Michael Akkerman is an American artist whose work is heavily influenced by World War Two (WW2) military history. Michael has kindly allowed The War Years to show some of his work here. Probably the most recognised subject of Michael’s work is Hollywood legend Audie Murphy. He was one of the most decorated American soldiers of WW2, winning the Medal of Honor aged 19. After the war, Murphy had a successful acting career, was a songwriter and horse breeder. Sadly, he was killed in a plane crash in 1971. He was only 45 years old. One of Michael’s pictures is inspired by an episode taken from Murphy’s wartime autobiography, where he felt compelled to shoot a badly wounded young German soldier as an act of mercy.
Eugene Sledge is another name that will be familiar to many people with a passing interest in the Second World War. He served in the US 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division fighting in the Pacific. His book, ‘With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa’ became a bestseller when published in the 1980s. His book and Robert Leckie’s ‘Helmet for My Pillow’, also served as inspiration for the HBO miniseries The Pacific. The savage, relentless fighting of the Pacific campaign had a dehumanising effect on many of the combatants. However, somehow, Eugene Sledge was able to hold onto his humanity amidst the horror, which is vividly illustrated in Michael Akkerman’s artwork.
Made famous by Nazi propaganda and a legend by the battle of Villers-Bocage, Michael Wittmann was a German tank ace with an impressive tally of 138 kills, mainly achieved on the Russian Front. He is also the subject of one of Michael Akkerman’s paintings. A week after the D-Day landings, SS-Hauptsturmführer Wittmann and his Tiger tank bumped into the forward elements of the British 7th Armoured Division. Wittmann attacked the British column and destroyed 14 tanks, 15 personnel carriers and two anti-tank guns in an engagement that lasted about 15 minutes. Wittmann was awarded the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords and became a propaganda star. However, he would be killed just two months later. His remains would not be found and positively identified until 1983.
As well as the famous and infamous, Michael Akkerman’s paintings capture some of the more mundane and human elements of the Second World War, from the black ‘Buffalo Soldiers’ of the US Army to the hardships of the North Africa campaign. He also depicts the bloody realities of the Japanese Banzai charge and the lethal efficiency of the German MG-42 machine guns used to defend Omaha Beach on D-Day. To learn more about Michael’s artwork or to get a quote for a commission, you can find him on Facebook.