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Tribute to Bill Mauldin

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. DeWINE. Mr. President, today on Veterans Day, we are reminded of the sacrifices of all those who have served in our Armed Forces. We honor them, we remember them, and we thank them.

Today I would like to talk about a veteran who proudly served in World War II, a veteran who died this past year, and a veteran who has, I think, great meaning for those who served in World War II. He was a soldier who told the stories of World War II through these drawings. That man, of course, is Bill Mauldin. He is remembered for depicting in his cartoons the average World War II soldier, the person who was doing his job, just trying to survive, trying to get home; the average World War II soldier who won the war; the average soldier to whom we all owe so much.

While Bill Mauldin was depicting the soldier of that generation, in a sense he was depicting all those who serve and who have ever served.

Bill Mauldin passed away on January 22 of this year at the age of 81 following a courageous battle against Alzheimer's disease.

World War II veterans felt and continue to feel an attachment to Bill Mauldin because he really seemed to understand what a typical GI was going through, and his drawings depicted that. Bill Mauldin's work as a military and civilian cartoonist and writer brought a spirited, insightful, and human touch to the issues and people whom he covered. He is perhaps best known for two of the cartoon characters he created, Willie and Joe, whose adventures took them across various battlefields of World War II.

Willie and Joe were both young enlistees on the front lines of combat, very much like Mr. Mauldin himself, a 1940 callup to the Army from the Arizona National Guard who spent a considerable amount of time in the North African and European battle theaters.

Willie and Joe were not the straight-edged soldiers we often find in official wartime publications or Hollywood films. Rather, these two cartoon heroes lived the lives of men defined by the difficult surroundings and tasks at hand during World War II-soldiers resolved to give their all in the few matters they could control and resigned to hope for the best in those which they could not.

I think the late historian Stephen Ambrose said it best in the introduction to a re-issue of Mauldin's widely read post-war cartoon compilation entitled "Up Front." According to Ambrose, Bill Mauldin's cartoons "caught on and live on because in them everything is accurate. . . . Willie and Joe's boots and smelly socks, their baggy, dirty uniforms, their knives, rifles, ammunition, mortars, web belts, canteens, beards, haversacks, helmets (with crease marks or holes), the rations-this is how it was."

Ambrose really got it right. Mauldin's unique ability to capture the young soldier's perspective on day-to-day life during the war in an inclusive and patriotic manner earned his work the distinction of regular publication in numerous military newspapers, including Stars and Stripes and the 45th Division News. His work also won him the respect of fellow soldiers across the globe, one of whom recently described Willie and Joe as "a secret weapon on our side."

Willie and Joe were featured in Mauldin's first post-war compilation of cartoons and essays entitled "Back Home." The success "Back Home" had in bookstores across the country propelled Mauldin to even greater fame, winning him the opportunity to publish several more works and even act in a few motion pictures.

In fact, Mauldin is so well respected that in 1945, at the age of 23, he received a Pulitzer Prize soon after Time magazine featured him on its cover. Following the conclusion of World War II, Mauldin began a career as a political cartoonist for several major U.S. newspapers, including the Chicago Sun-Times and then the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, stirring up high-profile issues along the way. He won a second Pulitzer Prize in 1959 for a cartoon he drew depicting the Soviet Union's harsh treatment of renowned writer and Nobel Prize winner Boris Pasternak. Bill Mauldin has touched my generation with one of his most famous drawings, a drawing I certainly remember and I know anyone in my generation remembers. It was a drawing from now what has been 40 years ago of a statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial with his face cupped in his hand, weeping, following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

I will not forget that image, and I am sure there are many Members of the Senate and across this country who will not forget that, either.

Bill Mauldin was a creative, artistic genius who could capture so much about people and the human condition in the simplicity of his drawings. He could capture in those cartoons what words alone could not. Bill Mauldin had the gift and he used it well. On Veterans Day this year, we should thank Bill Mauldin for that gift and for his service to our Nation, for what he did to represent in drawings the average GI in World War II-and in a sense the average GI throughout our long history as a country-for what he did to communicate to so many the way life was for our troops.

I would also like to take this opportunity to send that same message of thanks on this Veterans Day to all of our current and former service men and women. Whether on the islands of the South Pacific, in the air over France, or on land in France or in Germany, on the beaches of Sicily, the mountains in Korea, the jungles of Vietnam, the deserts of Kuwait, more recently in the caves of Afghanistan or the streets of Baghdad, our service men and women have defended America and they defended our values with great valor. We must never forget that veterans served for us, they served for our children, for our grandchildren, and for future generations not yet born.

Today on this Veterans Day our service men and women continue to serve around the world. We pause again tonight to thank our veterans, thank those who have served in the past, and to remember our service men and women who are serving at this very hour tonight.

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