Willie & Joe
I have an original, 1944 first edition copy of “Up Front” by Bill Mauldin. I got it from my mother (yes, my mother) who brought it back from the ETO at the end of the Second World War. She had been a “donut dolly,” driving an American Red Cross “Clubmobile” that rolled with Patton’s Third Army, passing out hot coffee and fresh doughnuts to the troops, often right behind the front lines. My mom DID wear combat boots and I’ve got the photos to prove it. I’ve also got one of her sitting in a Sherman tank at Bastogne, taken the day after it was relieved.
She often joked that she “…saw a lot of action, but no combat.” (She was still single at the time.)
Anyway, she had a first-hand, personal acquaintance with “Willie” and “Joe”, Mauldin’s two weary and bedraggled “dogface sojers” who became synonymous with American combat infantrymen in WWII. He eventually won a Pulitzer Prize for his “Up Front” cartoons published in the “Stars and Stripes” army newspaper. On the other hand, he really p****d off General George Patton for depicting US soldiers in something less than a “spit-and-polish” condition. The GIs loved him for it, however.
As a kid, I enjoyed looking through the book and laughing at the cartoons in it – no matter that I often didn’t understand the humor. Eventually, I even read Mauldin’s text and gained a new respect for the drudgery and danger of GI life “up front” and the grim humor they often used to help deal with it. Later, during my figure-painting days in the Marine Corps many years ago, I decided to build a small diorama (or is that “a vignette”?) recreating my all-time favorite Willie & Joe cartoon, using some 1\35 Tamiya figures I had lying around.
Here’s the result: (first, the original cartoon itself, then the 1/35 scale diorama.)
8 additional images. Click to enlarge.