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Charles Waterhouse devoted his last years to portraying all Marines and Navy corpsmen who earned the Medal of Honor

“Once a Marine, always a Marine,” goes a popular saying, and if the U.S. Marine Corps ever had to prove the point, it need only refer to Col. Charles H. Waterhouse.

He was just another kid in the corps when he hit the sulfurous beach with the first wave at Iwo Jima, Japan, on Feb. 19, 1945, only to fall with a wound that inflicted permanent nerve damage to his left hand. Regardless, after World War II he studied art at the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts in New Jersey. On graduation in 1950 he embarked on a successful career that drew him back to illustrating moments in Marine history.

That led to his being commissioned a major and named the first—and thus far only—Marine Corps artist in residence. He ultimately painted more than 500 portraits or scenarios depicting an array of events, from the formation of the corps, on Nov. 10, 1775, to the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At age 82 Waterhouse set his sights on rendering portraits of every Marine and Navy corpsman awarded the Medal of Honor and portraying the acts for which each received the award. At the time of his death at age 89 on Nov. 16, 2013, he had produced 332 such paintings—the most comprehensive output of Medal of Honor moments by a single artist.

His daughter Jane Waterhouse, a successful author of novels and mysteries, showed equal devotion in publishing all those paintings and a personal tribute to the man who created them in a stirring volume entitled Valor in Action. Here is a showcase of images from the book. MH


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This article appeared in the March 2022 issue of Military History magazine. For more stories, subscribe and visit us on Facebook.