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CSotD: Armistice Day in the midst of war

We defer to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin to set the scene for November 11, 1942, the first Armistice Day after Pearl Harbor.

It had been a busy 11 months, and, while troops of the French puppet government were defeated in Africa, Rommel was still hanging on: Two days later, papers would bring news of the British victory at El Alamein and the fall of Tobruk.

Germany had renounced its pact with the Soviet Union and opened the Eastern Front, while American troops were pushing back in the Pacific Theater.

So there was some good news in the papers, but there was still a long way to go before we even knew who was going to come out on top, much less got there.

 

It seemed an odd time to celebrate the Armistice that had ended “The War to End All Wars” just 24 years earlier. I can’t make out the signature on this cartoon (Update: DD Degg spotted it as Herblock), but it appeared in many papers that day, suggesting memories of that earlier negotiated peace and foreshadowing Allied determination to secure, this time, an unconditional, absolute surrender rather than a weary, half-hearted ceasefire.

 

So light up a smoke — it’s not bad for you — and have a look at how cartoonists turned their talents to the war effort.

 

No surprise that Harold Gray was front and center with patriotic messaging, but even gag cartoons referenced the effort.

 

And Annie wasn’t just making speeches — she had thousands of “Young Commandos” enrolled, each having vowed to devote time to raising money for war bonds and to participating in scrap drives and other Home Front activities.

 

Even cartoons that were rarely at all timely in better days were on board. This may be a clumsy punchline, but it’s still a part of the overall effort.

 

Again, you didn’t have to be brilliant to be patriotic and well-intentioned.

 

Okay, not everybody was in the spirit on this wartime holiday. Other women may have been working at defense plants or even enlisting themselves, but Blondie was preserving the world she knew.

And I did skip over some other irrelevant strips to focus on those who observed the moment. For the most part, however, missing them didn’t mean missing a lot.

 

It didn’t take much effort for those who wanted to participate. Jimmy Hatlo, for instance, was able to turn his usual format into a backhanded thanks for the nurses who had not only additional burdens but also, of course, the usual ones.

And even women with main roles in their respective strips took on new duties and plotlines:

The young folks were pitching in as well.

And the old folks, too. (My grandfather still had his poster of airplane silhouettes on the kitchen wall a decade later.)

Even some surprising characters were doing what they could, some more effectively than others:

Crimestoppers of all sorts seemed focused on saboteurs.

And those who weren’t present could still strive to be relevant:

The war was far from over, but, as Jesse Cargill and Herblock both noted, advances in North Africa meant that it wasn’t all bad news:

 

(I assume Herblock meant “Schnell,” but this’ll do)

And Jacob Burck saw peril for the Reich in its current overreach:

However, while it was important to keep spirits up, there would yet be three long years, and many real-life deaths and horrors, before we’d once more celebrate Armistice Day in peace.

Until then, both real folks and cartoon characters had risks to run and work to do, and a sense of determination in the face of uncertainty and menace:

But peace would come and the troops would come home.

 

And we could then hope, as Vincent Svoboda hoped on this date in 1942, for no more Armistice Days observed in times of war. (Spoiler alert: It was a vain hope.)

Nor, as William Wyler recorded — in a 1946 film that won Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Editing and Best Music and a host of other awards — was coming home as simple as we might have hoped, either.

Not then, not ever.

If you’ve never seen “The Best Years of Our Lives,” you’ll find that screening it is a massively appropriate way to celebrate this holiday.

If you have seen it, you already know that.

 

Community Comments

#1 Mark Jackson
November/11/2021
@ 8:50 am

Hm. When I parsed the Herblock cartoon I assumed the German soldier was insulting the pace at which the Italian was retreating.

#2 nancy o.
November/11/2021
@ 9:28 am

Mike, do you let us plug other sites here? Because there’s a great podcast covering Best Years of Our Lives in detail — highly worth a listen:

http://www.thebestminutes.com/

Okay, yes, I admit I’m married to one of the podcasters, but that doesn’t stop it from being great ;)

#3 Mike Peterson
November/11/2021
@ 9:32 am

Good point, Mark.

And, Nancy, yes. Especially when it strengthens a point!

#4 Mark Stacy
November/11/2021
@ 11:05 am

Right, as I believe Herblock was invoking “schnell” in a play on words.

#5 Lisa Pardy
November/11/2021
@ 11:34 am

Who knew Little Orphan Annie could be so insightful?

#6 KATHLEEN DONNELLY
November/11/2021
@ 2:24 pm

It’s surprising how many people haven’t seen The Best Years of Our Lives. It covers so much ground in two hours, you need to watch it more than just once or twice.
Thanks for the podcast link.

#7 KATHLEEN DONNELLY
November/11/2021
@ 3:07 pm

‘Scuse me. Almost three hours, not two.

#8 Mike Peterson
November/11/2021
@ 3:34 pm

Best part being that Harold Russell, who played the double-amputee naval veteran, Homer, was given a special Oscar, arranged ahead of time.

And then he went ahead and won Best Supporting Actor anyway.

#9 Paul Berge
November/11/2021
@ 4:02 pm

The “No Armistice” Day cartoon ran in the Pittsburgh Press on 11/11/42; if it was drawn by the same cartoonist as the PP ran on previous and following days, that cartoonist was Harold Talburt (1895-1966), a Pulitzer Prize winner (1933) for Scripps-Howard Newspapers.

#10 D. D. Degg
November/11/2021
@ 4:30 pm

Paul, re: “No Armistice!” Day
https://www.loc.gov/item/2010636624/

#11 Paul Berge
November/11/2021
@ 7:24 pm

I’ll believe the Library of Congress; it certainly does look like Herblock’s style.

#12 Mike Peterson
November/12/2021
@ 11:58 am

I think LOC got this one wrong. Comparing Talburt’s 1933 Pulitzer winner with this one suggests he is the artist — not just for the style but for his odd willingness to color over his own signature, as seen in both cartoons.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._M._Talburt

#13 Paul Berge
November/12/2021
@ 8:06 pm

There are a number of examples in Herblock: A Cartoonist’s Life in which he colors over his own signature as well (see pp. 59, 69, 73, 75, 79, among others). I’d say the jury’s still out, but LOC testimony weighs heavily.

#14 D. D. Degg
November/12/2021
@ 10:25 pm

The Library of Congress’ Herblocks came from The Herblock Foundation, so I sent an inquiry. The prompt response:

” I saw this posting and at first look, the cartoon looks like Herblock’s. Your link to the Library of Congress image confirms it for me. Have a good weekend,
Sarah Alex The Herb Block Foundation”

#15 Mike Peterson
November/13/2021
@ 5:04 am

Upon further review, it appears that the LOC is cataloging cartoons donated by Herblock himself. That settles it.

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