FEBRUARY 3, 1997
While famed WWII artist Bill Mauldin (left) was en route to Korea, he stopped at our Japan press office, where I (on the right) interviewed him and gave him full range to sketch what he wanted. He did just that!
Navy Press photo, courtesy of Oscar Roloff.
by Oscar Roloff
One day during the Korean War, I had my feet on my desk when World War II's most famous artist, Bill Mauldin, walked in unannounced.
He had come to the Far East to get underway with what he knows best, depicting military men as he saw them, tired, dirty, grumpy, and anxious to get back home. During the WW II days (1941-45), Mauldin had sketched them, often not to the satisfaction of high-ranking officers. He cared not and got by with it.
Anyway, I sat down with him at our U.S. Fleet Activities Japan-Korea office located at Yokosuka, Japan.
"You know, some of your sketches didn't set too well with the high brass," I said. "But as far as I'm concerned, as I now represent the admiral of this wide conglomeration, you hit it on the head, and I won't interfere with what you do out here in our war zone. Sketch what you want. There is freedom of the press."
I then said, "By the way, while in the European theater of war during WW II, I heard that two-gun General George Patton had threatened to sling you in the brig. He didn't like your meandering here and there and sketching G.I.s in an unfavorable light."
Having known top boss General Eisenhower, I knew he wouldn't allow that. He was for freedom of the press. I remember one sketch showing a military officer on the high peak of a mountain looking down and commenting on the beauty. Bill had penned below, "Beautiful view. Is there one for enlisted men?" That irked Patton.
From his remarks and having seen his published sketch books on G.I. life, I deduced he was in reality a common-type man who felt sorry for the war guys who wanted to get it over with and head homeward. He saw 'em as being worn out and war weary.
He was my kind of a guy who knew that in peace, sons bury their fathers and in war, fathers bury their sons. So true. I know. Vietnam took care of my only son, and I have no grandchildren of my own. And that, I deeply regret.
Anyhow, I told Bill, "Every day around quitting time, we have a bourbon and Coke and then go home. We live on the base. Want one?" He did.