“Soldiers Of The Day” — 1954

This is going to be another reminiscence of my two years in the U.S Army.

Here’s how it relates to cartooning: As I’ve written here previously, I first met pop-artist Tom Wesselmann in the army, and we hung out in the same M.I. outfit for about a year and a half (that’s right, it was a Military Intelligence outfit . . . really!). Tom died in 2004 and, like me, he never achieved his ambition of cartooning for The New Yorker magazine. His pop-art work, however, now commands prices of $10,000,000 or so at the major auction houses. For my previous memories of Tom, and his cartoons, you can go to these links:

Tom Wesselmann painting reproduced in The New Yorker

“We All Have To Start Somewhere” Department. Case in Point No. 6

Living Cartoon — 1954

Me and Tom

To get back to my story, the army, in typical gung-ho fashion, was constantly giving out awards, citations and plaques for “Soldier Of The Day” (or “Week”, or “Month”), with great pomp and ceremony. Neither Tom nor I were ever in any way eligible for consideration for such honors, but that didn’t stop us from holding our own awards ceremony. First, Tom constructed a very tacky, phony “trophy”. Then we found a lectern (a surprisingly easy thing to find on an army base) and, with like-minded buddies in attendance, we proceeded to make our own awards and speeches.

In this photo, Tom, on the left, is awarding the trophy to me for something like “Sloppy Soldier Of The Day”, or maybe it was “Screwed-up Soldier Of The Day”. Note the upturned caps, stuffed pockets, raised pocket flaps, rolled-up sleeves, hand in pocket, etc.


In the next photo, that’s me on the right, bestowing the trophy to Tom for some equally ridiculous honor.


And in this photo, I’m second from the left and Tom is on the extreme right. The four of us are all trying to look as unsoldierly as possible, and those are mostly unlit cigarettes dangling from our lips.


I came across one more photo of myself, not taken on “trophy” day, and it made me realize that I honestly did deserve the “sloppy soldier” honor. How would you like to have your country defended by this man?


And that is how some draftees passed their days in the peacetime army (the Korean War was officially over by this time).


  1. comment title
    Although it’s a world I don’t know, those amazing photos bring me right there. Good to see you and your pal Tom enjoying some of the lighter side.

  2. comment title
    You and your friends seem to be having a great time in all of the photos. But to see you with a cigarette dangling is to laugh.

  3. comment title
    It is great to see that you could find the humor in every situation! I am a nurse and use humor a lot in cheering up patients, or making a serious situation a little less so when appropriate. It works! rnDonna AKA “The Happy Nurse”

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Welcome to the Eli Stein Cartoon archive. To begin, read my introduction and personal notes, and then please look at the cartoons, which are categorized by either decade, publication name or topic. I’ve included some personal comments, memories and photos below many of the cartoons. I’ll be adding cartoons, memories and photos ad infinitum. Remember, your comments are appreciated (just click on the “comment” link at the bottom of each post).