Bill Mauldin

Cartoonist/Writer, Fort Sill

Bill Mauldin, the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist who portrayed World War II reality laced with humor, first found recognition at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Mauldin came to Fort Sill at eighteen as a member of the 45th Infantry Division, which he had joined from his home of Santa Fe, New Mexico. His immortal characters, Willie and Joe, were created for his cartoons depicting training camp drudgery that were published in the camp newspaper, the 45th Division News.

He soon began sending out cartoons to magazines as well. Arizona Highways started buying them. The Daily Oklahoman newspaper in Oklahoma City began reprinting his weekly 45th Division News cartoons, paying $5 each.

When Mauldin’s 45th Division was shipped overseas, Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper, began publishing his drawings, and Mauldin became the voice of the World War II infantryman. Throughout the war, Mauldin’s Willie and Joe slogged their way through battle-scarred Europe, surviving the enemy and the elements while sarcastically mocking everything from their orders to their equipment and even their allies.

Mauldin called himself “as independent as a hog on ice,” and his nonconformist approach brought him a face-to-face reprimand from General George Patton. Mauldin continued to draw what he wanted, with the backing of General Dwight Eisenhower, the Allied Forces Supreme Commander.

He won his first Pulitzer Prize in 1945 for his Stars and Stripes cartoons, which by then were syndicated nationally in the United States by United Feature. He was only twenty-three.

Following the war, he freelanced and starred with Audie Murphy in the movie, Red Badge of Courage. In 1958, he became the editorial cartoonist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where he won his second Pulitzer Prize, moving on to the Chicago Sun-Times and the Sun-Times Syndicate in 1962. He remained with the Sun-Times, working from his home in Santa Fe, until a hand injury in 1991 ended his days as a cartoonist.

He was the author and illustrator of sixteen books. 

Biography courtesy of The Toy & Action Figure Museum, Pauls Valley, Oklahoma