Long before becoming a popular cartoonist for The New Yorker and other top magazines, Joseph Farris shipped out to World War II from his home in Danbury, Connecticut, as a young Army Private aboard the U.S.S. General Gordon in October 1944, bound for France as part of Company M, 398th Infantry. Here, he found time to hone his craft through dozens of wartime sketches and paintings while sending over 400 letters home. He recently published an illustrated memoir of his wartime experience -- A SOLDIER'S SKETCHBOOK: From the Frontlines of World War II. We are happy today to give you an excerpt. Enjoy....
Our morale couldn’t have dropped much lower than on that fateful day of November 20th, 1944. The Company M morning reports coldly reported that Lt. Gray, our platoon leader, had been killed in action. He was tall, slender and handsome, probably in his 30’s. We were all fond of him and more importantly, we had full confidence in his leadership.
We were a heavy machine gun squad assigned to Co. L rifle company and because of the bulkiness and weight of our weapons, we lost contact with them. Hill 578 was steep and forested and Lt. Gray ordered us to pause while he tried to connect with Co. L. We smiled as he crawled past me. He knelt behind a tree and peered ahead when suddenly a shot rang out. It left a small, almost inconspicuous hole in the side of his head. We had suffered our first KIA during our first combat with the enemy. We heard that when the Germans retreated, they left behind one out of every ten as sniper. We now had to be alert in every direction-front, side, back, above and below for hidden mines.