BY DAVID ZIZZO Modified: January 19, 2010 at 4:44 am •  Published: January 19, 2010
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A battered Jeep carrying a bucket, an old tire and other stuff collected at the front during World War II stops by a sign that says, "You are entering the Third Army!” and lists fines ordered by "Ol’ Blood and Guts,” Gen. George Patton, for being unshaven or otherwise unkempt.

One war-weary soldier with a beard and tattered clothing in the Jeep says to another, "Radio the old man we’ll be late on account of a thousand-mile detour.”

Bill Mauldin spoke truth to power. But mostly, the famed editorial cartoonist who made his mark as a correspondent with the 45th Infantry Division spoke to the soldier in the field with his wartime drawings. In March, Mauldin will be honored with a first-class U.S. postage stamp.

"Bill Mauldin’s cartoons during the war were a major source of morale enhancement,” Mike Gonzales said. As curator of the 45th Infantry Division Museum in Oklahoma City, Gonzales several months ago sent photos to the Postal Service, one of which was used to create the stamp.

Born in New Mexico, Mauldin underwent training at Fort Sill in Lawton before the 45th was sent to Europe. For a time, he was transferred to the 180th Infantry Regiment, although, as Gonzales said, "he didn’t know the first thing about being in the infantry.” Mauldin suffered a shrapnel wound in the shoulder but soon returned to the front, where he produced his "Willie and Joe” cartoons, with characters wearing the Thunderbird 45th Infantry patch, as a correspondent for the 45th Division News.

Eventually, Mauldin was assigned to Stars and Stripes, the military’s main news organization, and his cartoons (sans division patches) became extremely popular, Gonzales said. Gonzales’ father, who served in the same theater in the war, recalled that issues of Stars and Stripes would be passed from one soldier to another, since there weren’t enough to go around.