They were right, of course. But was it smart to send the letter?
Willie and Joe
Did the Joint Chiefs know their World War II history? Were they aware of the dust-up between the U.S. military's daily newspaper, Stars and Stripes, and the fiery General George S. Patton, Jr.?
At issue were the cartoons by the universally beloved Sgt. Bill Mauldin, who routinely depicted two unshaven, GI dogfaces, Willie and Joe, and drew equally unflattering portraits of the officer corps. "I drew pictures for and about the soldiers because I knew what their life was like and understood their gripes," Mauldin said. "I wanted to make something out of the humorous situations which come up even when you don't think life could be any more miserable."
Patton, a stickler for spit-'n'-polish perfection, went ballistic and wrote the editor of Stars and Stripes threatening to ban the publication from distribution to the Third Army unless they got rid of "Mauldin's scurrilous attempts to undermine military discipline."
The commanding general of Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force Europe (SHAEF), General Dwight D. Eisenhower, knew that censoring Mauldin could seriously hurt morale. So he set up a meeting between Mauldin and Patton, and the cartoonist-sergeant was forced to listen to screeching screed (Patton had a high-pitched little voice) about the harm he was doing to Army morale.
Mauldin kept on cartooning; Stars and Stripes continued to publish; and Patton finished his brilliant dash through France and the allied armies brought Germany to its knees.
Takeaway Points to Consider
- The Danish cartoonists—and the EU newspapers that reprinted their work—made mischief with their mockery and blasphemy of Islam. This isn't a smart idea when this religion and culture has elements eager to turn jet liners into guided missiles and themselves into human bombs that blow up women and children in malls, markets, restaurants and, very possibly in the future, newspaper offices.