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September 27, 2002

My favorite columnist in the Oklahoma City newspaper is not one of the numerous syndicated writers whose bylined material appears on the editorial page. My personal choice is Bob Haught, who has helped the paper with coverage of Oklahoma angles in Washington, D.C., for several years. Many moons ago, when I was on the staff of this newspaper, Bob was manager of the Oklahoma City bureau of United Press International (UPI), the wire service which fed state, national and international news to numerous small-town dailies throughout the U.S. The Journal now is served by the Associated Press and UPI is not what it used to be when Bob was in charge of the Oklahoma City bureau, but Bob is still the same capable craftsman with an ear for the occurrences in Washington that interest Oklahomans. Some of you will remember that Bob also spent some time on Henry Bellmon's staff during the years our Billings neighbor served in the U.S. Senate and Oklahoma governor's office.

All of this is a long-winded prelude to the heart of today's Northwest Corner. What I want to say concerns another former Oklahoman, cartoonist Bill Mauldin, who is now in frail health in an Orange County, Calif., nursing home. I first learned of that through Bob's column the other day and I felt sure some people in this area would want to know about the situation. So, I'm passing the news on to you.

Bill Mauldin was the World War II cartoonist for European editions of The Stars and Stripes newspaper. I was a copy editor on the Mid-Pacific edition of the paper during that time but I only saw Mauldin, who is now 80, when he was en route to the forward area of the Pacific after the Allies had achieved victory in Europe. He passed through Honolulu, where our detachment was based, and that is where I met him. Best as I remember, he was traveling with another WWII luminary, Sgt. George Baker, the Yank magazine cartoonist who conceived the character known only as "the Sad Sack," a caricature of every GI's wartime travail. Mauldin, of course, used the unshaved and weary infantrymen, Willie and Joe, in his hugely popular cartoons. Mauldin won a Pulitzer Prize for one of his comedic panels during the war and later claimed another of the awards for one of his peacetime political cartoons, when he was working for one of the Chicago dailies.

I think Oklahomans lay special claim to Bill Mauldin because he began his newspaper career as a contributor to the 45th Division News, the publication that served the men from this area who were in the National Guard when that proud unit was called to active service even before the U.S. became a belligerent in World War II. He won his first acclaim with the Thunderbirds and went on to much greater heights after his work became immensely popular with the mud-slogging GI's who helped defeat the Nazis in Europe. Today they say Bill Mauldin rarely speaks for days at a time. He suffered terrible burns in a household accident a while back. His health has deteriorated grievously. If you want to send a message to Bill Mauldin, address it to: Bill Mauldin, c/o The Orange County Register, 625 N. Grand Ave., Santa Ana, CA 92701. As a former colleague of Bill Mauldin recently wrote, "He (Mauldin) brought hope and smiles in terrible hours to millions of his fellow soldiers. If you were one of them, and you'd like to repay the favor, this would be the time."