The “Zero Hour” mural depicting a soldier’s moment in the line of fire during The Great War promises to be one of a kind, according to Dave Gordon.
“This will be a veteran’s mural,” he said at Thursday’s morning public viewing of the second draft of the World War I mural at the American Legion Hall. “It’s that moment when a soldier goes into battle not knowing whether he’ll live or die.”
Nearly two dozen were in attendance, offering up suggestions which, Manteca Mural Society President Charleen Carroll said, will all be taken into the consideration for the final draft.
Gordon is the professional muralist for the upcoming World War I “trench warfare” in downtown Manteca. This fifth and final mural on the wall of the Bedquarters – at the corner of Main and Yosemite streets – will again honor those who have served in wars since the city’s incorporation in 1918.
In fact, “Zero Hour” is expected to be completed and dedicated in time for the city’s Centennial celebration on May 19, Carroll said.
One of those who will be featured in the mural by Gordon and Ella Yates – she’s noted for capturing the emotions on the faces of people, Gordon added – is Hope McFall, who was the first Manteca man to fall in World War and whose name graces American Legion Post 249. Other than McFall, Carroll said that are no promises of others being featured in this piece.
Gordon used monochromatic color scheme to capture “a cathartic moment” of life on the trenches during the early morning, with the setting based on the Battle of Verdun. He not only did an exhaustive research of the U.S. involvement in World War I – specifically, 1917 or three years of the Allies’ British and French soldiers fighting alongside the trenches against the Central Powers – but also watched plenty of documentaries on the subject matter including Ken Burns’ ‘The Great War: The Complete History of World War I.’
He offered a few tidbits that will appear on the mural:
uHoming pigeons, due to their homing ability, speed, and altitude, were used as military messengers.
uRats were a common place in the first trench. “They were the size of a small dog and would eat at the corpses,” Gordon said.
uAt the start of the war, the trenches were dug up 12-feet deep but wore down to about 10 feet by 1917.
uGordon took over 600 photos in October of local Mantecans including Ron Cruz, portraying a sergeant, and young men between the ages of 17, using the side of a ditch near Cottage Avenue and Highway 99 for the World War I reenactment.
uThe old-type enlisted rank insignia chevron was worn upside down prior to World War II.
Not shown in the mural draft is the presence of an American flag. Gordon, who used photoshop in his composition, is looking to include the stars and stripes on a period piece munitions bag or wooden crate.
“My feelings are we don’t want (the flag) to dominate the story line – we want to capture the moment,” said Gordon, who is striving for authenticity.
All this makes it a one-of-a-kind project, said Tom Wilson of the Manteca Mural Society.
“It’s been six years in the making since its inception,” he said. “We can finally see the finish line.”
To contact reporter Vince Rembulat, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.