Stephen F. Austin State University




During the Louisiana Maneuvers of 1941 we have heard the stories of the famous officers who came through our area, such as Eisenhower, Patton, Clark, Kruger, and so many others. These officers became famous due to their leadership during World War II. But we often overlook the fact that many enlisted men who came through the Louisiana Maneuvers also became famous during World War II and afterwards. One such enlisted man was Bill Mauldin.

William Henry "Bill" Mauldin, who was born in New Mexico, joined the Arizona National Guard in 1940, which was a part of the 45th Infantry Division. Two days after joining the National Guard this and other units across America were federalized in service for one year. Prior to his enlistment he had become a cartoonist and writer. As he took his infantry training he also worked on his first book, Star Spangled Banner, that was filled with cartoons of soldiers and the predicaments that they faced in each while training, camping, marching, and preparing for war. During the Louisiana Maneuvers of 1941 Bill and the 45th Infantry Division were sent to Louisiana to participate in the maneuvers. The 45th Division first went into bivouac south of DeRidder, La. in Beauregard Parish. While camped in this area, the very first USO Building in the United States was opened at DeRidder. Bill and the soldiers of the 45th Division were the first of thousands upon thousands of soldiers who attended all types of programs at this location. For a lonely soldier it was a great place filled with dances and other types of entertainment.

As with all the units who participated in the Louisiana Maneuvers, the 45th Division was constantly on the move. During Phase 1 of the maneuvers, General Patton and his armored units were assigned to the Red Army and the 45th Infantry to the Blue Army. General Patton had arrived at the little community of Mount Carmel and was planning an attack through Peason and Peason Ridge that would allow him to capture Leesville and Camp Polk. But General Krueger and his assistant Colonel Dwight Eisenhower sent the 45th Infantry Division to block Patton. The 45th Infantry came through Peason and slipped through the Mount Carmel Cemetery and attacked General Patton and the 2nd Armored Division. The Battle of Mount Carmel raged throughout the day around Addison's Store and the Corleyville Road intersection with Patton's units being pushed back toward Many, La. And who came right through here with the 45th Infantry? Yes, Bill Mauldin. The 45th Division fought in many more skirmishes and maneuver battles throughout the Louisiana Maneuvers. And when war came to America, the 45th Division was shipped overseas and participated in the Sicily Campaign and the Italian Campaign in 1943 and 1944. In 1943 Bill was wounded by German mortar fire. Bill was now becoming famous for his depictions of World War II soldiers, with his most famous characters being "Joe and Willie." Joe and Willie were two very dirty, very tired, and very battle worn infantrymen who slogged through the mud, rain, and snow from one battle to the other against the Germans. Bill became very popular with the troops and civilians, but not to General Patton! And Bill also became the cartoonist for the Stars and Stripes magazine due to his great cartoon work. And by March 1944, Sgt. Bill Mauldin was given his own jeep so he could travel up to the front line area as needed. He was seen by the troops and they loved him and his cartoons. He was the only representative the foot slogging infantrymen had who would tell their story through his cartoons.

After the war, Bill returned to the United States and he continued his work as a political cartoonist. And in 1956 Bill even ran for Congressman in New York but was defeated. During his career, Bill won two Pulitzer Prizes for his work. This was such a great accomplishment for a man who as a young nineteen-year-old soldier had come and trained here in Louisiana. Sadly Bill passed away on January 22, 2003 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery along with the men he served with and depicted in his cartoons. And in 2010 the United States Postal Service came out with a commemorative stamp in his honor. On the stamp is Bill along with his famous World War II characters Joe and Willie. So when you see a Bill Mauldin cartoon, remember that he was one of the Greatest Generation of World War II that came through our area and whose cartoons will continue to live on for generations of Americans.

Pvt. Bill Mauldin, pictured left in glasses, was in the 45th Infantry Division during the Louisiana Maneuvers. His friend is holding his first published book "Star Spangled Banter" in their camp near DeRidder, La. (Robertson Collection)

Members of the 45th Division Recreation Section in camp near DeRidder, La. during the 1941 Louisiana Maneuvers. (Robertson Collection)

45th Division Chaplain Section located in their camp near DeRidder, La. during the 1941 Louisiana Maneuvers. (Robertson Collection)

Troops of the 45th Infantry Division cross Goodson Creek as they advance toward Mount Carmel to engage General Patton's armored units. (Robertson Collection)

The 45th Division attacked General Patton's units at Mount Carmel. Addison's Store and the crossroad at this location was located right in the midst of the battle in 1941. (Robertson Collection)