June 6, 1944 was arguably the most pivotal day of World War II. Operation Overlord was set to be launched and if successful, was to open a second front in Europe so as to attack Germany from all sides. Stalin’s Soviet Army had been battling the German Army since late 1942 in Stalingrad, Leningrad, and Moscow. Germany was unable to force the Soviets into surrender and Stalin’s troops slowly pushed the Germans back from Russia. The Soviet soldiers defended their motherland honorably; however, they needed a reprieve from the German armor and killing squads sent east to execute and imprison Russian Jews and political prisoners. The Western front Stalin had been insisting upon was finally coming into the realm of reality.
The invasion named Operation Overlord was planned to unfold in three parts; the break-in, the buildup, and the breakout. The first stage was the most dangerous and challenging as the Allied troops were tasked with attacking and holding the beaches of Normandy in the face of an open German assault. The elements of nature seemed to conspire against the Allies and the German defenses, although not optimal, were solid and treacherous. The ultimate detriments to the Allied strategy of the break-in phase; however, were the mistakes made by the Allies themselves.
Bill Mauldin once said that the infantryman “gives more and gets less than anybody else.”He knew this from his experience on the front lines with K Company, 180th Infantry Regiment, of the 45th Division. Mauldin went through basic training as an infantryman and stayed with his regiment throughout the invasion of Sicily and the Allied campaign up the boot of Italy. The talented cartoonist succeeded in ruffling the feathers of the “brass” all the way up to General George Patton. In a time when American news outlets were sanitizing World War II for the folks on the home front, Bill Mauldin depicted the grim reality of war. Through the use of meticulous detail, keen observations, and sardonic wit, this baby-faced young man spoke for the masses of ordinary soldiers who had no voice of their own within the massive military machine of the United States.
William Henry Mauldin was born October 29, 1921 in the New Mexico’s Sacramento Mountains in a town named, Mountain Park. He survived a nomadic and impoverished childhood as a sickly child with a young mother and frequently unemployed father. He and his older brother Sid were frequently left alone for days at a time while their mother, Katrina, went on harsh drinking binges. When their parents permanently separated in July 1936, Bill and Sid left the family home for Phoenix, Arizona. While in the Valley of the Sun, Bill attended Phoenix Union High School where he promptly joined the ROTC.