An influential Iowa artist got his first big break in the military. Marvin Cone’s original artwork that’s the recognizable symbol of a famous U.S. military division is on display at an Iowa museum. Michael Vogt, the curator of the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum at Camp Dodge in Johnston, says during war-time, the Iowa National Guard has been part of the 34th Infantry division which is commonly called the “Red Bull” division.
In World War I, the Army adopted shoulder sleeve insignia for its various divisions and the Army had a contest to decide what the designs should be. An Iowa soldier from Cedar Rapids submitted his idea and won. Marvin Cone’s design is still worn by American soldiers in the Red Bull division. It’s a black silhouette in the shape of a Mexican water bottle and superimposed on top is a red bull’s skull.
Cone ended up becoming an artist and some of his work is on display at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art. But Cone’s Red Bull sketch is on display at the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum in Johnston. “One of his first successes as an artist came when he served in the ranks of the Iowa National Guard,” Vogt says. Cone and Grant Wood, another famous Iowa artist, were life-long friends and after traveling together in Europe they founded an artists’ colony at Stone City. Cone went on to be an art professor at Coe College in Cedar Rapids. You can read more about Cone on the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art’s website. The address is www.crma.org.
About 34-hundred Iowa National Guard soldiers are wearing Cone’s “Red Bull” patch today. The Red Bull division’s storied past includes a record five-hundred-17 days of “continuous front-line” combat during World War II in North Africa and Italy. The “Red Bulls” were the first U.S. Army division to enter action in World War II. “Attack, Attack, Attack!” was their motto then and it still is today.