Admin moved page What Was the Importance of Bill Mauldin to WWII Infantrymen? to What Was the Importance of Bill Mauldin to WWII Infantrymen
Bill Mauldin once said that the infantryman “gives more and gets less than anybody else.”<ref>Bill Mauldin, ''Up Front'' (New York: World Publishing, 1945), 5.</ref>He knew this from his experience on the front lines with K Company, 180th Infantry Regiment, of the 45th Division. Mauldin went through basic training as an infantryman and stayed with his regiment throughout the invasion of Sicily and the Allied campaign up the boot of Italy. The talented cartoonist succeeded in ruffling the feathers of the “brass” all the way up to General George Patton. In a time when American news outlets were sanitizing World War II for the folks on the home front, Bill Mauldin depicted the grim reality of war. Through the use of meticulous detail, keen observations, and sardonic wit, this baby-faced young man spoke for the masses of ordinary soldiers who had no voice of their own within the massive military machine of the United States.
The weather and conditions on the Italian front were muddy, wet, and ill-supplied. Mauldin provided the dogfaces a sense of unity and comfort as his drawings and wry captions let these men know they were not alone. One infantry veteran said of Mauldin, “‘…to appreciate what moments of relief Bill gave us…you had to be reading a soaking wet ''Stars and Stripes'' in a water-filled foxhole and then see one of his cartoons.’”<ref>Quoted in DePastino, 3.</ref>Bill’s cartoons depicted water-filled foxholes and soggy trenches. They showed the misery suffered by infantrymen on a daily basis. The dogfaces knew that Mauldin was speaking for them because at his core, Mauldin was a dogface, too.
While in Italy, Mauldin witnessed the actions of the Peninsular Base Section (PBS), which was responsible for supply distribution and policing in Naples. More supplies were stolen and sold on the black market than were delivered to front line soldiers. What Bill saw as equally bad was the manner in which infantrymen with four-day passes in Naples were treated. The PBS brass were favored with an abundance of women, alcohol, and hotels while the dogfaces were housed in rest centers and kept away from the recreation they so desperately sought. Mauldin drew scenes from Naples that depicted enlisted men and line officers being denied access to bars and hotels. He drew these men as dirty, unshaven, and exhausted while the members of the PBS were clean, healthy, and smiling. Brass, including Patton, were furious with this series of drawings and even went so far as to claim Mauldin was inciting mutiny. General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. came to Bill’s defense, positing that Mauldin “might be preventing it [mutiny] by blowing off a little steam for the boys.” Roosevelt went on to say that Bill’s cartoons were “saying what was on everybody’s mind about the way the infantrymen get treated in Naples.”<ref>Mauldin, ''The Brass Ring'', 202.</ref>That is exactly how “the boys” saw Bill’s work. Mauldin perfectly depicted the reality and deprivations suffered by the underappreciated infantrymen.
Jay Gruenfeld was 21 years old in 1945 when he was lying in an army hospital bed with a nearly severed spine; the fifth wound he received while serving in the Philippines. He was frightened and alone when he received a package from his father that contained Mauldin’s book, ''Up Front''.<ref>Jay Gruenfeld, ''Purple Hearts and Ancient Trees: A Forester’s Life Adventures in Business, Wilderness, and War'' (Seattle: Peanut Butter Publishing, 1997), 100-102.</ref>Gruenfeld was affected by Willie and Joe as these characters spoke to and for him. The conveyed the loneliness, grief, exhaustion, and waning hope of a soldier. In 2002, the 77 year old Gruenfeld drove 200 miles to visit Mauldin before he died. When asked why, Gruenfeld replied, “‘you have to understand, Mauldin was just a paragon for us…he needed to know he wasn’t forgotten.’”<ref>Gruenfeld, Quoted in DePastino, 2-3.</ref>Bill Mauldin never forgot the dogfaces and the dogfaces never forgot their hero.
WWII]] [[Category: US History]] [[Category: Literature]]