“Harold had plenty of material, in fact he had so much material it was almost overwhelming,” Murphy said. The final version of the painting includes scenes from Storey’s landing at Utah Beach all the way across France to the Battle of the Bulge.
The painting was commissioned by Rome businessman and art aficionado Greg Sumner. “Greg was really the visionary and I just took his vision and Harold’s reality and tried to put it in an image of some sort,” Murphy said. Sumner said, “I’ve never seen a story like this told on canvas before.”
A copy of the painting is on public display at the Rome Area History Museum.
“I was just so flattered,” the 95-year-old Storey said. “I had a little bit of misgivings about how he would interpret what he wanted to know about.”
The painting took about three months after he narrowed down Storey’s stories that were to be depicted and involved several mid-stroke revisions.
“I had several meetings with Harold,” Murphy said. “My real challenge was to take all of this and pull it together and make it some kind of cohesive idea of the images from what he shared with me.”
The painting starts with an image of the landing at Utah Beach, and then moves to soldiers on a road leaving the beaches of Normandy. A very small painting of the cathedral at Chartres has special meaning for Storey. U.S. troops had been ordered to destroy the cathedral believing it to be a place of sanctuary for Nazi troops.
Perhaps the most meaningful image, according to Storey, is in the lower right corner of the art and depicts a German hospital at Metz. His troops had been cut off from the main body of U.S. Forces just prior to the Battle of the Bulge.
“We couldn’t stay where we were, nor could we go back,” Storey said. His unit of 100 soldiers or less wound up in the small town.
Storey said a lot of the Germans in Metz realized at that time the war was basically over for them. The commandant of the hospital came out, straightened up his uniform and handed Storey a pistol.
“He saluted me and said now we work for you,” Storey said. It turns out seven American captives were being treated at the hospital. “Of course they were delighted to see us. They were very thirsty because we had destroyed the Metz water system a few days before,” Storey said.
Several days later he managed to make radio contact with his headquarters unit.
“The reaction from one of those guys was, ‘Where the hell have you been? We thought you were all dead,’” Storey recalled.
Murphy said he spent a lot of time trying to determine how to best portray Storey himself. “I debated using a picture of Harold as he is now,” Murphy said. He ultimately decided to use an image of Storey as he looked as a young First Lieutenant during the war.