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Life Aboard

June 2024
1min read


In 1943 Life magazine summoned the painter Paul Sample from his duties as artist-in-residence at Dartmouth College and sent him out on a war patrol aboard a submarine. “Painting pictures of the war,” said Sample, “is no different from the year in and year out painting at home.” This wasn’t quite true, of course, as Sample spent his time in the closest quarters the Navy had to offer, making hasty sketches that he fleshed out into paintings when he got back to dry land. The submarine happened to be the Trigger, and the painting above was almost the portrait of our author. Commander Beach recalls that he posed on the bridge, but at the last moment the artist substituted the face of the sub’s captain, Roy S. Benson. “Captains often stole junior officers’ girls,” says Beach, “but this is the first time one stole a body.” Bodysnatching not withstanding, Benson was a good skipper. “He not only controls the ship during attacks” said Sample, “but he is the ship’s doctor and father and heart. Little things he does—chinning himself on the conning tower in the afternoons, puffing quietly on a cigar on the bridge, kidding his men about their girls or their haircuts—set the tone and maintain the morale of the whole ship.”

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