Tag Archives: World War II

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.

The surprising source of the first news of D-Day

Every June 6 (which came and went this week) American news media faithfully observes the Normandy invasion by Allied forces during World War II. It’s an important anniversary because it marked an important point in the defeat of Nazi Germany.

But how did America first learn of the Normandy landings?

The first news came from a surprising source: Nazi Germany.

Early in the morning of June 6, 1944, NBC came on the air with the news of the invasion at about 12:45 a.m., three minutes after receiving an Associated Press bulletin. CBS broadcast the news at 12:48 a.m., waiting for confirmation from a second source. The first reports clearly identified the German news agency TransOcean as the source of the information.

There was ample reason to be cautious. Three days before that, the Germans had issued news of the invasion in an attempt to get the Allies to reveal something about their plans. The Associated Press issued a flash bulletin based on that information and then had to resend it within minutes.

This time, however, the news was the real thing, and the invasion was on.  

Source: ‘D-DAY HAS COME’: How News Of The Normandy Invasion First Broke | HuffPost

Here is George Hicks‘ recording from within the convoy heading to Normandy beach:


The New York World Telegram called it “the greatest recording yet to come out of the war.” This was the amazing recording made by George Hicks, London Bureau Chief for the Blue Network (soon to become ABC) of the beginning of the D-Day Normandy Invasion. Added to the Library of Congress Audio Archive.

Winston Churchill caricature

Winston Churchill’s World War II saga (part 1): Motive and opportunity

This is the first of three JPROF posts on Winston Churchill, the writer, and how he wrote his Nobel Prize-winning history of World War II.

The phrase “his/her place in history” gets tossed around a lot. It’s used by journalists, politicians, and commentators as if it’s a seat on the Number 12 bus, and you need to be in the right spot when it hits Picadilly Circus.

History doesn’t work like that, but this fact is something that always seems to elude those who use the phrase or think about the concept.

No one thought about it more than Winston Churchill.

Winston Churchill caricature

Winston Churchill

More than a few times, Churchill expressed the sentiment that “history will be kind to me for I will write it.” Through his life and particularly in his later years, Churchill would say that, sometimes as a threat to others but usually just as a comfort to himself.

But Churchill went much farther than other famous people in an attempt — futile as it is — to make that happen.

David Reynolds‘ book In Command of  History is a 600-page examination of Churchill’s efforts to have both the first and last word about himself and his actions during World War II, and it is a fascinating story.

Motive and opportunity

It is sometimes hard to believe what a difference a day makes, as the song says.

On the morning of  Thursday, July 26, 1945, Winston Churchill was at the height of his political power. He had been prime minister of Great Britain for more than five years during the most dangerous time in the nation’s long history. He had been at the helm to see it through those dangers and to achieve a momentous victory with the surrender of Germany the previous May.

As he had directed the war — along with, at times, contentious allies — he was now looking forward to directing the peace, to re-shaping the world in a way that would ensure stable and enduring international relations. He had every reason to believe that the voters of Great Britain, when they went to the polls that day for their first general election in five years, would reward him with that opportunity.

They did not.

It became clear early that day that the opposition Labour Party was about to score a startling victory. As the Churchill family dealt with the gathering gloom, Clementine, Winston’s wife, commented that what was happening might be a blessing in disguise. Churchill said sourly, ” At the moment, it seems quite effectively disguised,”

That evening, he drove to Buckingham Palace and offered his resignation to the King.

The next morning, the shattered leader awoke to a life he had never planned. Or so it seemed.

From almost the day that he had taken the prime ministership, May 9, 1940, Churchill had planned to write his memoirs and/or a history of the great battle that the United Kingdom was facing. One of his schemes was to claim ownership of as many of the papers and memoranda that he could so they would not be subject to government ownership or Britain’s Official Secrets Act.

He also had occasional and very private conversations with friends who had publishing connections about the possibilities of post-war writing.

Such conversations were natural. Churchill, as much as he was a public figure, had been a writer, journalist, and polemicist. That was how he had his living. He had been First Lord of the Admiralty during World War I and subsequently had published a multi-volume history of that conflict — a history that had been most profitable.

And the Churchills always needed money. They were not a wealthy family, and Winston’s tastes — and his consumption, particularly of alcohol — were lavish.

So the results of the July General Election were indeed “a blessing in disguise,” though not the one that Clementine had hoped for. They gave Churchill the opportunity to write the history he had imagined writing — an opportunity combined that the strong motive of ego-preservation that Churchill always displayed.

Next: Winston Churchill’s World War II saga: Obliterating the obstacles

Finally: Winston Churchill’s World War II saga: Churchill the writer



See the 2005 New York Times review of David Reynolds’ book, In Command of History by Max Boot.

More about true crime podcasts; Fowler’s English classic; and giveaways galore

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (4,261) on Friday, Nov. 17, 2017.


The county where I live, Blount (pronounced blunt) is home to a part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Smokies are beautiful any time of the year but especially so during the fall foliage season, which has just ended. There is much more to the Smokies than the beautiful landscapes, however. The mountains are responsible for the watercolor toward the end of this newsletter.

Viewing tip: Click the display images link above if you haven’t done so already.

A remarkable tale of courage

The world lost one of its true heroes with the passing of Jeannie Rousseau in August. While I usually write about people who were writers, Rousseau’s story is too good to pass up without noting. She lived in Paris during World War II and took advantage of all of her resources — fluent German, a delightful disposition, steely courage, and a photographic memory — to score one of the great espionage coups of the war.

Yet, she never made much of what she did, waiting more than 50 years to tell her story and then downplaying its significance.

Read more about this remarkable woman here on JPROF.

More for the fans of true crime

Christopher Goffard, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, has written and narrates a six-part true crime podcast called Dirty John. It’s the story of Debra Newell and John Meehan and is a true crime podcast of the highest order. It will take you a while to get through it, but once you start, you’ll likely be hooked. The reporting is thorough, the interviews are fascinating, and the story is full of twists, turns, and surprises. The ending is well worth the journey.

Meehan is one of those truly evil individuals, and his grip on Newell and her family is compelling. Here’s a link to part 1, “The Real Thing.”

Last week I recommended a series called Sword and Scale. This website and podcast, according to its own description, is about “the dark underworld of crime and the criminal justice system’s response to it.” The folks associated with Sword and Scale have spent a lot of time producing interesting and informative podcasts about serious crimes. One episode I listened to was episode 90. Here’s the description:

When Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist Claudia Rowe, author of The Spider and The Fly, decided to write to a serial killer, she wasn’t prepared for how it would change her life. In her quest to understand the nature of cruelty, she ended up discovering much more about herself.

It was an hour well spent.

Where did English come from, and how it is used?

One of my favorite topics is the English language — its history, development, and use. Over the decades, a number of great scholars have devoted their lives to studying the language, and they have shared their knowledge, understanding, and conclusions with the rest of us.

One of those scholars was Henry Fowler, an English schoolmaster who lived from 1858 to 1933 and made the study of English his lifelong work. Fowler’s classic is A Dictionary of Modern English Usage. It was originally published in 1926 and has since been revised and updated. It is so well known and established as essential among scholars that its title is now Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage.

I bought a copy of this book early in my academic career of teaching about journalism and journalistic writing, and I have kept it ever since and referred to it often. Fowler is insightful and often wry, and the entries — long or short — are always fun to read.

If you have one book on your shelf about the language, Fowler should be the one.


The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries. https://theprolificreader.com/mystery/

BookFunnel November MysteriesKill the Quarterback is included in this one, too. There are some great new mysteries here that you will want to check out. The giveaway runs through Nov. 20, so don’t wait. Head over there today, and see what you want to put on your shelf. https://books.bookfunnel.com/novembermysteries/iygwd1dtrg

The winner of the Amazon gift card contest from last week’s newsletter is Linny Marcus. Congrats Linny!

More from The Devil’s Dictionary

More entries from The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce, these from the letter J:

J is a consonant in English, but some nations use it as a vowel— than which nothing could be more absurd. Its original form, which has been but slightly modified, was that of the tail of a subdued dog, and it was not a letter but a character, standing for a Latin verb, jacere, “to throw,” because when a stone is thrown at a dog the dog’s tail assumes that shape. This is the origin of the letter, as expounded by the renowned Dr. Jocolpus Bumer, of the University of Belgrade, who established his conclusions on the subject in a work of three quarto volumes and committed suicide on being reminded that the j in the Roman alphabet had originally no curl.

JEALOUS, adj. Unduly concerned about the preservation of that which can be lost only if not worth keeping.

JEWS-HARP, n. An unmusical instrument, played by holding it fast with the teeth and trying to brush it away with the finger.

JOSS-STICKS, n. Small sticks burned by the Chinese in their pagan tomfoolery, in imitation of certain sacred rites of our holy religion.

JUSTICE, n. A commodity which is a more or less adulterated condition the State sells to the citizen as a reward for his allegiance, taxes and personal service.

Bierce was a Civil War combat veteran who became one of the nation’s foremost writers and cynics in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I promised to tell you more about Bierce, and that will happen in the near future. You can get a free copy of The Devil’s Dictionary in a variety of formats through Project Gutenberg.

Finally . . .

Watercolor of the week: The fiddle player

This watercolor is based on a photograph taken by Doris Ulman. A New Yorker by birth, Ulman was a professional photographer who came to the Southern Appalachians because of her fascination with the people and their culture. She is an important figure not only in the history of photography and photojournalism but also in documenting the lives and ways of the area around the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

I’ll have more to say about the Smokies in subsequent newsletters.

Do not forget the victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate. These and many other disasters mean that people need our help. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to yours.Keep reading and have a great weekend.


Jim Stovall

You can connect with Jim on FacebookTwitterLinkedin, and BookBub.

His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.

Last week’s newsletter



5-star review: I this book in exchange for an unbiased review. I loved this book! Its plot and characters are quite realistic. Having been a high school teacher I felt the voices of the teens were correctly written. It is a great read!

Kill the Quarterback

5-star review: I voluntarily reviewed an ARC of this book. Wow. This is the first book I’ve read by this author. I wasn’t sure I was going to like it but I thought I would read a few pages and then bam! I was hooked! Excellent writing. Excellent story. I could not figure out whodunit and that’s the best kind of mystery. I can’t wait until the next book comes out!

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FDR, the editor: A date which will live in infamy

The first typed draft of Franklin Roosevelt's "date which will live in infamy" speech was heavily edited by FDR.

The first typed draft of Franklin Roosevelt’s “date which will live in infamy” speech was heavily edited by FDR.

On the day that Pearl Harbor was attacked, President Franklin Roosevelt dictated a speech that would become one of the most famous in American history. Unlike more modern presidents, who employ an army of speechwriters, Roosevelt wrote much of his own speeches.

He began this one by dictating to Grace Tully, his secretary. The first draft of his first sentence was, “Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a day which will live in world history . . . .”

Roosevelt was a notorious and perfecting editor, particularly of his own copy. No one knows what went through his mind when he was writing and editing this speech, but the evidence that he was giving each word much thought can be found in the image at the right. He made many changes to that draft. To Roosevelt, those first words were important, and they had to be right. They must have sounded flat, like the beginning of a dull history lesson.

Somewhere in the process, “day” became “date,” signifying a larger and more memorable moment in history than just a day. And “world history” became “infamy.” Roosevelt needed a word that would express the outrage that Americans felt about being “suddenly and deliberately attacked.”

Infamy was the word he chose. It hadn’t come to him at first. It came only in the editing process.

And it has become an indelible part of American history.

Roosevelt had good reason to weigh his words carefully — many good reasons, in fact. For much of two years prior to the Japanese attack, the country had been through a bitter debate about what America should do about the war in Europe. A strong America First faction, led by aviator-hero Charles Lindbergh, argued that America should not be involved in Europe’s problems. People on this side recalled America’s participation in World War I — then called the Great War — and believed America had lost many lives and much treasure and had gained little for it.

On the other side of the debate were those who believe that America’s involved in this European war was inevitable and that the sooner we committed to it, the better able we would be to end it quickly. The British, particularly Prime Minister Winston Churchill, were desperate to bring America into the war, fearing that the British would not be able to hold out against Germany. America was the place where Nazism and Fascism could be stopped, this side argued, and it was America’s moral duty to the world to fight. Roosevelt was clearly on this side of the argument, but as president, he felt that he could not lead too strongly. If war came, he would have to have a united country behind him.

The bitterness of how divided America was at that point is exemplified by the actions of both sides over the issue of a peacetime draft, which came before Congress in 1940. Proponents knew that if war came any time soon, America would be totally unprepared both with equipment and men. A peacetime draft — though America had never had one in her history — made sense, and those who opposed it, proponents argued, were endangering the country.

The opposition to a draft included many young people, Gold Star Mothers (those who had lost children in the previous war, educators, pacifists, and isolationists. As Doris Kearns Goodwin writes in No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II:

Day after day, black-veiled matrons who called themselves the Mothers of the USA march in front of the Capitol, vowing to hold a “death watch” against conscription. (p. 139)

Just about every issue through the next year became one of war or peace.

On December 7, a quiet Sunday, war came, but it wasn’t from the east in Europe.

Smoke pours from the USS Arizona, one of the battleships sunk by the Japanese on Dec. 7, 1941.

Smoke pours from the USS Arizona, one of the battleships sunk by the Japanese on Dec. 7, 1941.

Just after 7:30 a.m. local time, a fleet of Japanese bombers swooped into Pearl Harbor and dropped a payload of torpedo bombs on the ships anchored there. They kept coming — 189 in all — until the U.S. Navy was crippled beyond imagining.

Roosevelt was informed about 1:30 p.m. Washington time.

After conferring with aides throughout the afternoon, Roosevelt called in Grace Tully around 5 p.m and began dictating his speech. He worked on it, on and off, into the evening.

President Franklin Roosevelt delivers his speech asking Congress to declare war on Dec. 8, 1941 -- the date "which will live in infamy."

President Franklin Roosevelt delivers his speech asking Congress to declare war on Dec. 8, 1941 — the date “which will live in infamy.”

The speech was important, not just because of the history it would make but also because of the immediate situation. No one knew what would happen next. Would America be invaded by the Japanese? Japan had not only attacked Pearl Harbor that day, but it has launched coordinated attacks on the Philippines and numerous points elsewhere in the Pacific. It was not then out of the question that they could be on the shores of the West Coast within hours or days.

The nation waited on that bleak Monday to hear from Roosevelt. The speech, FDR knew, had to ignore the bitterness of the previous two years and set a direction and tone that would promote American unity.

By measuring precisely each of his words, Roosevelt did just that.


( The speech that Roosevelt delivered lasted slightly more than seven minutes.)

Three Dead Americans: Life’s famous World War II photo

Photographs of fallen soldiers have always been a source of controversy for the news media.

It was thus during the Civil War, even before photographs could be mass produced. It was thus during the latest U.S. incursions into Iraq and Afghanistan.

Life-WWII-photoAnd it certainly was during World War II when the American public went for nearly two years after Pearl Harbor without seeing a photo in the news media of a dead American serviceman.

That first photograph, “Three Dead Americans,” and the story behind it, is now on the Life magazine website. The photographer was George Strock, who covered the Battle of Buna-Gona in the South Pacific. The battle was a strategically important one, though few except World War II aficionados have ever heard of it. During the war, government censors banned pictures of dead soldiers. This photo, however, was different. It was technically superior and visually powerful.

According to the article on Life’s website:

For months after Strock made his now-iconic picture, LIFE’s editors pushed the American government’s military censors to allow the magazine to publish that one photograph. The concern, among some at LIFE and certainly many in the government, was that Americans were growing complacent about a war that was far from over and in which an Allied victory was far from certain. A 25-year-old LIFE correspondent in Washington named Cal Whipple refused to take no for an answer from the censors and — as he put it in a memoir written for his family years later — he “went from Army captain to major to colonel to general, until I wound up in the office of an assistant secretary of the Air Corps, who decided, ‘This has to go to the White House.’”

In the Sept. 20, 1943, issue of LIFE, in which Strock’s photo first appeared (and in which it was given a full page to itself), the magazine’s editors made the case to LIFE’s readers for publishing the picture — even if it took the better part of a year to bring the censors and President Franklin Roosevelt himself around to their way of thinking:

Here lie three Americans [the editorial began].

What shall we say of them? Shall we say that this is a noble sight? Shall we say that this is a fine thing, that they should give their lives for their country?

Or shall we say that this is too horrible to look at?

Why print this picture, anyway, of three American boys dead upon an alien shore? Is it to hurt people? To be morbid?

Those are not the reasons.

The reason is that words are never enough. The eye sees. The mind knows. The heart feels. But the words do not exist to make us see, or know, or feel what it is like, what actually happens. The words are never right. . . .

The reason we print it now is that, last week, President Roosevelt and [Director of the Office of War Information] Elmer Davis and the War Department decided that the American people ought to be able to see their own boys as they fall in battle; to come directly and without words into the presence of their own dead.


Showing dead soldiers has never been easy. To the right are two pictures from the Civil War. (Click on the pictures to see larger versions.) The first shows Confederate soldiers after the Battle of Antietam in September 1862; the second shows some of the dead after the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863.


Confederate soldiers after the Battle of Antietam in September 1862

All of these pictures are controversial, and doubtless the controversies will never be resolved. The issue provokes several lines of thinking that may be summarized as follows:

  • Picturing dead people in almost any context, but especially combat deaths, shows disrespect to the deceased, their families and their loved ones. This is an emotional argument that one either believes or does not believe. There is no way to prove its validity. Yet, because we are the kind of society we are, this line of thinking is raised early and often becomes the controlling aspect of decision-making about this issue.
  • Picturing combat deaths is unnecessary; people die in wars, and we don’t need to be reminded of that.
  • Photographs of combat deaths are shocking — so out of the ordinary that the viewing public will be repulsed by them. In the world of entertainment, we are used to “sanitized” deaths, no blood, gore or mess. Reality is not that way, and when we are reminded of that, we are shocked. The question for the journalists is, “Does the shocking part of the message get in the way of the message itself?”
  • Photographs of combat deaths will hurt the public’s morale and may reduce support for a nation’s war efforts. This is another argument whose validity can be argued. It seems to be the first line of reasoning for government censors. Yet, the story of the Life magazine photograph described above tells the opposite story altogether. Roosevelt and Davis allowed the photograph because they thought the public might be growing complacent, and support for the war might be ebbing. But these were all subjective judgments, not supported by any real evidence.


    Dead soldiers after the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863.

  • Journalists have the right and the responsibility to cover news, whatever it is and wherever it happens. This is a First Amendment argument that most journalists accept, and for them it becomes the controlling reasoning in this controversy. Government censorship — except to protect troops in action — is never a good idea. If the idea of freedom of information means anything at all, it should mean that we can report news of public interest and importance, even if it is shocking and offensive.
  • The public that supports and pays for a war has the right to see the effects of what they have supported. This is a rationalist and economic consideration that journalists use to back up and extend their First Amendment arguments. The public should want full reports and full information about what the government — for which they pay taxes — is up to. People who are asked to sacrifice their lives and the lives of their friends and loved ones should be fully information about the reasons and consequences of those requests.

Each of these positions has been argued vehemently by their adherents. There is certainly validity to all of them. The problem is that none of these positions is so obviously right that it overwhelms the other.

Thus, the controversy will always be with us.


Below is a set of photos of soldiers killed in Civil War battles.



The return of a serviceman killed in Iraq.