NARRATOR: Framed in a doorway, facing away from us, this female figure slumps in grief. A photo on the table shows her son or husband in uniform. The painting’s title, Casualty: The Secretary of War Regrets, quotes the telegram dreaded by every serviceman’s family.
Lawrence’s War Series originated during his service on a World War II Navy transport ship.
JACOBLAWRENCE: Again, I will never forget that experience. We would go over carrying 5,000 troops—young, American troops—and we would come back a hospital ship. Many of these cases were horrible. They were terrible to see, what can happen in war, especially what can happen to a person mentally, physically, psychologically. I don’t think I can verbalize that, because I would only cheapen the experience.
NARRATOR: Lawrence began the War Series in 1947, two years after he was discharged in December 1945. It was his way of coming to terms with what he’d witnessed.