Tag Archives: Pulitzer Prize

Bill Mauldin, the voice of the grunt

Those who served in the United States military as enlisted men and women — particularly from World War II through Vietnam — have a particular affinity for Bill Mauldin.

Mauldin was an artist whose cartoons depicted, with brilliant perception, brutal honesty, and insightful humor, the life of the everyday “grunt,” the guy who dug the ditches, moved the equipment, and generally got things done while the officers were taking the credit. No one knew the grunts better than Willie and Joe, the characters that Mauldin created to depict the lives of these weary and bedraggled guys.

Mauldin joined in 1940 the Army after taking some art courses at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, and he soon volunteered to draw cartoons for his division’s newspaper. That’s when he developed the Willie and Joe characters. Mauldin’s division participated in the invasion of Italy in 1943, and Mauldin started submitting cartoons to Stars and Stripes, an independent newspaper that served the armed forces in Europe.

Eventually, newspaper readers back in America began seeing Mauldin’s cartoons — something the U.S. War Office supported since they indicated that final victory for the Allies would be slow, grinding work.

Mauldin never shifted his point of view, always seeing life from the eyes of the enlisted man. His characters were unshaven, weary, and irreverent; they did not fit into the spit-and-polish image that many officers believed the Army should be showing to the public.

That irritated many officers, of course, and one of those officers was General George Patton. When Mauldin satirized Patton’s order that everyone in his army should be clean-shaven, Patton threated to jail Mauldin and ban Stars and Stripes. General Dwight Eisenhower, understanding that Mauldin’s cartoons were good for morale, told Patton to back off and leave Mauldin alone.

“I know that the pictures in this book have offended some people, and I don’t blame a lot of them,” he wrote after the war. “Some men in the army love their profession, and without those men to build the army we’d be in a sad fix. Some of them I do blame, because the pictures don’t offend the pride in their profession — they only puncture their stiff shirt fronts. I love to draw pictures that offend such guys, because it’s fun to hear them squawk.”

At the end of the war, Mauldin was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for the body of his work. He was 23 years old.

Mauldin continued to draw cartoons and work in journalism for the next 40 years. He worked for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Chicago Sun-Times, but his cartoons were widely syndicated. He also drew for Life magazine and wrote and published a number of books. He received a second Pulitzer in 1959.

He died in 2003, and in 2010 the U.S. Postal Service honored him with a stamp depicting him and his most famous characters. So, when you next celebrate Veterans Day, think a bit about Willie and Joe.

The best collection of Mauldin’s wartime cartoons is his book Upfront, which was published right after the war. Several editions are still available.

50 years ago, Harrison Salisbury did not win the Pulitzer Prize

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Harrison Salisbury, pen and ink by Jim Stovall © 2017


Fifty years ago when the Pulitzer Prizes were awarded, politics — not merit — kept Harrison Salisbury from winning the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting.

This week’s announcement (see below) of the latest prizes brings this sad tale to mind.

Salisbury was a reporter and editor for the New York Times who already had one Pulitzer to his credit.

With the war in Vietnam building to a rage in 1966, Salisbury applied to North Vietnam to visit Hanoi and file reports from there. North Vietnam was at that time considered the enemy, and the U.S. was conducting a brutal bombing campaign against the country and particularly its cities.

The U.S. government, with Lyndon Johnson as president, assured the country that the bombs were hitting only military targets.

When Salisbury arrived in Hanoi in December and began filing his reports on Christmas Day, he told the American public quite a different story. The bombs were falling everywhere, and civilians and civilian targets were taking a beating. The bombing was not, as the administration liked to say, “surgical.”

Salisbury reported what he saw and what he heard as people talked to him. His reports were full of descriptions and people and had the ring of authenticity. Many in America accused Salisbury of being stage-managed and manipulated.

Salisbury returned to the United States and may have wished he had stayed in Hanoi. He was subjected to scurrilous attacks from fellow journalists who were being supported by “leaks” from the Pentagon. The Pulitzer Prize jury voted to award Salisbury a Pulitzer that April, but it was overruled by an advisory board of mostly publishers. The award went to someone else, whom we don’t remember.

We do remember Harrison Salisbury.

Point Spread

Harrison Salisbury is an important background character in my forthcoming novel Point Spread.

The novel is set in 1967 at the time when Salisbury was sending back his reports. The protagonist, a high school girl, wants to be a journalist, and one of her models is Harrison Salisbury.

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Pulitzer Prize announcement

Watch a live stream of Pulitzer Prize Administrator Mike Pride announcing the 2017 Pulitzer Prizes on April 10, 2017 at 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Source: Video: 2017 Pulitzer Prize Announcement – The Pulitzer Prizes