A long series of officers had tried and failed to quell the rogue cartoonist. His infantrymen were covered in mud, unshaven, and resentful toward officers' privileges - a far cry from the wholesome image of the American fighting boy promoted by the War Department. Worst of all, his cartoons had become wildly popular among frontline soldiers. At last, General Patton himself summoned the 23 year old cartoonist to his office. It was time for "the Battle of Mauldin."
Todd DePastino's Bill Mauldin: A Life Up Front is the first full-length biography of one of the most important voices in American war reporting. Mauldin's cartoons appeared in European editions of Stars and Stripes from 1943-45, and were syndicated back home. In an era of wholesale press censorship, his depictions of infantry life were revolutionary, with a remarkable eye for artistic detail and an unflinchingly satirical outlook toward black markets, military bureaucracy, and self-inflated officers. Although the showdown with Patton threatened to spell the end of his career, a subsequent order direct from General Eisenhower banned officers from interfering with "Mauldin's cartoons" and other "controversial materials" in the army newspaper.
Bill Mauldin won a Pulitzer Prize in 1945 for "distinguished service as a cartoonist", and another in 1959 for a cartoon about Boris Pasternak and Soviet repression of art. His post-war career included more than twenty-eight years at the Chicago Sun-Times, which published his acclaimed drawing of the Lincoln Memorial weeping after the assassination of President Kennedy. He also covered the Vietnam War, and was a founding member of the groundbreaking Chicago Journalism Review, an early media watchdog whose ranks included Mike Royko and Studs Terkel.
Todd DePastino is the author of Citizen Hobo: How a Century of Homelessness Shaped America and editor of the new Mauldin collection Willie & Joe: The WWII Years, from Fantagraphics Press. He teaches at Waynesburg College.
DVD 2008-05-08: Todd DePastino
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