Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, September 26, 2014


Willie and Joe:  The WWII Years by Bill Mauldin (2011)

It's impossible for me to praise this book too much. 

Willie and Joe are the war-weary army everymen who slog their way through World War II with humor and pathos in Bill Mauldin's cartoons in Stars and Stripes and other publications.  These are the guys -- muddy, unwashed, unshaved -- who put up with sore feet, poor food, bureaucracy, cold nights, and constant danger, yet are able to take a laconic look at themselves and the war while  remaining emphatic to its many victims.  These are the guys who dream of home, hot baths, soft beds, never forgetting the families they left back home.

Willie and Joe contains all the known cartoons Mauldin did from 1940 through 1945, beginning with work published in Arizona and Oklahoma newspapers.  Back then the main character was a Choctaw indian named Joe Bearfoot, representing some of the native Americans Mauldin met while serving with the Oklahoma 45th.  As Mauldin's talent grew and matured, so did his characters, who imbibed Mauldin's strong eye for character and detail.  The book runs to some 700 pages, with well over 650 pages containing cartoons.  In addition there's a remarkable biography of Mauldin, explanatory notes, and preliminary drawings.  A virtual treasure trove.

Between Mauldin and journalist Ernie Pyle (and Mauldin's cartoon saluting Pyle's death will break your heart), American got to see war in a personal way that they had never done before.  Willie and Joe represent the men who have been called "The Greatest Generation."  This is a book that shows you why.

Highly recommended.


  1. Both Mauldin and Pyle were included in the high school literature textbook when I was a kid. Both forgotten now, though. A sad situation.

  2. I've ordered a copy. Thanks, Jerry!

    Also, package you sent arrived yesterday. Special thanks for that.