Bill Mauldin's Early Years, 1938-1942
"Mauldin could draw. He was a trained artist.
He knew human anatomy. He knew how men stand when they are dead
tired, when they are afraid, and how they physically cringe when
they are lying. He knew how to draw things like the fall of light
and shadow, architecture and perspective, and reflections in the
rain-pocked surface of water. He had an eye for detail, for the
bolts that hold tank tracks together, for the shaky little folding
tables that the U.S. Army set up in the middle of the bombed out
shells of Europe's cities. These things are subtle, but he chose
them the way a schooled writer uses words and syntax." - Cartoonist
Bill Mauldin was born October 29,
1921 in Mountain Park, New Mexico. After the divorce of his parents,
he and his older brother, Sidney, headed for Arizona together in
1937, where they attended Phoenix Union High School. Mauldin concentrated
on journalism, to the neglect of his other studies, and did not
graduate with his class because of a missed quarter of biology.
He ultimately graduated in1945 when the school decided that he had
done sufficient work to warrant a diploma. Both the editor of the
newspaper and his art teacher moved Mauldin toward cartooning as
a profession, because, as he put it, he was "a pop-off." He joined
the ROTC to solve his clothing budget problems and discovered that
he enjoyed it. His ROTC experience served him well in the military.
In 1939, having failed to graduate from high school, Mauldin moved
to Chicago to attend a cartooning course offered by the Chicago
Academy of Fine Arts. The school emphasized life drawing over cartooning,
but Mauldin also studied political cartooning with Vaughn Shoemaker.
He returned to Phoenix in 1940, the effects of his schooling and
professional exposure having improved his art. He received a few
commissions for election-year cartoons with the assistance of Phoenix
cartoonist Reg Manning, but when his stepfather urged him to reconsider
Phoenix as his choice of location, Mauldin enlisted in the Arizona
National Guard, 45th Infantry Division, which was about to be nationalized.
The Guard was "federalized" two days after Mauldin was sworn in
and the troops moved to Oklahoma.
In September 1940 Walter M. Harrison, former editor of the Daily
Oklahoman and Oklahoma City Times established the
45th Division News. Mauldin noticed it lacked a cartoonist,
and soon worked his way into the job. Harrison set up a drawing
table in his office, and gave Mauldin complete access to it when
he was off-duty. Early in 1941 the division moved from Oklahoma
to Camp Barkeley, near Abilene, Texas, where they remained for the
next fifteen months.
In 1943, Mauldin headed to Italy with the rest of the 45th Division,
participating in D-Day in Sicily on July 10, 1943. The News
staff remained segregated from their units. Mauldin volunteered
for gunning duty to get out of Hold 4-D during the voyage. The newspaper
continued to issue editions, on mimeograph paper, requiring Mauldin
to learn how to cut drawings into stencils.
Ink and white out over pencil
LC-DIG-ppmsca-03233 (digital file from original)
CD 1 - Mauldin, no. 1258 (A size)
Copyright 1938 by Bill Mauldin. Reproduced with Permission
of the Estate of William Mauldin.
In his first published political cartoon, Mauldin
shows Mexican president Lázaro Cárdenas wearing
a sombrero and giving the thumbs up signal as he faces off
against a horse labeled "Mine expropriation." In a style typical
of the of the late 1930s, Mauldin tackels Mexico's expropriation
of United States oil properties.
Mauldin's early war cartoons made fun of camp life and
the inadequate facilities for soldiers. It wasn't until he
crossed the Atlantic that he seriously began exposing the
difficulties of the soldiers' lives and the bitterness the
"dogfaces" felt toward the officers that made him famous as
Banter - The 45th is moving into its new temporary (we hope)
field camp in the cornfields of Camp Barkeley, [between
1941 and 1942]
Ink and crayon over pencil
LC-DIG-ppmsca-03234 (digital file from original)
LC-USZ62-126150 (b&w film copy neg.)
CD 1 - Mauldin, no. 1695 (D size)
Copyright by Bill Mauldin. Reproduced with Permission of the
Estate of William Mauldin.