I had planned to be elsewhere today but a lingering cold kept me home.
I still wanted to do something to honor our brave military Vets and the sacrifices they have made to keep us free.
Orange County Register columnist Gordon Dillow reminded me that the way to do so was sitting on my bookshelves.
His column, this morning, reminds his readers that one of the most famous veterans of WW2 lived and died in the OC.
Mr. Dillow gets a lot of unsolicited items in the mail, not to mention the tons of e-mail from readers, but the other day something arrived that prompted him to write a column:
a biography of an old World War II soldier who died in Orange County almost five years ago – and since today is Veterans Day, maybe it's an appropriate time to tell you about it.
The old soldier's name was Bill Mauldin.
If that name isn't instantly recognizable to you, it would be to your grandparents, or maybe your great-grandparents. Bill Mauldin was the most famous cartoonist of World War II, a young Army infantryman who drew cartoons about the war and military life for "Stars and Stripes," the GI newspaper, and eventually was syndicated in newspapers across the country.
The GIs loved him. His two main characters were a couple of dirty, unshaven dogface infantrymen named Willie and Joe, whose gripes about life in foxholes and jibes about rear-echelon troops and senior officers spoke for the millions of citizen-soldiers for whom the war wasn't a path to glory, but simply a miserable if necessary job.
After you read the rest of the column I hope you will return here because I am turning the rest of the post over to the spirit and memories of Bill Mauldin.
Over the summer I rescued two first edition hardcovers from the Tustin Library $2 a bag sale, their covers the worse for wear (Nothing a little mailing tape couldn't handle!), but otherwise a treasure trove to be read slowly and lingered over, the better to savor their pleasures.
What Bill Mauldin wrote and drew paid tribute to the daily lives and struggles of the Greatest Generation during and after the war, as well as paying attention to events in Europe as the Cold War began to heat up, even speaking to those of us who follow in ways very relevant to events in the headlines of the 21st century.
Without further ado, lets hear from Willie and Joe, and their comrades:
Published in 1945, the then 23 year old authors book took America by storm.
ON THE LEFT: "You'll get over it, Joe. Oncet I wuz gonna write a book exposin' the army after th' war myself."
ON THE RIGHT: "Must be a tough objective. Th' old man says we're gonna have th' honor of liberatin' it."
BILL MAULDIN on these pages: "Since hanging around many different divisions, I've just about come to the conclusion that when 15,000 men from 48 states are put together in an outfit, their thinking and their actions are going to be pretty much like those of any other 15,000. The efficiency and their accomplishements are altered to a certain extent by the abilities of their commanders, but the guys themselves are pretty much the same."
OUR ALLIES 1: "You blokes leave an awfully messy battlefield."
BILL MAULDIN on this cartoon: "There was a standing joke for a while between the British division at Anzio and one of the American divisions. The Americans, noted for their wealth of materiel, often littered the area with discarded euipment, and the thrifty British who relived them just couldn't understand it. if a British colonel draws an unneccessary pair of shoes for his regimental supply, he's likely to get a court-martial out of it, and God help the Tommy who loses his Enfield rifle.
So the British used to accuse the Americans of leaving a messy battlefield, and I drew a picture of a Tommy telling that to two dogfaces. The British up there seemed to like it okay, and the doggies at Anzio caught it. But the British brass in Naples made a complaint. They didn't understand the picture, but they were certain it was anti-British."
OUR ALLIES 2: "Some of you may not come back. A French convoy has been reported on the road."
BILL MAULDIN on his Quartermaster cartoons: "...the French army started tearing up the roads, and they made our worst quartermaster drivers seem like timid old ladies. All a Frenchman knows about a truck is the general location of the foot throttle. French convoys stop simply by smashing into one another's bumpers."
Eventually the war ended and the troops came home.