I’ve long been a fan of Bill Maudlin’s wonderful WWII cartoons depicting life on the front line. Todd DePastino, another admirer, has written a biography, Bill Mauldin: A Life Up Front, that definitely looks worth the read. David Michaelis, writing for the New York Times has a nice review of the book. It’s also an interesting review because of one paragraph, where Michaelis gets the facts wrong about WWII troops and ends up inadvertently writing high praise for Iraq War troops:
Real combat soldiers loved Mauldin. His cartoons were well drawn and funny, and, as the famed correspondent Ernie Pyle reported to the civilian press, “They are also terribly grim and real.” Mauldin won admiration because he worked hard to get every detail right; in Willie and Joe he mirrored the American combat soldier’s deep respect for professionalism. Mauldin’s foot-slogging pair did not Sergeant York the enemy’s machine gun nests, nor did they sit on Sad Sack haunches, looking helpless and beaten. They dug in and hung on. They put up with war. They hated it, but they fought and killed when they had to, as professionals do. (Emphasis mine.)
The factual error, of course, is that WWII soldiers, for the most part, were not professionals — it was a conscripted force. The irony, of course, is that Michaelis is describing precisely today’s volunteer professional army, one that doesn’t like war or killing, but that does what it has to do “as professionals do.” I’m sure that the NY Times, which has been in the forefront of writing stories about troops and vets as crazed, blood-thirsty killers, won’t be happy that it let this one slip by.