war letters

WWII Combat Artist Ed Reep’s Family Donates Hundreds of Letters and Original Art Pieces to Chapman University Letters and art by WWII veteran Ed Reep were donated to Chapman University’s Center for American War Letters and the Hilbert Museum of California Art.

World War II combat artist Ed Reep’s daily habit of writing home saved his life, says his daughter Susan Reep, of Bakersfield.

In the collection of war time letters and pieces of original art she recently donated to Chapman University’s Center for American War Letters and the Hilbert Museum of California Art, is the letter telling the story from that day while her father was stationed in Italy. His friends had decided to go to a local theater, but Ed Reep stayed back to write a letter home to his wife Karen. The theater was bombed and his fellow soldiers were killed.

Reep went on to fight in the battles and campaigns of Rome, Arno, Naples, Foggia, North Apennines and the Po Valley, and he received the Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Painting to produce his war impressions when he returned from the war. He received the Bronze Star Medal for Bravery and the European African Middle Eastern Theater Service Medal with four bronze battle stars. He produced a body of work that resides in the Pentagon and the Army Art Archives. His artwork shifts from portraits and architecture from the 1930s through the 1950s to more abstract art and watercolors from the 1960s to the 2000s before his death in 2013.

His letters shed light on his personal battles including survivor’s guilt after the theater bombing. He felt like a coward, he wrote, and he decided to stay with the troop. During battle, one soldier was badly injured and Reep ran through the firefight to save him. The soldier lived because of Reep’s actions and decades after the war, the soldier’s son wrote Reep a letter thanking him for saving his father’s life. Had Reep not succeeded in saving his friend, the man, his siblings and their children would never have been born or know his story.

Contact Cerise Valenzuela Metzger, cmetzger@chapman.edu to schedule interviews with Susan Reep; Andrew Carroll, the founding director for Chapman University’s Center for American War Letters; and Mary Platt, director of the Hilbert Museum of California Art. 

About Chapman University
Founded in 1861, Chapman University is a nationally ranked private university located in Southern California. Chapman is categorized by the Carnegie Classification as an R2 “high research activity” institution and offers personalized education to more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The campus has produced a Rhodes Scholar, been named a top producer of Fulbright Scholars, and hosts a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious honor society. Based in the city of Orange, Chapman also includes the Harry and Diane Rinker Health Science Campus in Irvine. In 2019, the university opened its 11th college, Fowler School of Engineering, in its newest facility, Keck Center for Science and Engineering. Learn more about Chapman University: www.chapman.edu.


Cerise Valenzuela Metzger

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