May 27, 2019

© 2019 By Cassidy Newkirk

Cassidy Newkirk, a young Wyoming artist, grew up with one foot in the Rock River ranching community and the other in her art, especially oil painting which she learned from her great-grandmother, which told the stories of the Wyoming ranch and livestock life around her. But it was another passion, military history and the experiences of her own family members in their military service, that motivated her to capture the unique, personal experiences of war.

Nikki Stratton, a friend and colleague, asked Newkirk to create a painting of the U.S.S. Arizona as a special 90th birthday present for her grandfather Donald Stratton who had served on the ship. That painting lead to a commission for the Final Salute campaign to depict the fiery demise of the U.S.S. Arizona during the Pearl Harbor bombing. This painting would help raise funds to get the five remaining survivors of the U.S.S. Arizona, including Mr. Stratton, to Pearl Harbor and the events marking the 75th anniversary of the bombing.

This project challenged the young woman who wanted to show events from the perspective of those who lived it. The smoke and flames prohibited any photographer to get close enough to show the fleeing sailors. Only 333 members of the 1,511 man crew, which included the then 19-year old Donald Stratton, survived the bombing and it was their descriptions of the event that were relied to depict of that catastrophic event. Newkirk’s efforts to make the 6 ft by 8 ft painting as realistic and accurate as possible is a story itself. The year-long work to bring the painting to life resulted in a deep connection with the project. The 8 ft by 6 ft painting was copied 41 times, to mark the year of the attack, 1941, and each was sold for $1,177, a tribute to the 1,177 sailors who died on the ship that day.

The painting was unveiled at a ceremony at during the anniversary events attended by the ship’s survivors. It now resides at the Memorial, educating, inspiring and humbling the visitors to Pearl Harbor.

Historical accounts of Pearl Harbor can be found here.