If you were born after 1945, you may believe the name to be a reference to an American war film called The Story of G.I. Joe, starring Ernie Pyle and Robert Mitchum.
When he was 18 years old Bill Mauldin joined the Arizona National Guard. It was 1940, and he went on active duty with the National Guard as a rifleman in the 45th Infantry Division.
He accompanied the 45th through the Army camps in the United States. And as a sergeant in 1943, he went overseas with the division to Sicily. He later switched from the unit’s paper, the 45th Division News, to the Stars and Stripes, with an assignment to cover the war in cartoons.
His cartoons are expressions of muted rebellion against the Army system featuring a young enlisted nameless recruit.
The clean shaven, nameless recruit evolves into the dirty, dull-eyed, bearded Joe of the combat-weary team of Willie and Joe. The team slogged from Italy to Germany.
Well known by now is the story of Gen. George Patton threatening to have The Stars and Stripes banned from the Third Army as long as Mauldin’s unkempt heroes appeared in it. Patton and Mauldin were told by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s headquarters to discuss the matter. Said Mauldin after the conference: “I came out with all my hide on.”