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Exhibit honors legendary Sun-Times cartoonist Bill Mauldin’s work during WWII

** FILE ** Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Bill Mauldwho died Wednesday Jan. 22 2003 is shown this undated file phowhen he

** FILE ** Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Bill Mauldin, who died Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2003, is shown in this undated file photo when he was a cartoonist with the Chicago Sun-Times. (AP Photo/Please credit: Chicago Sun-Times,file)

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Marking history

What: “Drawing Fire: Bill Mauldin and the World War II GI”

When: Through Sept. 3

Where: First Division Museum at Cantigny Park, 1s151 Winfield Road, Wheaton

Admission: Free. Parking is $5.

Phone: (630) 260-8185

Updated: September 10, 2012 1:40PM

Former Chicago Sun-Times cartoonist Bill Mauldin told the story of the World War II soldier.

He gave those in the service something to look forward to when they picked up the Stars and Stripes newspaper each day, and those back home a sense of what life was like for their loved ones on the front lines.

An exhibit of Mauldin’s work, “Drawing Fire: Bill Mauldin and the World War II GI,” runs through Sept. 3 at the First Division Museum at Cantigny in Wheaton. It includes more than 40 cartoons and dozens of World War II artifacts from the museum’s collection.

“The soldiers that had been on the front lines, living in danger and without the comforts of home, for them it was something that brightened their day even if it was only for a moment,” said Teri Bianchi, exhibits manager at the museum, said of Mauldin’s cartoons. “It gave them something to laugh at. They could relate to those cartoons, so it was really important to them to be reading ‘Stars and Stripes’ and kind of see themselves in the paper.”

After an exhibit last year featuring the work of World War I cartoonist and First Division soldier Capt. Alban Butler, the museum found visitors wanted to see more artifacts, Bianchi said.

“So we decided to combine the idea of the cartoons with the story of the GI with the World War II collection because we have a lot of things that haven’t come out of the basement, so to speak, in a very long time,” she said. “We have a very extensive World War II collection, things that soldiers brought back. Souvenirs, uniforms, equipment that they had. And we wanted to find an avenue to put those on display.”

Items in the exhibit include scrapbooks; medic’s gear; an American flag hand-stitched by Belgian women as a gift to U.S. soldiers, and a soldier’s sleeping bag, which served a giant journal of sorts. He wrote on the bag the name of every place he slept — more than two dozen locations.

The exhibit is divided into four sections: field life, combat, rank and file, and peace. It takes visitors to the front lines with Mauldin’s famous characters Willie and Joe.

“If you’re not interested in military history, the human side of things is revealed in some of these cartoons,” said Keith Gill, director of museum operations.

The exhibit is more about World War II through Mauldin’s eyes rather than Mauldin’s life, Gill said. It includes some biographical information and letters soldiers wrote to him.

Mauldin enlisted in the Army in September 1940 and began cartooning for the 45th Division News. Five years later, at 23, he became the youngest person to win the Pulitzer for his work in Stars and Stripes. He won a second Pulitzer at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1959.

In 1962, he moved to the Sun-Times, and his work appeared in more than 300 newspapers. He retired from the paper in 1991 after injuring his drawing hand. He died in 2003 of from complications from Alzheimer’s disease. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

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