P O W E L L, W y o. - Original drawings of Willie and Joe, the cartoon characters who earned World War II comic illustrator Bill Mauldin his first Pulitzer Prize, will be dedicated Wednesday, May 9, in the Frisby Building at Northwest College in Powell.
Mauldin was recognized as World War II's outstanding cartoonist for "Willie and Joe," the two mud-covered, dry-humored infantrymen who typified the front-line soldier for U.S. combat troops, first in the 45th Infantry Division's newspaper and later in Stars and Stripes.
Mauldin sketched the two drawings at the request of former NWC President SinClair Orendorff in 1975 when the well-known cartoonist visited Northwest to give a presentation to students and community. The sketches, which hung in the NWC Board Room for many years, became a part of Orendorff's personal collection after he retired. He later gave them to his grandson, Jeremy Johnston, an assistant professor of history at Northwest. The two men decided recently to formally place the drawings in the college's Frisby Building, which houses most of the social science faculty and provides classroom space for a majority NWC's social science classes.
The two men are dedicating the drawings to the men and women who served their country in the armed services during World War II, and especially to those veterans who attended or were employed at Northwest College.
In an official statement, the two benefactors said, "This dedication also includes men and women in the Powell community who had the vision to promote post-secondary educational opportunities for World War II veterans, including many new Heart Mountain homesteaders, to take advantage of the G.I. Bill of Rights."
Most World War II soldiers, from those fighting in the trenches of Europe to the ones who oversaw war strategies at the Pentagon, recognized and approved of the "Willie and Joe" cartoon series. One notable exception was Gen. George Patton who threatened to have the Stars and Stripes banned from the Third Army as long as Mauldin's unkempt heroes appeared in it.
Mauldin's combat-weary characters slogged their way from Italy to Germany, with the rest of the troops, expressing the frustrations, camaraderie and irony felt by so many of America's fighting men.
Mauldin earned the first of two Pulitzer Prizes for a "Willie and Joe" cartoon, captioned, "Fresh-spirited American troops, flushed with victory, are bringing in thousands of hungry, ragged, battle-weary prisoners (News Item)." It showed drenched and drained infantrymen mired in mud drudging through a downpour behind their prisoners.
The dedication of the "Joseph" and "William" drawings at NWC includes a reception in the Frisby Building Lobby. The public is invited.