Ernie Pyle…Did You Know?

Ernie Pyle in 1945

Pulitzer-prize winning correspondent and syndicated columnist Ernie Pyle is perhaps best remembered for the stories he wrote while with Allied soldiers in World War II. President Harry Truman is quoted as saying: “No man in this war has so well told the story of the American fighting man as American fighting men wanted it told. He deserves the gratitude of all his countrymen” (Ernie Pyle).

But did you know . . .

Pyle was born on August 3, 1900 in the tiny farming community of Dana, Indiana, which is located near the Indiana/Illinois state line. He served three months in the Navy during World War I then attended Indiana University. While there, he edited the Indiana Daily Student (IDS), an independent, student-run newspaper established in 1867. Instead of graduating, he accepted a newspaper job in LaPorte, Indiana.

For two years, from around 1926-1928, Pyle and his wife Geraldine traveled around the United States, putting about 9000 miles on their Ford Roadster.

Ernie Pyle on Okinawa

After his extended road trip Pyle became the nation’s first and most popular aviation columnist. “Any aviator who didn’t know Pyle,” Amelia Earhart said, “was a nobody” (Ernie Pyle).

Because of one of Pyle’s columns supporting “fight pay” for soldeirs, Congress passed The Ernie Pyle Bill, a law authorizing $10 a month extra pay for combat infantrymen.

The best way I can describe this vast armada and the frantic urgency of the traffic is to suggest that you visualize New York city on its busiest day of the year and then just enlarge that scene until it takes in all the ocean the human eye can reach clear around the horizon and over the horizon. There are dozens of times that many.

Ernie Pyle’s reporting on preparations for the Normandy landings

Tragically, Pyle was killed while traveling with the Army’s 305th Infantry Regiment on a small island northwest of Okinawa. Though buried with other casualties, his remains are now interred at Honolulu’s National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. The Purple Heart was posthumously awarded to him in 1983.

Indiana honors their local hero in several ways:

  • Indiana University’s School of Journalism is housed in Ernie Pyle Hall and offers scholarships to promising journalism students who have a military service record;
  • Pyle’s childhood farmhouse in Dana is a state historic site and museum. A World War II-era Quonset hut on the grounds displays Pyle’s army artifacts and other memorabilia;
  • A portion of U.S. 36 in Indiana is designated as the Ernie Pyle Memorial Highway.
  • Indiana schools and even a small island are named for the famed war correspondent.

Pyle was an only child, and he and his wife had no children. But he was mourned by an entire country who considered him a friend to their beloved soldiers and depended on him to be their eyes and ears in the faraway war. Eleanor Roosevelt, who frequently quoted Pyle in her newspaper column, wrote of her high regard for this frail and modest man who could endure hardships because he loved his job and our men” (Ernie Pyle).

Though he was often disappointed in his writing, Pyle’s 1944 Pulitzer was well-deserved. His 117th birthday was about a week ago. It’s not too late to take a moment to honor this talented and courageous man.

[These photos are in the public domain.].

 

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