From the Stars and Stripes archives

Mauldin finds a new breed of G.I. up front

Bill Mauldin, who gained fame as a Stars and Stripes cartoonist during World War II, turns out copy in Saigon in February, 1965.


By MIKE MEALEY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 24, 1965

SAIGON — Cartoonist Bill Mauldin, who first gained world recognition with his dogface creations Willie and Joe in the Stars & Stripes during World War II, found not only a new kind of war in Vietnam, but a new breed of G.I.'s.

Mauldin, now covering his third war, says, "There was a saying during Willie and Joe's time that when they drafted you, they didn't test your eyes, they counted them.

"It couldn't be farther from the truth now. These men today are real pros. They have motivation, and the education — they're smart. Their I.Q. is high, and everything follows, right down the line."

Mauldin describes Willie and Joe, who delighted millions by being caught in the comic and pathos situations of war, as "civilians in uniform who wanted to get the damn thing over with and go home," but adds he never really analyzed the "why's and what's" of his two heroes.

"The men today want to get it over with too, but they're professional soldiers and trained technicians ... they are professional, career men."

The 43-year-old cartoonist, now with the Chicago Sun Times and syndicated in nearly 250 newspapers, adds, "It's a new kind of army ... some of the aspects of the military system never change of course, but the men are changed."

Mauldin, who was visiting his son, Warrant Officer Bruce Mauldin, in Pleiku when the Viet Cong attack was launched there, reported the men kept their composure and did the jobs they had to do.

"Those guys were technicians caught up in something that would have shaken a tough rifle company. I didn't see a single man get rattled."

Mauldin says he doesn't see a Willie and Joe in Vietnam, and adds, "I didn't come here looking for a Willie and Joe. It would be a mistake bringing up the past. I was a G.I. then, aiming my material as a G.I. saw it.

"Now I'm an outsider looking in ... The things that made me mad then don't upset me the way they did then. I know they're there, but I'm not bothered by them.

"I've changed, and I believe a man's cartoons and his writing changes as he changes."

The prize-winning cartoonist said he would like to do something on the American soldier, but "I won't do it unless it comes naturally."

He doesn't know exactly what he will do until he starts sketching and comes up with the idea. The two cartoons he has done from Vietnam thus far have concerned the overall posture of the war and its recent headline events. Mauldin also utilized his talents as a writer and photographer in covering the attack at Pleiku.

"I like to travel around — to see things and meet people. I don't do my job with a notebook, but take mental notes on people and try to get a feeling for the situation I'm dealing with. It keeps me drawing about people. A cartoonist can easily get carried away by symbolism, and when you see it consistently in his work, you know he's run out of people."

Mauldin said he came to Vietnam with a preconceived notion of what to expect, but is now confused. "You might say," the personable cartoonist said, "that I came here knowledgeable, and now I'm confused, rather than coming here confused, and becoming knowledgeable."

He says he thinks America is doing what has to be done here, "but it will take a lot of patience — something we have lacked in the past. It's going to be a long, dirty, drawn out war."

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