American Treasures of the Library of Congress: Memory, Exhibit Object Focus

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Bill Mauldin on Vietnam War

From this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety
Bill Mauldin (1921-2003)
"From this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety." (Shakespeare, Henry IV), 1965
Published in the Chicago Sun-Times, April 13, 1965
Crayon, ink, white out and blue pencil over pencil on layered paper
Bill Mauldin Collection
Prints & Photographs Division
Copyright Bill Mauldin, 1965. Courtesy of the Mauldin Estate
LC-DIG-ppmsca-13268 (14)

Bill Mauldin was one of the most popular and influential cartoonists of the twentieth century. The Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist began his career with satirical army cartoons during World War II. He later served as an editorial cartoonist with the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch and then the Chicago Sun-Times, from which he retired in 1991. After the war, he turned to drawing political cartoons in which he supported policies such as civil rights and environmental reform. Although Mauldin generally favored the policies of President Lyndon Baines Johnson (1908-1973), he was in strong disagreement with U.S. policy in Vietnam, which he visited in 1965, the year that Johnson began a big military buildup there. In this cartoon, Mauldin shows Johnson reaching up through a thorny bush labeled "Southeast Asia" to pluck a small, lone flower at the top. The caption from William Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 1, Act II, Scene 3, suggests the futility of the action and thus of the Vietnam War, which would last another ten years.

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