Monday, November 11, 2013

"Something ghostlike about a wall standing in the moonlight"

(Note: p3 originally ran this post on Veterans Day, 2006.)

I've done many drawings of wrecked buildings. Shattered towns and bomb-blasted houses are constant reminders of the war, long after the dead are buried.

There's something very ghostlike about a wall standing in the moonlight in the midst of a pile of broken rubble and staring at you with its single unblinking eye, where a window used to be. There's an awful lot of that in Italy, and it is going to haunt those people for years.

You can usually tell what kind of fighting went on in a town, and how much was necessary to take it, by the wreckage that remains. If the buildings are fairly intact, with only broken windows, doors, and pocked walls, it was a quick, hand-to-hand street fight with small arms and grenades and perhaps a mortar or two.

If most of the walls are still standing, but the roofs have gaping holes, and many rooms are shattered, then the entry was preceded by an artillery barrage. If some of the holes are in the slopes of the roofs facing the retreating enemy, then he gave the town a plastering after he left.

But if there isn't much town left at all, then planes have been around. Bombs sort of lift things up in the air and drop them in a heap. Even the enormous sheet-metal doors with which shop-owners shutter their establishments buckle and balloon out into grotesque swollen shapes.
Bill Mauldin, Up Front (1945)

For several cartoonists' tribute to Mauldin (who died in 2003, after a difficult and often lonely bout with Alzheimer's), go here.

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