World War II Political Cartoons

World War II Political Cartoons
Page content

Student Homework to prepare: None

Focus of this lesson: For the purpose of this lesson, students will be introduced to derogatory terms used by soldiers during World War II to describe fellow servicemen and officers. These terms provide a glimpse into the military culture of the day and understanding them will help students analyze the cartoons.

Bill Mauldin, a famous cartoonist for Stars and Stripes during WW II will be discussed and students will analyze two Willie and Joe cartoons.

Key Facts, Concepts and Vocabulary Words:

Jerk-anyone who engages in chickenshit behavior.

Chickenshit-concern over unimportant matters that have nothing to do with winning the war.

Sad Sacks-Servicemen adept at avoiding work and responsibility. Often, they were considered selfish and mean-spirited.

Bill Mauldin-a cartoonist for Stars and Stripes with an anti-authoritarian streak.

Performance Objective: Students will be able to analyze a political cartoon and understand the issues it deals with.

Lesson Outline:

1. Motivating Device: Handout & Read the Bill Mauldin Cartoons provided below.

2. Explain who Bill Mauldin was.

  • Joined the Army in 1940 and took part in the invasions of Sicily and Italy. He began writing for Stars and Stripes in 1943 and was later syndicated in newspapers throughout the U.S.
  • His most famous characters were Willie and Joe, two infantrymen serving during WW II. Mauldin’s cartoons dealt with the often laughable, day-to-day experiences of a GI during World War II.
  • General Patton did not approve of his cartoons and threatened to have them banned in the Third Army. Patton felt Mauldin’s cartoons were detrimental to military discipline and had a tone which opposed officers. Eisenhower set up a meeting between the two in which Mauldin was lectured by Patton. In a later interview with Time Magazine, Mauldin stated they had not changed each others’ minds. Patton was incensed and threatened to have Mauldin jailed if they ever met again.

3. Discuss the possible purposes of political or satirical cartoons.

  • To bring difficult, sensitive topics up for discussion.
  • To make light of serious topics in order to remove the awkwardness of discussing them.
  • Express frustration, anger, humor, or any other emotion.
  • Clarify issues in an enjoyable format.

4. Go over the World War II political cartoons handed out at the beginning of class.

Who is “Ol Guts and Glory” in the first cartoon?

  • Answer: Patton

Why were the orders listed on the billboard “chickenshit”?

  • Answer: They did not contribute to winning the war.

What would the officer in the second cartoon be considered? Explain your answer.

  • Answer: A jerk.

Do you think these cartoons were popular with GIs? Why or why not?

How about with officers? Explain.

5. Homework: Ask students to bring in a political or satirical cartoon from a newspaper, magazine, or the internet for discussion.They should be prepared to tell the class what issue or topic their chosen cartoon addresses and what makes it funny. Students should define any terms that may be unfamiliar to their classmates.

Cartoon 1

“Radio th' ol' man we’ll be late on account of a thousand-mile detour."

Cartoon 2

Mauldin Cartoon B

“Them buttons wuz shot off when I took this town, sir."


This post is part of the series: World History in A Year (or 10 Months) Part 4

A series of World History Curriculum ideas. Contains lesson plans and activities for use in a World History Class.

  1. Lesson Plan, Battles & Timeline for the War of the Roses
  2. Political Cartoon Lesson Plan Using Cartoons From World War II
  3. A Social Studies Lesson Plan on UXBs in WW II: Some Real Duds
  4. WebQuests on Conflict Resolutions and Treaties