On March 21, 1967, 450 American soldiers of the Third Brigade, Twenty-fifth Infantry Division at Fire Support Base Gold at Suoi Tre in Tay Ninh Province, held off a force of 2,500 North Vietnamese Army regulars of the 271st Regiment. The fight lasted for four hours of machine gun fire, grenades, and hand-to-hand combat. A column of tanks arrived to end the assault moments before the Americans’ ammunition ran out.
James Davis Nelson served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War as a combat artist and rifleman from 1967-68. Nelson’s works are a memorial to those he fought with during, as he once joked, “an all-expenses-paid vacation to Southeast Asia.” His paintings depict the personal relationships he formed with fellow soldiers while highlighting the atmosphere of urgency and tension that he felt upon his arrival in Vietnam. Nelson had studied Fine Arts at the Art Students League and National Academy of Design in New York City and was working in a studio on Fifth Avenue when he was drafted in 1967.
According to Nelson: “This painting is a memorial to those I served with and to the American soldiers of the Third Brigade, Twenty-fifth Infantry Division, who, some dying, some surviving, took part in that engagement. After the war, veterans sent me their photographs and descriptions. I remembered what had been described to me by members of my company. My purpose was to create a chronicle of the battle.”