Books: Willie and Joe

THE BRASS RING

by BILL MAULDIN

275 pages. W.W. Norton. $7.95.

They never shaved. They were so dirty that even the paper on which they appeared seemed to take on a grubby look. Yet the faces of Bill Mauldin's Willie and Joe were as admired and familiar to Americans during World War II as Dwight David Eisenhower's. Irreverent toward rank and cynical about the war—"Just gimme th' aspirin," Willie tells a medic. "I already got a Purple Heart"—Willie and Joe were more than cartoon characters. They were the American G.I.

Drawing for Stars and Stripes,...

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