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Lesley James McNair

Boris Chaliapin, 1904 - May 1979
Lesley James McNair, 1883 - 1944
Gouache, ink and graphite pencil on paperboard
Image: 30.4 x 27.3cm (11 15/16 x 10 3/4")
Mat (Verified): 55.9 x 40.6cm (22 x 16")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Mrs. Boris Chaliapin
Restrictions & Rights
© Chris Murphy
Object number
Exhibition Label
General Lesley McNair’s fondness for academic pursuits inspired one of his superiors to dub him "the brains of the Army." On the eve of World War II, McNair was charged with orchestrating the organization and training of all army ground troops. Among the traits that fit him for this task was his willingness to try any new war technique that came to his attention. Sent to Europe in July 1944 to observe the performance of American forces at Normandy, McNair was killed on his first day at the front, the victim of friendly fire from American airplanes.
This portrait appeared on the December 28, 1942, cover of Time magazine with a story that reported McNair’s concern that army inductees were not taking their training seriously enough. He had every faith that American soldiers could learn "quickly and well in battle." But that method of education, he warned, was often costly.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
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