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Archive for Sunday, June 3, 2001

Brothers in arms

Lawrence artist forges tribute to D-Day soldiers

June 3, 2001

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Artist Jim Brothers watches as his sculpture is raised into place (file size: 5031k).
Workers raise and secure the D-Day Memorial sculpture (file size: 3041k).
Scenes from in and around the new D-Day Memorial (file size: 4127k).

In the early-morning hours of a late-spring day, a group of soldiers and transport vehicles commenced a journey. Last-minute instructions were given, maps studied and two-way communication tested.

The crew moved east, stopped at a Kansas Turnpike tollbooth for a ticket and left Lawrence under a cover of darkness. Operation "Smooth Blue" was launched, headed for the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va.

Smooth Blue is the nickname of the blue GMC Suburban hauling a 4,900-pound sculpture by Lawrence artist Jim Brothers. A second red Suburban pulled a U-Haul with a smaller bronze piece. A few friends completed the crew.

As the chief sculptor for the National D-Day Memorial to be dedicated this week, Brothers had just completed his latest, largest piece, the fourth in a series of figures for the memorial. At his North Lawrence studio and at Heartland Art Bronze foundry in Lawrence, Brothers for the past three years has devoted most of his waking hours to sculpting a platoon of soldiers for the memorial.

To equip himself for the long journey, Brothers, who has done graduate work in fine arts at Kansas University, immersed himself in his subject. He read Stephen E. Ambrose's "Citizen Soldiers" and "D-Day June 6, 1944," interviewed decorated World War II veterans including Lee Scott of Lawrence, traveled to the beaches of Normandy, France, where the defining battle of the war took place, and assembled authentic clothes, weapons and tools for inspiration.

"I've been living one day for three years," Brothers said. "I've never been so involved in a project before."

From artistic concept to clay to bronze, Brothers takes short steps to complete his works.

"You build a metal armature, then you foam, then you carve," he said. "You set many small goals. If you think about the final goal you'd go nuts."

But the biggest goal has been reached. Wednesday, the 57th anniversary of D-Day, Brothers and more than 20,000 people are expected for the memorial's dedication.

Lawrence artist Jim Brothers is the chief sculptor for the National
D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va. Last month, Brothers and his crew
were in Bedford, putting in place his latest and largest bronze
piece in the memorial, "Scaling the Wall." Here, he applies a coat
of wax to the work. The National D-Day Memorial will be dedicated
Wednesday, the 57th anniversary of D-Day.

Lawrence artist Jim Brothers is the chief sculptor for the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va. Last month, Brothers and his crew were in Bedford, putting in place his latest and largest bronze piece in the memorial, "Scaling the Wall." Here, he applies a coat of wax to the work. The National D-Day Memorial will be dedicated Wednesday, the 57th anniversary of D-Day.

The sculpture brigade from Lawrence held a steady course for their 1,100-mile, 21-hour journey. "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow," a tune from the movie soundtrack "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" Brothers' current favorite played in the Suburban.

A man of constant worry, Brothers kept his eyes glued on his sculpture, which was being hauled on the trailer in front of him. "I'm not a real religious man," he said, "but I just basically prayed that thing into Bedford."

High price to pay

Bedford, a farming community of 3,200 in the 1940s, has seen its share of sorrow.

On June 6, 1944, 35 townsmen were part of the first assault at Normandy on Omaha Beach. Nineteen of the young Bedford men were killed within the first desperate 15 minutes of battle. Two more died from injuries suffered in the attack, the largest loss of life per capita for D-Day of any town in the nation.

Ray Stevens, a Bedford native, offered to shake hands with his twin brother, Roy, before they launched in different assault boats on D-Day. Roy declined, saying they'd shake hands when they got off the beach.

"My boat sank right off the coast" Roy Stevens recalled. "Ray went on in. I was told he got machine-gunned. It still bothers me that I didn't shake his hand."

The sculpture "Death on Shore" depicts a fallen soldier and
includes a pack with a Bible and letters spilled onto the beach. At
right, Lawrence sculptor Jim Brothers wades through the water to
the beach.

The sculpture "Death on Shore" depicts a fallen soldier and includes a pack with a Bible and letters spilled onto the beach. At right, Lawrence sculptor Jim Brothers wades through the water to the beach.

Others in Bedford mourn fallen family members.

"It was such a tremendous loss for this community," said Lucille Boggess, 71.

Boggess was in her mid-teens when her family received a letter before church one Sunday. Her brother, Bedford Hoback, had been killed in the D-Day assault. The next day a second message arrived. That one carried the news that her brother Raymond was missing.

"He was wounded near the water and washed back into the channel and drowned," recalled Boggess.

This granite arch bears homage to the code word for the Allied
Forces' invasion. Beneath the "Overlord" arch, Brothers'
19-by-8-foot bronze wall of four soldiers is hoisted by a crane
into position. On each side of the sculpture are recessed
waterfalls, and on the beach scene at bottom are additional
sculptures by Brothers.

This granite arch bears homage to the code word for the Allied Forces' invasion. Beneath the "Overlord" arch, Brothers' 19-by-8-foot bronze wall of four soldiers is hoisted by a crane into position. On each side of the sculpture are recessed waterfalls, and on the beach scene at bottom are additional sculptures by Brothers.

A soldier walking across the beach on D-Day plus one found Raymond's Holy Bible.

"He thumbed through it until he found mom and dad's name and sent it," Boggess said.

"My mom always treasured that. That was the only thing of Raymond's she ever received."

A piece by Brothers, "Death on Shore," incorporated the family's story, depicting a fallen soldier with a Bible and letters spilled from a pack.

"That just broke my heart all over again," Boggess said. "It represented all the fallen soldiers, but particularly of my family's loss."

Towering tribute

Located on the highest ground above Bedford, the 88-acre monument site features a sweeping view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. An area devoted to the monument, designed by architect Byron Dickson, includes a granite arch inscribed with the word "Overlord," the Allied Forces' code name for the invasion. At 44-feet, 6-inches high, it signifies the year and day of D-Day.

The sculpture "Final Tribute" by Baldwin artist Matt Kirby depicts a battlefield grave and stands near the arch.

At Heartland Art Bronze foundry in Lawrence, Larry Adams, Dodge
City, and Terry Baldwin, Topeka, foundry manager, pound sections of
bronze into place for "Scaling the Wall." Nearly 180 pieces of
bronze were welded together to create the story wall. "It's like
putting together a three-dimensional puzzle that doesn't fit,"
Brothers said.

At Heartland Art Bronze foundry in Lawrence, Larry Adams, Dodge City, and Terry Baldwin, Topeka, foundry manager, pound sections of bronze into place for "Scaling the Wall." Nearly 180 pieces of bronze were welded together to create the story wall. "It's like putting together a three-dimensional puzzle that doesn't fit," Brothers said.

Brothers' statuary is located on a plaza area and beneath the arch in a shallow pool and concrete beach.

His piece "Scaling the Wall" hangs from a wall below the arch and above the pool. On it, Brothers has depicted four Rangers climbing the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc. One soldier leaps over the wall near the base of the arch. Another, in death, defies gravity and is suspended in his fall.

Word of the arrival of new sculptures from their Kansas friend brought Stevens and Boggess to the site.

The National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va., will be dedicated
Wednesday. This aerial view of the monument site shows the granite
"Overlord" arch on a plaza at upper center. The two small circular
areas and large center area represent the different branches of the
military and contain statuary. The names of soldiers killed on
D-Day will be on bronze plaques around the interior of the larger
circle. In the lower left-hand corner is an English garden.

The National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va., will be dedicated Wednesday. This aerial view of the monument site shows the granite "Overlord" arch on a plaza at upper center. The two small circular areas and large center area represent the different branches of the military and contain statuary. The names of soldiers killed on D-Day will be on bronze plaques around the interior of the larger circle. In the lower left-hand corner is an English garden.

"This is unbelievable, Jim," Stevens said. "It looks so real. Almost like you want to touch it and help the guy."

"You can touch it," Brothers said. "But you can't help them."

"Oh, gosh, this thing is something else," Boggess said.

She put her hand on the bronze, studying the soldiers.

"This is going to be a heartbreaker," she said. "It's going to make the memorial."

The sculptures elicited strong emotional responses from many veterans and family members.

"They want to touch it. They shed a tear," Boggess said. "It reminds you of the fallen men and the tremendous loss of this community. I think he really knows how to get into the emotions all of us were feeling."

Lawrence sculptor Jim Brothers is the chief sculpture for the
National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, VA. To date he has finished 4
bronze sculptures depicting 8 figures of WWII soldiers in the D-Day
invasion on Normandy, France in 1944.

Lawrence sculptor Jim Brothers is the chief sculpture for the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, VA. To date he has finished 4 bronze sculptures depicting 8 figures of WWII soldiers in the D-Day invasion on Normandy, France in 1944.

Brothers is gratified by such responses.

"I hold them in such respect," he said of the veterans and their families. "To please them is such a wonderful thing, yet sometimes you'll see they have tears in their eyes. But you also see that you created this emotion. You know you've done your job."

Brothers had never seen "Scaling the Wall" in a vertical position until a crane placed it on the memorial wall.

"Whoa," Brothers said. "That almost makes me cry."

"We built it horizontal. The fact that all of a sudden, instead of being gravity burdened, it defies gravity. I was definitely seeing it for the first time. My gosh, what a mammoth relief."

Additional sculptures are planned, but for the moment Brothers can reflect on what he has accomplished.

"I feel like I'm the luckiest sculptor alive," he said. "How many sculptors ever in their life time will get to do a national monument?"

Despite his three-year involvement with the memorial project. Brothers acknowledges a greater sacrifice.

"I've lived D-Day for a good three years," he said. "But I get to thinking that the veterans are living it for the rest of their lives."

In his North Lawrence studio Jim Brothers surrounds himself with an
eclectic mix of wax molds, former clay sculptures and stuffed
birds.

In his North Lawrence studio Jim Brothers surrounds himself with an eclectic mix of wax molds, former clay sculptures and stuffed birds.

Lights illuminate the National D-Day Memorial site. From the
foreground to top of photograph is the wading pool, a concrete
beach, bridge, waterfall and Jim Brothers sculpture "Scaling the
Wall". At top is the 44-foot, 6-inch "Overlord" arch representing
the Allied forces invasion and the date of the invasion.

Lights illuminate the National D-Day Memorial site. From the foreground to top of photograph is the wading pool, a concrete beach, bridge, waterfall and Jim Brothers sculpture "Scaling the Wall". At top is the 44-foot, 6-inch "Overlord" arch representing the Allied forces invasion and the date of the invasion.

Alan Austin grinds out a welding line between two pieces of bronze
for the sculpture "Scaling the Wall"by Lawrence artist Jim
Brothers. Austin was working at Heartland Art Bronze foundry in
Lawrence where the 4,900 pound piece was completed.

Alan Austin grinds out a welding line between two pieces of bronze for the sculpture "Scaling the Wall"by Lawrence artist Jim Brothers. Austin was working at Heartland Art Bronze foundry in Lawrence where the 4,900 pound piece was completed.

WWII veteran and Bedford, VA resident Roy Stevens greets sculptor
Jim Brothers at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, May 23rd.
The memorial will be dedicated this Wednesday on the 57th
anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1944 .

WWII veteran and Bedford, VA resident Roy Stevens greets sculptor Jim Brothers at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, May 23rd. The memorial will be dedicated this Wednesday on the 57th anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1944 .

"Scaling the Wall" a story wall depicting four WWII Ranger soldiers
climbing Pointe Du Hoc at Normandy, France on D-Day, is lifted into
position at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, VA. The
memorial and statuary will be dedicated Wednesday, June 6, 2001,
the 57th anniversary of the invasion.

"Scaling the Wall" a story wall depicting four WWII Ranger soldiers climbing Pointe Du Hoc at Normandy, France on D-Day, is lifted into position at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, VA. The memorial and statuary will be dedicated Wednesday, June 6, 2001, the 57th anniversary of the invasion.

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