General Joseph "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell by Justin Murray

General Joseph Vinegar Joe Stilwell by Justin Murray

General Joseph "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell

Justin Murray

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General Joseph "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell

c. 1935  
graphite drawing 
Image Size
12 x 9" image size 
pencil, lower right 
Edition Size
1 of 1 unique 
illustration board 
Inventory ID

A caricature of the U.S. general Joseph Stilwell, whose personality earned him the nickname "Vinegar Joe." A subordinate - stung by Joe's caustic remarks - drew a caricature of Stilwell rising out of a vinegar bottle. After discovering the caricature, Stilwell pinned it to a board and had the drawing photographed and distributed to friends. Yet another indication of his view of life was the motto he kept on his desk: 'Illegitimi non carborundum', a form of fractured Latin that translates as "Don't let the bastards grind you down." As American commander in Burma, he showed incredible insight into the challenges of war in that region. His stern attitude was at times his greatest asset; at others, it was his biggest flaw.p/>

A West Point graduate, Stilwell was commissioned in 1904. Aggressive, highly professional, and gifted with languages, he served in the Philippines and China. There he earned a reputation as someone willing to speak his mind about inefficiency. Returning to America, he became an instructor at West Point before serving in WWI, where he saw the fierce fighting of the last great German push.p/>

Just prior to World War II, Stilwell was recognized as the top corps commander in the Army and was initially selected to plan and command the Allied invasion of North Africa. However, when it became necessary to send a senior officer to China to keep that country in the War, Stilwell was selected, over his personal objections, by President Franklin Roosevelt and his old friend, Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall. He became the Chief of Staff to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek, served as the commander of the China Burma India Theater responsible for all Lend-Lease supplies going to China, and later was Deputy Commander of the South East Asia Command. Unfortunately, despite his status and position in China, he soon became embroiled in conflicts over U.S. Lend-Lease aid and Chinese political sectarianism.p/>

As the Allies advanced through Burma, problems with Chiang continued. In response to the Chinese commander’s obstructions, Stilwell delivered a blunt message from Roosevelt. In response, the Chinese demanded Stilwell’s removal; a demand the Americans could not afford to ignore.p/>

Despite being honored for his service, Stilwell was left bitter. He had been unceremoniously dismissed and was told not to discuss the China problem with anyone, particularly the media.p/>

Stilwell served until the end of the war and was present at the Japanese surrender. He died on October 12, 1946, from stomach cancer.

Tbis work is from the estate of Joseph Allen, State Director of the California WPA Federal Art Project.


Please call us at 707-546-7352 or email to purchase this item.