An American History of Battlefield/Trench Art

May 29, 2018

An American History of Battlefield/Trench Art

The tradition of creativity during battle is evident across the history of civilization. It rears its head every so often to boost the morale of soldiers, prisoners, and civilians who face destruction head on. Some of these brave men and women did not return from that battlefield, leaving their works of art to be displayed as living memories for the history of the battles they faced. There are few better examples of this escapism than the trench art of World War I, where soldiers from across the globe squared off in the trenches, faced with technologies that were manipulating history before their eyes. The use of aircraft, artillery and repeating rifles illuminated new dangers and anxieties for soldiers and civilians. People began using casings, munitions, scrap metal and other items to create anything they could; from sculptures to jewelry and goblets, along with other works of art.

These works would be seen as collectors items and timepieces for years to come, and many turned over to museums and historical societies to commemorate their combined bravery and artistry. In 1916, The Battle of Verdun lasted from February-December, during which it is believed that over 60 million shells had fallen on the French and German soldiers during the 11 month span of the fighting. Many of these spent casings and broken weapons became the canvases for these men and women to hold some semblance of normalcy. Those in the trenches created a wide array of useful tools and trinkets that made the day-to-day a little bit more manageable. For example, a soldier who crafted a refillable lighter with its wick dipped in oil, solely from a bullet and flint wheel, to help catch a smoke break amidst the shelling; or a match box cover to shield the flint from the wet dirt and grime; even goblets with engraved names of two french towns, Tahure and Hurlus. All of these, now artifacts of "The Great War", are on display across the globe at the various museums; such as, the National World War I museum in Kansas City, the Imperial War Museum in the UK to the National Army Museum of New Zealand. These displays will continue as windows into the experiences these totems hold.

This tradition is actually far more relevant to a time most of us could relate to than some may think. Picture any movie based around the war in Vietnam; can you see a helmet or a lighter inscribed with glimpses into the mind of the soldier brandishing said gear? The fact of the matter is, these were not merely coy props on a movie set; but an attempt at perfectionism to show what it was really like. There have been an innumerable amount of lighters given to museums, that are engraved with the catch phrases and designs of the G.I.s in southeast Asia. It is hard to describe the differences of each lighter without saying that each one is as unique as the man who held it. Those lighters have been described as the only thing a serviceman could count on during the war. They used them as pseudo-dog-tags, that had more personality than a name and number. From the hilarious to the depressing, there is surely a dichotomy to what warfare can do to the mind, but each lighter truly shows the overall experience that each soldier had in his reality. A message to the history books, '’this is what it felt like,to me". A glimmer of individuality and free thought, in an extremely harsh environment. It is very interesting to see the differences in the experience each person has in such times and it allows us to see into the realities at hand. They were dealing with what they had and showing who they truly were through art.

The good thing is that they are here to be remembered; to be put in a glass case at a museum, a desk drawer of a Veteran, or small box of memories tucked away in an attic to be found by future generations to come. The history behind these relics, regardless of age, is a way to see past a history lesson or an image on a TV screen. It is a way to view and hold a piece of human history, and feel the magnitude of creativity and hope that one was able to find on the battlefield.

Here at Lucky Shot USA, we are dedicated to the craft of refurbishing tools of war and making them into a piece of historical memorabilia that can be appreciated by all as a representation of the art that can become of these pieces of refuse. We handcraft all of our products from the real munitions, used by our armed forces, making them into true pieces of Americana! From .50 Cal Lighters to105mm Howitzer ashtrays, and evenshot glasses embossed with .308s, we craft to utilize and upcycle genuine munitions into useful and beautiful products.

Lucky Shot USA® High Caliber. Handcrafted. We are committed to giving munitions a second chance! 

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