Mauldin died at age 81 in the early days of 2003. The end of his life had been rugged. He had been scalded in a bathtub, which led to terrible injuries and infections; Alzheimer's disease was inflicting its cruelties. Unable to care for himself after the scalding, he became a resident of a California nursing home, his health and spirits in rapid decline.
He was not forgotten, though. Mauldin, and his work, meant so much to the millions of Americans who fought in World War II, and to those who had waited for them to come home. He was a kid cartoonist for Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper; Mauldin's drawings of his muddy, exhausted, whisker-stubbled infantrymen Willie and Joe were the voice of truth about what it was like on the front lines.
http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/03/07/greene.mauldin.stamp/index.html (Full Story)
I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes. I'd known about Bill Mauldin and what he did for a long time. The Military is the best thing that happened to a lot of young men. I'm certainly not for war, but the experience is something I wouldn't trade for anything. When you go in, they just strip you of everything that was important to you on the outside before you went in.
There are jobs in the military that aren't that hard, but we were infantry and everything we did was on our backs and feet. It was the roughest thing I've ever been through in my life. I was never in combat and I've never shot at anything that could shoot back, but I've seen them walk and run till they fall. I've shivered all night in wet freezing foxholes with them. I know the kind of men they are. We all had to soak our socks off with water from our canteens at one time or the other. It creates a bond like no other you will ever have in life. It was the first time a lot of young men ever really had to do as they were told, when they were told. You do things you thought you couldn't do. … It builds confidence. It's the first experience a lot of young men had that didn't allow them to make excuses of any kind. You do the job walking and if you can't do it walking, you do it crawling, but you're still going to do the job. I've fell asleep standing up because I was so tired so many times, I got good at it.
This cartoon showing one soldier giving the other a dry pair of socks … it really does get down to where those socks would truly be a great gift. When your feet are so numb you can barely feel them for hours, all you can think about is trying to find any comfort you possible can under the circumstances.
We were in Norway playing war games with the Norwegian soldiers for about two months towards the end of my time in the service and we were running through an old farm house hog lot. It was full of pig dung and mud and a kid about five men ahead of me had saved a piece of mint candy from one of his C rations. He was unwrapping it as he was running and he fumbled and dropped it. I saw where it landed and picked it up and hit it about one swipe on my pants to wipe it off … and ate it. He was looking back when I did it. I know it sounds funny, but I promise, that piece of C ration mint candy was going to be a real treat for him. I know he didn't blame me for eating it because when you're running, you don't stop for anything. The point is, you just get down to where you feel like "If I could just shut my eyes for five minutes it would be the greatest gift in the world."
Bill Mauldin told it like it was for those guys and they knew it. Again, I was never in combat so I don't want to even pretend I know what it was like for them. They’re in a class some where way above me.