A Hero to Remember: A tribute to Bill Mauldin

A 90-year-old WWII vet at the retirement center where I work shared this with me. I must admit, I had never heard of Bill Mauldin before. From Wikipedia:
William Henry “Bill” Mauldin (October 29, 1921 – January 22, 2003) was an American editorial cartoonist who won two Pulitzer Prizes for his work. He was most famous for his World War II cartoons depicting American soldiers, as represented by the archetypal characters Willie and Joe, two weary and bedraggled infantry troopers who stoically endure the difficulties and dangers of duty in the field. These cartoons were widely published and distributed in the American army, abroad and in the United States.

Bill Mauldin

Bill Mauldin


Here’s the story the vet shared with me.
He meant so much to the millions of Americans who fought in World War II, and to those who had waited for them to come home. He was a kid cartoonist for Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper; Mauldin’s drawings of his muddy, exhausted, whisker-stubble infantrymen Willie and Joe were the voice of truth about what it was like on the front lines.
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Mauldin was an enlisted man, just like the soldiers for whom he drew; his gripes were their gripes, his laughs their laughs, his heartaches their heartaches. He was one of them. They loved him.
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He never held back. Sometimes, when his cartoons cut too close for comfort, superior officers tried to tone him down. In one memorable incident, he enraged Gen. George S. Patton, who informed Mauldin he wanted the pointed cartoons celebrating the fighting men, lampooning the high-ranking officers to stop. Now!
The news passed from soldier to soldier. How was Sgt. Bill Mauldin going to stand up to Gen. Patton? It seemed impossible.
Not quite. Mauldin, it turned out, had an ardent fan: Five-star Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, SCAFE, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe. Ike put out the word: “Mauldin draws what Mauldin wants.”
Mauldin won. Patton lost.
mauldin2
If, in your line of work, you’ve ever considered yourself a young hotshot, or if you’ve ever known anyone who has felt that way about him or herself, the story of Mauldin’s young manhood will humble you. Here is what, by the time he was 23 years old, Mauldin had accomplished: He won the Pulitzer Prize & was on the cover of Time magazine. His book “Up Front” was the No. 1 best-seller in the United States.
All of that at 23. Yet, when he returned to civilian life and grew older, he never lost that boyish Mauldin grin, never outgrew his excitement about doing his job, never big-shotted or high-hatted the people with whom he worked every day.
I was lucky enough to be one of them. Mauldin roamed the hallways of the Chicago Sun-Times in the late 1960s and early 1970s with no more officiousness or air of haughtiness than if he was a copyboy. That impish look on his face remained.
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He had achieved so much. He won a second Pulitzer Prize, and he should have won a third for what may be the single greatest editorial cartoon in the history of the craft: his deadline rendering, on the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, of the statue at the Lincoln Memorial, slumped in grief, its head cradled in its hands. But he never acted as if he was better than the people he met. He was still Mauldin, the enlisted man.
During the late summer of 2002, as Mauldin lay in that California nursing home, some of the old World War II infantry guys caught wind of it. They didn’t want Mauldin to go out that way. They thought he should know he was still their hero.
Gordon Dillow, a columnist for the Orange County Register, put out the call in Southern California for people in the area to send their best wishes to Mauldin. I joined Dillow in the effort, helping to spread the appeal nationally, so Bill would not feel so alone. Soon, more than 10,000 cards and letters had arrived at Mauldin’s bedside.
Better than that, old soldiers began to show up just to sit with Mauldin, to let him know that they were there for him, as he, so long ago, had been there for them. So many volunteered to visit Bill that there was a waiting list. Here is how Todd DePastino, in the first paragraph of his wonderful biography of Mauldin, described it:
“Almost every day in the summer and fall of 2002, they came to Park Superior nursing home in Newport Beach, California, to honor Army Sergeant, Technician Third Grade, Bill Mauldin. They came bearing relics of their youth: medals, insignia, photographs, and carefully folded newspaper clippings. Some wore old garrison caps. Others arrived resplendent in uniforms over a half century old. Almost all of them wept as they filed down the corridor like pilgrims fulfilling some long-neglected obligation.
One of the veterans explained to me why it was so important: “You would have to be part of a combat infantry unit to appreciate what moments of relief Bill gave us. You had to be reading a soaking wet Stars and Stripes in a water-filled foxhole and then see one of his cartoons.
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Mauldin is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Last month, the kid cartoonist made it onto a first-class postage stamp. It’s an honor that most generals and admirals never receive.
What Mauldin would have loved most, I believe, is the sight of the two guys who keep him company on that stamp. Take a look at it. There’s Willie. There’s Joe. And there, to the side, drawing them and smiling that shy, quietly observant smile, is Mauldin himself. With his buddies, right where he belongs. Forever.
mauldin stamp
What a story, and a fitting tribute to a man and to a time that few of us can still remember. But I say to you youngsters, you must most seriously learn of, and remember with respect, the sufferings and sacrifices of your fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers in times you cannot ever imagine today with all you have. But the only reason you are free to have it all is because of them! 
DCG

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Dr. Eowyn
Admin

Thank you, DCG, for telling us about Bill Mauldin.

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[…] via A Hero to Remember: A tribute to Bill Mauldin — Fellowship of the Minds […]

Kevin Lankford
Member
Kevin Lankford

Feel a little shamed I Never heard of him.

upaces88
Guest
upaces88

Kevin, maybe you arer too young LOL.
My parents born in the 1920”s told us.stories like this.

MomOfIV
Guest
MomOfIV

Thank you for sharing DCG, thank your vet as well please 🙂

Zorro
Guest
Zorro

Glad to know about this talented man who made an impact on so many veterans. Will look for his memorial stamps on my next Post Office visit.

chulai1968
Guest
chulai1968

Thanks for this great tribute to a great man…. I have been a longtime fan and admirer of Sgt Mauldin, and have an autographed print of the famous Lincoln weeping ‘toon here at home, as well as copies of Mr. Mauldin’s books. He started out his military service in the Oklahoma National Guard 45th Division (ironically, their shoulder patch was a red diamond with a golden swastika in the center – the swastika actually being a Native American symbol before being appropriated by the Germans. The patch design was changed to a red diamond with a golden Thunderbird in the… Read more »

GP Cox
Guest

Willie and Joe say it all…comment image

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Hear hear!comment image

Dave
Editor
Dave

Bill Mauldin was a national treasure.
Some officers bristled (for obvious reasons), but his two famous characters, Willie and Joe, told the story of the plight of thankless enlisted infantryman better than any movie ever could.
I couldn’t find one on the net, but my favorite Willie and Joe cartoon from WWII was when one turned to the other and said something to the effect, “The hell this ain’t the most important foxhole in the world. I’m in it.”
-Dave

Steven Broiles
Member

Other cartoonists who also served in the War Effort were Herb Block (“Herblock”) and Charles M. Schultz of “Peanuts” fame. Sgt. Mauldin was the best and his work, which I remember (he was still active in my lifetime) best personifies the spirit of Rudyard Kipling’s “If”: He could consort with “kings” and yet, “not lose the common touch.” I don’t mind Peanuts characters on stamps, but Sgt. Mauldin should have been honored first, in my humble opinion.
Another political cartoonist, and he died too young, was Jeff MacNelly.

chulai1968
Guest
chulai1968

I just thought of another Mauldin cartoon, which got him in a lot of trouble at the time. It depicted a couple of GIs walking through a town surrounded by a lot of local French civilians. One of the GIs was a rather goofy looking guy with glasses, big nose, etc. …. and all of the French people, both men and women, looked just like him! He was telling the other GI about his WWI veteran father, saying, “This is the place my pappy told me about”….. Takes a good sense of humor to be a successful cartoonist….. and a… Read more »

Marcia Walsh
Guest

what a great human interest story. it’s a refreshing change from idiots that want to use the wrong bathrooms. mr. maudln was truly a national treasure.

marblenecltr
Guest

Thank you very much for this posting. I was young at the time, with distant memories of an era when the the sacrifices of our troops were far away. Europe and Asia know from experience what the use of one’s homeland as a battlefield costs; we have not dealt with that in a major way since the Civil War. May this posting and other efforts by our society keep the Luciferian sicko psychos from marching our country into further total destruction.

marblenecltr
Guest

Reblogged this on necltr and commented:
World War IV will be fought with rocks and sticks as everyone eats grass.

DrEntropy
Guest
DrEntropy

A Boomer here. Grew up with parents who put their lives on hold for WW-II. Dad had to sleep standing up against trees in the Ardennes forest in the winter of ’45. Bill Mauldin’s “Up Front” was one of the books which influenced me as a pre-teen, dad would sometimes be asked to enlighten me as to what the meaning of a particular panel was. Others (“… I’ve got a target for ya but ya gotta be patient”) were obvious. The introduction to Mauldin at an early age gave me insight into what that generation went through. And I went… Read more »

Miche
Guest
Miche

Thanks for posting this about Bill Mauldin. Have been a fan of his for years. Have an original copy of “Up Front,” “Home Front” and “A Sort of a Saga” (his autobiography of his childhood in New Mexico, which is hilarious).
Here’s a clip about Bill Mauldin from R. Lee Ermey’s “Mail Call”
https://youtu.be/D-n8YMPhwL4