Charles Schulz loved to repeat the same scenes in his Peanuts comic strip. At the start of every football season, Lucy pulls the football away right as Charlie Brown tries to kick it. Wearing goggles and sitting atop his doghouse, Snoopy engages in imaginary battles with Red Baron. Linus waits eagerly for the Great Pumpkin each Halloween. The scenes became universal over time. Ironically, many people don’t realize that Schulz had a Veteran’s Day tradition. Sadly, it was missing from the Peanuts comic strip this past Veteran’s Day.
Veteran’s Day Was Personal for Charles Schulz
On Veteran’s Day, Schulz paid tribute to Bill Mauldin, who was the cartoonist that drew Willie & Joe during World War II. Willie and Joe were two GIs seen fighting, drinking, singing, gambling, marching, digging, driving, and making comments about the European theater of operations in World War II.
General Patton wanted to throw Bill Mauldin in the brig for portraying American GIs as common soldiers like Willie and Joe. Patton wanted the soldiers to drawn as noble people, fighting for a common good. Instead, Mauldin drew inspiration from the “citizen soldiers” that he saw in combat operations. World War II soldiers loved the cartoons of Wille & Joe.
In 1943, Charles Schulz was drafted into World War II. He served in Europe, as a staff sergeant, towards the end of the war. Charles Schulz read the Willie & Joe comics, while he served his country. Schulz greatly respected Mauldin. In his Peanuts strip, Schulz started a tradition on Veteran’s Day to celebrate Bill Mauldin and US veterans.
How Schulz Saluted Fellow Veterans
Schulz developed a common Veteran’s Day theme. Snoopy would either put on his World War I outfit (also known as The Flying Ace) or his World War jacket. Snoopy would usually think about how it was Veteran’s Day, so he needed to “go quaff a few root beers with Bill Mauldin.” Schulz could salute his fellow veterans and Bill Mauldin, whose Willie & Joe strip personified the typical American GI of World War II.
In 1998, Charles Schulz graciously saluted American GIs and Bill Mauldin by modifying an original work from Willie & Joe to include in Veteran’s Day salute. As shown on the left, you see a typical one panel illustration of Willie and Joe, which was originally published on June 26, 1944. In this cartoon, the soldiers are looking down at a discarded gas mask with following caption:
“I see Comp’ny E got th’ new style gas masks, Joe.”
Clearly, the gas masks were defective. Soldiers littered them throughout the landscape. In the background, you see a smoldering building and the street is littered with the gas masks.
Charles Schulz modified the original Bill Mauldin drawing for the 1998 Veteran’s Day. In this depiction, Schulz changes the battlefield and adds Snoopy. Willie and Joe are still looking down, but they see Snoopy (not the gas masks).
In the top corner, you can just make out the signatures of “Schulz and my hero, Bill Mauldin” in this strip. For the entire run of Peanuts, this comic strip is the only one, where some of the illustrations were not done by Schulz alone. It was sort of a collaboration with Bill Mauldin.
A Special Relationship…
At a comic’s convention, Charles Schulz met Bill Mauldin. When Mauldin asked him the reason for all the Veteran’s Day salutes, Schulz told him that admired his work as a young GI in World War II. Mauldin smiled and said, “That’s all you had to say.”
I hope to see a more traditional Veteran’s Day salute to honor the special relationship between Bill Mauldin and Charles Schulz in the future. I hope it becomes a tradition like Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin or Lucy pulling the football away as Charlie Brown tries to kick it.
It honors our veterans. It honors the special relationship between Schulz and Mauldin.
As Snoopy might say, “Many of root beers should be raised to Bill Mauldin and Charles Schulz.”