Monday, August 3, 2015

Up Front

I still remember the first time I read Up Front by Bill Mauldin. I was about twelve. Maybe thirteen, not sure, but anyway, our house had this special closet. It was filled with my father's 'don't you dare touch it things,' and it smelled wonderful.

When I'd crack the door, even just a bit, there was the scent of leather, Hoppe's Number Nine, and wool blankets - but I loved best that deep sweet smell of dusty books.

His books were piled high against the far wall, wonderful books. Books bound in leather and cloth, and here and there were jumbled piles of paperbacks.

One day I slipped inside in search of old copies of Field & Stream. I wanted to research the fine art of bass fishing, and if not bass, at least learn the art of bluegills. Instead I came upon a copy of Bill Mauldin's wonderful book.

I still own my father's copy of Up Front. It's a first with the original dust jacket now torn and crumbled and it barely clings to the binding but that's fine - its mine. Or, should I say, my dad's.

Sorry, Dad.

Willie and Joe became my childhood friends. At such a tender age I truly didn't understand all Bill's jokes, nor the implied sadness. By the age of fifteen or so I'd read the book at least a dozen times.

Last night I found and read Up Front again for the first time in over forty years, and understood. War is hell. The horror forever occupies space within those deep recesses of our minds. This scar is seldom, if ever, allowed the light of day.

If you too have a copy dig it out dust it off and read it again.

We owe it to Willie and Joe.



  1. All of his books and cartoons are fantastic! Now I've got to go find a copy... I know I've got the paperback somewhere...

  2. Mauldin's cartoons portrayed the bitter with the sweet, although there wasn't much 'sweet' to go 'round in that war ... nor any other. But Willie and Joe were, and remain, Everyman. And as such, we know and love them, and understand that they're going through. Classic.

  3. I can download books on my phone, but it isn't the same as feeling the weight of good book in my hands. Gives me a better appreciation of the effort it took to get those words from the author's pen to my hand. My grandfather had a copy of Up Front and I would read it when we went to visit. Good times.


    1. Indeed, Steve. The smell and texture of a well bound book adds value to the experience. Thank you.