Cartoonist’s ‘Willie and Joe’ to ride again

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Bill Mauldin, who gained fame as a Stars and Stripes cartoonist during World War II, turns out copy in Saigon in February, 1965. Mike Mealey/Stars and Stripes
Bill Mauldin, who gained fame as a Stars and Stripes cartoonist during World War II, turns out copy in Saigon in February, 1965. Mike Mealey/Stars and Stripes

Cartoonist’s ‘Willie and Joe’ to ride again

by: Ted Adamson | .
Stripes Korea | .
published: May 31, 2012

Stars and Stripes is opening its World War II archives and will reprint the cartoons drawn by Bill Mauldin during his time with the paper.

Starting June 7, one of Mauldin’s wartime cartoons will be featured in each issue of Stripes Korea. You might be surprised and amused by how little life in the military has really changed since the cartoons were drawn.

Through his iconic characters Willie and Joe, Mauldin was the voice of every enlisted soldier who has dug a nice safe foxhole only to be told to climb out and advance yet again.

William Henry “Bill” Mauldin was born in New Mexico Oct. 29, 1921 and died Jan. 22, 2003. He joined the military in 1940 and took part in the July 1943 invasion of Sicily throughout the Italian Campaign.

Mauldin had been entertaining his own unit with his cartoons from the time he joined the military. But then his work caught the attention of others and his drawings soon became a daily feature in Stars and Stripes. The editor also arranged for the cartoons to be picked up by United Feature Syndicate and the cartoons began running in papers across the U.S.

Mauldin was awarded the Pulitzer Prize (the first of two) for his cartoons of the war. So by the time he was 23 years old he had a Pulitzer, a Purple Heart medal (for a shrapnel wound he received in Italy) and a No. 1 bestselling book. But the awards paled in comparison to the feelings the enlisted men in the military had for Mauldin and his dog-faced duo Willie and Joe.

After all, this was a man who Gen. George Patton summoned, dressed down and threatened with jail time for lampooning his mandate that soldiers be clean shaven at all times – even in combat. Considering his cartoons to be a vent for soldiers’ frustrations, five-star Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, supreme commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, came to Mauldin’s rescue, countering that he could draw whatever he liked.

Another World War II veteran, Charles Schultz of “Peanuts” fame, showed his respect for Mauldin each year on Veterans’ day from 1969 through 1998. Each year on this day, Snoopy would don his uniform and head over to Bill Mauldin’s house to “quaff a few root beers and tell war stories.”

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