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Many people have described their wartime experiences in letters home. But very few have chronicled war for the people doing the fighting. Bill Mauldin, World War II's most famous cartoonist, is one of them. In 1943, when he was 21, Mauldin's division shipped overseas to North Africa. Mauldin had been drawing cartoons since he was a boy, and he was quickly assigned to cover the war for the 45th Division News, and then for Stars and Stripes. His cartoons, featuring a scruffy pair of foot soldiers named Willie and Joe, scored an instant hit with the soldiers who saw them. Within two years, Mauldin won fame -- and a Pulitzer Prize -- for capturing foot soldiers' everyday experiences.
As Mauldin described his famous GIs, "they matured overseas during the stresses of shot, shell, and K-rations, and grew whiskers because shaving water was scarce in mountain foxholes." Enjoy this sampling of Mauldin's work, courtesy of his publisher, Presidio Press.
"I wuz just kiddin', Joe - you got three letters."|Bill Mauldin's Army;http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/warletters_gallery_02.jpg|http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/warletters_gallery_02_t.jpg|
"Now that ya mention it, it does sound like the patter of rain on a tin roof."|Bill Mauldin's Army;http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/warletters_gallery_03.jpg|http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/warletters_gallery_03_t.jpg|
"My Son. Five days old. Good-lookin' kid, ain't he?"|Bill Mauldin's Army;http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/warletters_gallery_04.jpg|http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/warletters_gallery_04_t.jpg|
(no original caption)|Bill Mauldin's Army;http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/warletters_gallery_05.jpg|http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/warletters_gallery_05_t.jpg|
"Why ya lookin' so sad? I got out of it okay."|Bill Mauldin's Army;http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/warletters_gallery_06.jpg|http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/warletters_gallery_06_t.jpg|
(no original caption)|Bill Mauldin's Army;http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/warletters_gallery_07.jpg|http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/warletters_gallery_07_t.jpg|
"It will comfort my ol' woman to know I have gave up rye whiskey and ten-cent seegars."|Bill Mauldin's Army;http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/warletters_gallery_08.jpg|http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/warletters_gallery_08_t.jpg|
"It's a habit Joe picked up in Rome."|Bill Mauldin's Army;http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/warletters_gallery_09.jpg|http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/warletters_gallery_09_t.jpg|
"I guess it's okay. The replacement center says he comes from a long line of infantrymen."|Bill Mauldin's Army;http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/warletters_gallery_10.jpg|http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/warletters_gallery_10_t.jpg|
"Hell! Just when I git me practice built up they transfer me to another regiment."|Bill Mauldin's Army;http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/warletters_gallery_11.jpg|http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/warletters_gallery_11_t.jpg|
"He thinks the food over there was swell. He's glad to be home, but he misses the excitement of battle. You may quote him."|Bill Mauldin's Army;http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/warletters_gallery_12.jpg|http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/media/uploads/special_features/photo_gallery/warletters_gallery_12_t.jpg|
"I see ya told 'em they're goin' home."|
My American Experience
From the Civil War, to Vietnam, to World War II, and more contemporary conflicts, soldiers have been writing home from the front lines for centuries. Has anyone ever written to you from the battlefield? Do you have any war letters to share?