Ernie Pyle
War Correspondent

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I think that I will not be in error to surmise that the majority of Americans under the age of 40 years have never heard of Ernie Pyle much less know of his historic writings for the Scripps Howard newspapers during the Second World War. More than three hundred papers across the nation carried the writings of this diminuitive reporter.

He became a household name during his exploits in Europe as he brought home to America the real-life experiences of the American fighting soldier. He lived among them, ate what they ate, marched where they marched and eventually died where they died - on a small island off the northern west coast of Okinawa. I might further venture a bet that those same Americans under the age of 40 know very little - if anything at all - about Okinawa and the devastating final battle of World War II.

Ernie was an unassuming homey kind of guy, not large in stature but towering in heart. He loved the American soldier and made it his mission to tell the folks back home what their boys were going through, even if it broke their hearts to read his accounts.

Pyle was born and raised in the tiny Indiana town of Dana. He was a member of the US Naval Reserve and served on active duty during the last three months of the First World War. After the war he pursued his career as a journalist. While managing editor of The Washington (D.C.)Daily News he met and married Geraldine Siebolds.

Returning to his job in 1934 after a long vacation he was called upon to write columns for an absent syndicated journalist, Heywood Broun. Before he had published fewer than a dozen columns he had become "a hit" across the country and his name was known far and wide. In 1935 he was given an opportunity to tour the U.S. and write about the things he found and the folks he met along the way. (Some of those articles were organized and published after his death in the book Home Country.) Ernie continued writing a daily column detailing his travels until the U.S. entered the war in 1942.

As did the nation and its soldiers, Pyle joined the fight as a war correspondent. He traveled with the troops, lived with the troops and depicted their daily lives in his press columns. At one point in 1944 he mused in his column that the ground-pounding soldiers should get "fight pay" just the same as aviators were getting "flight pay". What followed was Congressional legislation called "The Ernie Pyle Bill" that garnered a combat soldier an extra $10.00 a month in his pay.

....... He chose not to be a typical reporter, giving blow-by-blow accounts of the war from a "big picture" perspective and, instead embedded himself with the troops following them through Europe and Africa. In July of 1944 he was almost killed by friendly fire during Operation Cobra near Saint Lo in Normandy, France. By September of the same year he had experienced enough combat to require him to pull out of the ETO and spend a little down time at a home he had in New Mexico.

Before long though he was up and running again and preparing to deploy to the Pacific Theater of Operations. He got off to a rocky start with the US Navy over the Navy policy of not allowing the names of its sailors to appear in any correspondents' reports. He eventually prevailed though and set out to sea on the USS Cabot. Drawing from his experiences and those of the soldiers in Europe he found the Navy to be pretty laid back and even drew fire from his colleagues when some of his columns were critical of Navy life aboard ship compared to that of an infantryman in Europe. But he stuck it out with the Navy and they with him, bringing him eventually to the invasion of Okinawa and finally to the tiny island of Ie Shima. (See Ernie Pyle Monument)

Funeral service for Ernie Pyle, 1945, on the island of Ie Shima

In 1944, Pyle was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the war in Europe.

Many books have been written about Ernie Pyle (many of which I'm proud to have in my Okinawa Library) and numerous accounts of Ernie's life and works abound on various websites throughout the Internet. I shall not attempt to recreate it all in this humble offering, but will instead provide links for those of you who may wish to delve further into the life of this real war hero in his own right.

The employees of Boeing-Wichita, through the 7th War Loan Drive, paid for and built a Boeing B-29 Superfortress, Serial Number 44-70118, and dedicated it on 1 May 1945 as The Ernie Pyle. The Ernie Pyle was ferried to the Pacific War Theater by a crew commanded by Lieutenant Howard F. Lippincott (USAF Lt. Colonel, ret, dec). Initially assigned to the Second Air Force, Kearney Air Force Base, it was sent to the Twentieth Air Force, Pacific Theater of Operations on 27 May 1945. The nose art was removed when the aircraft reached its intended operations base in the Pacific, as the base commander thought it would become a prime target of the Japanese. The Ernie Pyle survived the war and was returned to the United States on 22 October 1945. It was stored at Pyote AAF TX and disposed of as surplus on 25 March 1953. (Source: wikipedia)

Typewriter in a Fox-hole

Right Into the Lion's Mouth
One of Pyle's last stories

The Road Book
Before Ernie Pyle went to war, he wrote about America - By Kevin Coyne

Byline: Ernie Pyle
War correspondent learned his trade as an aviation reporter - By Rebecca Maksel

Wartime Columns
from Dec 30, 1940 to Apr 28, 1945 (published posthumously)

S.A. Mick McClary, Great Falls, MT