima, Ryukyu Islands–2 May 1945

Painting by Col Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret.)

Hospital Apprentice First Class Robert E. Bush, USNR (circa 2000-2010) by Colonel Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCRNational Museum of the Marine Corps

Medal of Honor recipient Hospital Apprentice First Class Robert E. Bush, USN

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Medical Corpsman with a rifle company, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Okinawa Jima, Ryukyu Islands, 2 May 1945.

Portrait by Col Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret)

Private Robert M. McTureous, USMC - Okinawa in the Ryukyu Chain (circa 2000-2010) by Colonel Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCRNational Museum of the Marine Corps

Battle of Okinawa

The last major battle of WWII, the Battle of Okinawa, would be one of the bloodiest with more than 49,000 American casualties.

In this painting, Waterhouse depicts Pvt Robert M. McTureous tossing grenades into enemy caves to draw attention to himself as Marines are being evacuated. McTureous received the Medal of Honor posthumously, giving his life to save Marines.

Painting by Col Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret)

Private Robert M. McTureous, USMC (circa 2000-2010) by Colonel Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCRNational Museum of the Marine Corps

Medal of Honor recipient Private Robert M. McTureous, USMC

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with Company H, Third Battalion, Twenty-ninth Marines, Sixth Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Okinawa in the Ryukyu Chain, 7 June 1945.

Portrait by Col Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret)

Colonel Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret) (circa. 1990) by USMCNational Museum of the Marine Corps

Col Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret.)

Having fought in battle and wounded on Iwo Jima during WWII, Waterhouse understood the ultimate sacrifice made by Marines and Corpsmen in battle. This exhibit is a small representation of the volumes of work that Waterhouse created for the Marine Corps.   

Credits: Story

In the Highest Tradition—WWII Medal of Honor Art: Paintings by Col Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret) was developed by the National Museum of the Marine Corps, August 2020.

A selection of these paintings are currently on display in the Museum's Combat Art Gallery until 2021.

Joan Thomas, Art Curator

Angie McCrary, Public Affairs Specialist

National Museum of the Marine Corps Art Collection

Art copyright held by the Estate of Col Charles H. Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret).

Credits: All media
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