Rockwell Files: Reflections of a Hero

Homecoming soldiers were a popular subject for illustrators in 1945. But for this end-of-war cover, Rockwell took an unusual approach to capturing a veteran’s welcome home.

A traditional cover would have shown a G.I. standing tall and proud among civilian admirers, and Rockwell had produced a cover like that after the last war. It showed a tough, confident doughboy surrounded by adoring younger boys. But at the end of this world war, he gives us a slim, young Marine sitting on a box. As if to emphasize his youth, he is seated beside a little boy who is mimicking his pose.

The newspaper on the wall gives us his back story: The mechanic who’d enlisted for the war has now returned a hero, probably from the Asian theater, judging by the flag he is holding. But, instead of recounting tales of glory, he is looking up with a thoughtful, almost troubled expression at the boy who has just asked him a question.

Solder who have come home from the war speaks to friends and family in his garage
Rockwell’s Homecoming Marine, from the October 13, 1945, issue of the Post, conveys at a glance the ambiguity of a soldier’s feelings toward his old friends and coworkers. (Norman Rockwell / SEPS)

Rockwell was a master at conveying the subtleties of human expression, and it’s clear his intention wasn’t merely to show a hometown boy back in familiar surroundings, but also to capture the newly returned veteran’s feeling of isolation — knowing he can never adequately convey to the folks at home the things he experienced in the war.

This article is featured in the July/August 2020 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

Featured image: (Norman Rockwell / SEPS)

Gallery: Heartwarming Christmas Traditions

Christmas is a season outside of time. Each holiday is new and fresh while at the same time connecting u to every other Christmas we’ve ever known. So each holiday season brings with it not just joyful moments but a generous helping of the past.

A military veteran greets his happy family as they welcome him home for Christmas.
Christmas Homecoming
Norman Rockwell
December 25, 1948


Toddler digging toys and treats out of his Christmas stocking.
Christmas Stocking Joy
J.C. Leyendecker
December 24, 1938


A little boy bawling on a mall Santa's lap, reaches out to his mother.
Crying on Santa’s Lap
George Hughes
December 6, 1958


A father and mother takes a Christmas photograph of their children. Their son shows his displeasure as sits next to his patient sister.
Christmas Photograph
Amos Sewell
December 11, 1954


Two boys watch their mother hide Christmas gifts in her closet.
Hiding Presents
Richard Sargent
December 7, 1957


Christmas planning can be a joy, but it often veers towards comedy. In the hands of Post cover artists, the experience is presented in equal parts delight, misery, and silliness.


A man with a Christmas tree in his arms stands in shock as his wife puts up a tree she bought earlier.
Tree Love
Constantin Alajálov
December 23, 1950


An exhausted couple rest in front of the Christmas tree they'd just decorated.
Trimming the Tree
George Hughes
December 1949


Man struggles to wrap a large gift box for Christmas.
All Wrapped Up in Christmas
Richard Sargent
December 19, 1959


If the windup to Christmas is hectic and exhausting, John Falter’s cover reminds us what an amazing spectacle the holiday is to children. In their cautious, pajama’d descent down the staircase at first light, one can almost feel their joy that, after weeks of longing and anticipation, the magical day has finally arrived.


Children sneak down a staircase on an early Christmas morning to see the presents Santa Claus left them.
Christmas Morning
John Falter
December 24, 1955


A series of illustrations showing how a family's Christmas morning progressed. In the first image, excited children dash into the living room towards the gifts under the tree. In the second image, the family exchange gifts. And in the final image, the family can be seen in the kitchen after having left a messy, gift- and wrapping paper-strewn living room.
Christmas Morning
Ben Kimberly Prins
December 27, 1958


This article is featured in the November/December 2019 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.


Featured image and artwork: SEPS.