A Bit of History…

There was an American GI in WWII named Bill Mauldin who became a justly famous cartoonist. He did a strip called “Willie and Joe” that appeared in Stars & Stripes. His aim was to portray the real struggle of the common combat man, which he was well familiar with from his own time in the 45th Division. As Willie and Joe were frontline dogfaces, they were always disheveled and unshaved. They griped about chow, officers, rear-echelon goldbrickers, German 88s, and so on. The cartoons were so accurate that soldiers came to love Willie and Joe. Mauldin also made some enemies in the officer corps. Guys like Patton, who were all about the spit and polish, despised Willie and Joe. Nonetheless, Mauldin kept doing the strip throughout the war and became a beloved figure to the GIs.

A Mauldin book called Up Front was published in 1945. It collected many of his most famous cartoons, along with essays on the trials and tribulations of the dogfaces. If you want to understand what it was like to be an infantryman in the US army during WWII, Up Front is required reading.

I bring this up because yesterday I was up in Capitol Hill and I walked by this used bookstore that’s closing up shop. It’s chock full of cool old books and records. They had a boxed set of Charlton Heston reading the first five books of the Old Testament! I was looking through their WWII section and noticed they had a copy of Up Front. On closer inspection, I realized that it was the 1945 edition. Furthermore, Bill Mauldin had signed it…in 1945. The store sold it to me for $10. How cool is that?

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