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Rockwell’s Willie Gillis

Published: May 16, 2009

The Every Soldier

Two lovely ladies are at their mailboxes, but the situation isn’t pretty. Seems both have been communicating with the same soldier, Willie Gillis. Not the first time we find Willie in hot water.

Norman Rockwell created Willie Gillis as a kind of “every soldier,” not a strong-jawed, strapping hero, but a young man who, although in uniform, pretty much resembled the kid next door. This is perhaps most apparent in the July 25, 1942 cover showing Willie sitting in church. Alone in the pew, as far as we can see, he looks reverential and vulnerable. We like this kid.

But he did seem to have a way with the ladies. The February 7, 1942 cover shows Willie being plied with goodies from not one, but two attentive USO workers. The June 27 cover of the same year shows the soldier and a lovely lass reviewing an official booklet entitled What To Do in a Blackout. Willie appears to have some thoughts on the subject.

The first cover that featured Willie was October 4, 1941. Willie received a package from home labeled “FOOD.” He is looking over his shoulder, closely trailed by a half dozen eager soldiers. And it would appear they all outrank Willie.

Much is known about the iconic Norman Rockwell, a prolific illustrator whose name has become synonymous with The Saturday Evening Post. And we think he would be pleased to turn over Willie Gillis to us to salute all of our men and women in the Armed Forces. Brave, highly competent, and dedicated, they are also, as Norman Rockwell knew and captured in his illustrations, completely human.

" href='http://www.saturdayeveningpost.com/2009/05/16/art-entertainment/rockwells-willie-gillis.html/attachment/cover_9411004'>Norman Rockwell "Willie Gillis' Package from Home" October 4, 1941