Issue Date: March 31, 2010
First-day City: Santa Fe, NM
As an elderly Army vet lay near death, thousands of letters began arriving at his nursing home. “You... managed to capture the irony, double standards and outright insanity of Army life... in a way that allows us to laugh at ourselves and our leaders and keep moving in the face of adversity.”
The letters were a campaign to reach out to Bill Mauldin (1921-2003), whose cartoons captured life in the trenches during World War II. While Mauldin was battling dementia, former comrades hadn’t forgotten how his cartoons made their lives bearable decades earlier.
Mauldin’s characters, Willie and Joe, were based on the everyday infantryman. Unshaven, wet, exhausted and dirty, Willie and Joe survived the war by mocking everything from their orders and equipment to the top brass. Mauldin’s popular cartoons appeared in the Army’s newspaper, The Stars and Stripes, where they famously inspired the wrath of General George Patton. In 1945, Mauldin, at age 23, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his work, the youngest individual ever honored.
Mauldin was wounded at the Battle of Anzio and awarded the Purple Heart. He later drew editorial cartoons, winning a second Pulitzer Prize. One of Mauldin’s most famous cartoons pictures Abraham Lincoln’s statue weeping after John F. Kennedy’s assassination, again reflecting the feelings of the common man.