Maudlin, Bill

 

Although not a photographer or cameraman, I think that most of you will agree that Bill Maudlin belongs among them.

William Henry “Bill” Mauldin (October 29, 1921 – January 22, 2003) was a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist from the United States. 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 broadly published and distributed in the American army abroad and in the United States.

While in the 45th Infantry Division, Mauldin volunteered to work for the unit’s newspaper, drawing cartoons about regular soldiers or “dogfaces”. Eventually he created two cartoon infantrymen, Willie (who was modeled after his comrade and friend Irving Richtel) and Joe, who became synonymous with the average American GI.

During July 1943, Mauldin’s cartoon work continued when, as a sergeant of the 45th Division’s press corps, he landed with the division in the invasion of Sicily and later in the Italian campaign.Mauldin began working for Stars and Stripes, the American soldiers’ newspaper; as well as the 45th Division News, until he was officially transferred to the Stars and Stripes in February 1944.By March 1944, he was given his own jeep, in which he roamed the front, collecting material and producing six cartoons a week. His cartoons were viewed by soldiers throughout Europe during World War II, and were also published in the United States. Willie was on the cover of Time Magazinein 1945, and Mauldin himself made the cover in 1958.

Those officers who had served in the army before the war were generally offended by Mauldin, who parodied the spit-shine and obedience-to-order-without-question view that was more easily maintained during that time of peace. General George Patton once summoned Mauldin to his office and threatened to “throw his ass in jail” for “spreading dissent,” this after one of Mauldin’s cartoons made fun of Patton’s demand that all soldiers must be clean-shaven at all times, even in combat. But Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Commander European Theater, told Patton to leave Mauldin alone, because he felt that Mauldin’s cartoons gave the soldiers an outlet for their frustrations. Mauldin told an interviewer later, “I always admired Patton. Oh, sure, the stupid bastard was crazy. He was insane. He thought he was living in the Dark Ages. Soldiers were peasants to him. I didn’t like that attitude, but I certainly respected his theories and the techniques he used to get his men out of their foxholes.

Mauldin’s cartoons made him a hero to the common soldier. GIs often credited him with helping them to get through the rigors of the war.
His credibility with the common soldier increased in September 1943, when he was wounded in the shoulder by a German mortar while visiting a machine gun crew near Monte Cassino. By the end of the war he also received the Army’s Legion of Merit for his cartoons.

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