Ernie Pyle

Ernie Pyle

Ernest Taylor Pyle (August 3 1900 – April 18 1945) was an American journalist who wrote as a roving correspondent for the Scripps Howard newspaper chain from 1935 until his death in combat during World War II. Ernie Pyle was the uncle to the actor Denver Pyle, famous for his role of Uncle Jesse on the Dukes of Hazard. His articles, about the out-of-the-way places he visited and the people who lived there, were written in a folksy style much like a personal letter to a friend. He enjoyed a loyal following in as many as 300 newspapers.

Early life and World War I

Pyle was born on a tenant farm near Dana, Indiana. When he was almost 18 years old, he briefly joined the United States Navy Reserve. World War I ended soon after, so Pyle only served for three months.

After the First World War, Pyle attended Indiana University, traveled to the Orient with fraternity brothers of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and edited the student newspaper—but he did not graduate. [Miller, Lee G., An Ernie Pyle Album - Indiana to Ie Shima: Wm. Sloane Associates 1946,p.13-15] Instead, with a semester left to graduate, Pyle accepted a job at a paper in LaPorte, Ind. He worked there three months before moving to Washington, D.C. A tabloid newspaper, the "Washington Daily News", founded in 1921, had hired Pyle as a reporter. [ Miller, Lee G., An Ernie Pyle Album - Indiana to Ie Shima: Wm. Sloane Associates 1946,] All of the editors were young, including Editor-in-Chief John M. Gleissner (one of Warren G. Harding's drinking buddies), Lee G. Miller (author of "An Ernie Pyle Album - Indiana to Ie Shima"), Charles M. Egan, Willis "June" Thornton, and Paul McCrea. [ Miller, Lee G., An Ernie Pyle Album - Indiana to Ie Shima: Wm. Sloane Associates 1946,pp.16-17] Pyle was named managing editor of the "Washington Daily News", and served in that post for three years, all the while fretting that he was unable to do any writing. In 1926, Pyle tired of work at a desk in the news room, quit his job, and headed out on the road to see America with his new wife in a Ford roadster. [ Miller, Lee G., An Ernie Pyle Album - Indiana to Ie Shima: Wm. Sloane Associates 1946, p.]

The opportunity to return to writing came after he spent time on a leisurely trip to California to recuperate from a severe bout of influenza. Upon his return, it was suggested that he write some columns about his trip to fill in for the vacationing syndicated columnist Heywood Broun. The series of 11 columns was a hit. G.B. ("Deac") Parker, editor in chief of the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain, said he had found in Pyle's vacation articles "a Mark Twain quality that knocked my eye out". Pyle was relieved of his duties as a managing editor and began writing a national column for the Scripps-Howard Alliance group. He wandered around the country and the Americas in his car, writing columns about the unusual places and people he met in his ramblings. Select columns were later compiled and published in "Home Country". Nevertheless, Pyle suffered from fits of deep depression, never satisfied with the quality of his writing. [ Miller, Lee G., The Story of Ernie Pyle: Viking Press 1950] In 1928 he became the country's first aviation columnist, a role in which he continued for four years.

While he was in Washington he met Jerry (Geraldine Siebolds), his "fearful and troubled wife", with whom he carried on a tempestuous relationship. They were married in 1925. Jerry suffered from intermittent bouts of mental illness and alcoholism. Pyle described her as "desperate within herself since the day she was born". In a letter to his college roommate Paige Cavanaugh after his return for a vacation during his war correspondent days, he said "Geraldine was drunk the afternoon I got home. From there she went on down. Went completely screwball. One night she tried the gas. Had to have a doctor." The two were divorced shortly after. [Miller, Lee G., The Story of Ernie Pyle: Viking Press 1950]

World War II

Following the entry of the U.S. into World War II, Pyle became a war correspondent, applying his intimate style to the war. Instead of the movements of armies or the activities of generals, Pyle generally wrote from the perspective of the common soldier, an approach that won him not only further popularity but also the Pulitzer Prize in 1944. Among his most widely read and reprinted columns is "The Death of Captain Waskow." His wartime writings are preserved in four books: "Ernie Pyle In England", "Here Is Your War", "Brave Men", and "Last Chapter".

In 1944, he wrote a column urging that soldiers in combat get "fight pay" just as airmen were paid "flight pay". Congress passed a law giving soldiers 50 percent extra pay for combat service. The legislation was called "the Ernie Pyle bill."

He reported from the United States, Europe, Africa, and the Pacific. On April 18 1945 Pyle died on Ie Shima, an island off Okinawa Honto, as the result of machine gun fire from an enemy machine gun nest. He had been riding in a jeep with Lieutenant Colonel Joseph B. Coolidge, commanding officer of the 305th, as well as three other men. The road, which paralleled the beach two or three hundred yards inland, had been cleared of mines, and hundreds of vehicles had driven over it. As the vehicle reached a road junction, a machine gun position on a coral ridge about a third of a mile away began shooting at them. The men stopped their vehicle and jumped into a ditch. Pyle and Coolidge raised their heads to look around for the others, and when they spotted them, Pyle smiled and asked Coolidge "Are you all right?" Those were his last words. The sniper began shooting again, and Pyle was struck in the left temple. The colonel called for a medic, but there were none present. Pyle had been killed instantly. He was buried with his helmet on, and laid to rest in a long row of graves among other soldiers, an infantry private on one side, an engineer on the other. At the 10 minute service, the Navy, Marine Corps, and Army were represented. [ Miller, Lee G., The Story of Ernie Pyle: Viking Press 1950] He was later reburied at the Army cemetery on Okinawa, then moved to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific located in Honolulu. When Okinawa was returned to the Japanese, the Ernie Pyle Memorial was one of three American memorials they allowed to remain in place.

Honors, archives, and burial

Pyle's legacy is preserved at Indiana University, where he began his journalism training. The School of Journalism is housed in "Ernie Pyle Hall," and scholarships, established soon after his death, are still given to students who have ability in journalism, the promise of future success in the profession, and a military service record. A major initial contribution to the scholarships came from the proceeds of the world premiere of the film, "The Story of G.I. Joe", which starred Burgess Meredith as Pyle.

In 1947, his last home in Albuquerque, New Mexico was made into the first branch library of the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Library System, named in honor of its famous occupant. Today, the Ernie Pyle Library houses a small collection of adult and children's books, as well as Pyle memorabilia and archives. [cite web|url=|title=Ernie Pyle's Home a National Historic Landmark|author=U.S. Department of the Interior|accessmonthday=October 31 |accessyear=2006|] The bulk of his archives, however, are at the Lilly Library at Indiana University; the Ernie Pyle State Historic Site at Dana, Indiana; and the Wisconsin State Historical Society. The Ernie Pyle State Historic Site in Dana, Indiana has Pyle's boyhood home, fully restored. The site also has a Quonset hut with many WWII Pyle artifacts contributed by people in this community where Pyle grew up.

Laid to rest between two unknown soldiers, Pyle is buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.

Postmortem photo

In June 2008, 63 years after his death, a [ photo resurfaced] , showing Pyle, shortly after his death. [cite news | url=|last=Pyle|first=Richard|title= After 63 years, death photo of famed WWII reporter Ernie Pyle surfaces |publisher=Associated Press|date=2008-02-03|work=The Seattle Times] The photo, taken by Army photographer Alexander Roberts, was believed by AP archivists and a Pyle biographer to be heretofore unpublished, however, it was published at least twice: in the 1979-12-14 edition of the Burlington, NC "Daily Times-News" and in the 1983 memoir, "", by retired Army and AP photographer Rudy Faircloth. [cite news | title=Pyle picture printed in N.C. paper 2 decades ago | last=Pyle | first=Richard| url=|date=2008-02-13|accessdate=2008-02-13|publisher=Associated Press|work=News and Observer]

Ernie's Quote

"Their life consisted wholly and solely of war, for they were and always had been front-line infantrymen. They survived because the fates were kind to them, certainly-but also because they had become hard and immensely wise in animal-like ways of self-preservation."


*James Tobin. "Ernie Pyle's War: America's Eyewitness to World War II". Hardcover: Free Press (1997), ISBN 0-684-83642-4; Paperback: University Press of Kansas (1998), ISBN 0-7006-0897-4

External links

* [ The Wartime Columns of Ernie Pyle] . " [ Indiana University School of Journalism] ".
* [ The War Correspondent] . "The Ernie Pyle Center, Fort Totten NY".
* [ Ernie Pyle House/Library, Albuquerque, New Mexico]
*findagrave|2143 Retrieved on 2008-01-24
* [ His obituary, New York Times]

Category:American military personnel of World War I

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  • Ernie — /err nee/, n. 1. a male given name, form of Ernest. 2. a female given name, form of Ernestine. * * * (as used in expressions) Banks Ernie Ford Tennessee Ernie Pyle Ernie * * * …   Universalium

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