- The Washington Times - Monday, November 11, 2002

They are a couple of bearded dogfaces slouching under the weight of their packs. Their baggy clothes are dirty and worn and their boots covered in European mud.
The only way to tell them apart is by their noses: Joe has a ski slope/button and Willie a Roman.
While they may not look like much, they are World War II heroes of a sort, at least to the American infantrymen who have read the cartoon "Willie and Joe," created by Bill Mauldin.
Working for the 45th Division News and later for the Stars and Stripes, Mr. Mauldin put the gripes of the guys into ink and drew laughs.
The New Mexico native understood the enlisted man because he was one of them and guarded the integrity of his M-1 rifle-toting characters against complaints by some in higher ranks that the cartoons were irreverent and eroded morale.
"The infantrymen can't live without friends. That forces them to be pretty good people and that's the reason men at the front seem so much simpler and more generous than others," Mr. Mauldin wrote in his book "Up Front" during World War II.
After an accident at his home last year, Mr. Mauldin, 81, now lives in a nursing home in California and is dealing with what doctors believe is Alzheimer's disease.
Mr. Mauldin can't communicate well, but what seems to perk him up the most lately has been hearing from World War II veterans, said Gordon Dillow, a columnist for the Orange County Register.
Earlier this year, Mr. Dillow put out the word that Mr. Mauldin could use some support. Since then, Mr. Mauldin has received at least 10,000 cards and letters.
"A lot of them are from World War II guys and they all talk about what 'Willie and Joe' meant to them," Mr. Dillow said. "People include pictures of themselves or guys lined up in front of B-29 bombers, all kinds of things."
Many veterans have visited Mr. Mauldin to tell war stories and to talk about cartoons.
Dale Stout, who sent Mr. Mauldin a card, was a second lieutenant in the Army's corps of engineers in Europe when he ran into Mr. Mauldin and "Willie and Joe" in the Stars and Stripes.
"We all verbalized [our complaints], you know, but he put them in pictures and then we had to laugh at ourselves," Mr. Stout said.
Mr. Stout's favorite cartoon is of Willie walking through a town with another soldier from his outfit. All the townspeople are sporting curly hair and sharp noses like that of the soldier, who turns to Willie and says: "This is the town my pappy told me about."
Willie and Joe "are so real and these two guys are such characters. I don't know how he came up with so many ideas," Mr. Stout said. "And of course, we followed him all the way through to the end of the war."
Mr. Mauldin won his first Pulitzer in 1945 at the age of 23, and while the fame of the prize changed his life, it was his ability to appeal to the everyman, the common man, that made him successful, said his son, David Mauldin of Santa Fe, N.M.
After the war, Mr. Mauldin became a political cartoonist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where he won another Pulitzer in 1959. He moved to the Chicago Sun-Times in 1962.
Those who don't recall "Willie and Joe" may remember the Mauldin drawing of the Lincoln Memorial weeping with his head in his hands after President Kennedy was assassinated.
That was a Bill Mauldin.
To send a card or letter to Bill Mauldin, write in care of Gordon Dillow, P.O. Box 11626, Santa Ana, CA 92711-1626.

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