Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Ernie Pyle's Death - April 18, 1945

Ernie Pyle was 44 years old when he died on April 18, 1945, on Ie Shima, an island off Okinawa. He was killed by a well-hidden Japanese sniper as he was interviewing some marines who thought they had cleared the island.

Instead of writing articles on the advance of this army and that navy, Ernie Pyle wrote articles about the soldiers. He wrote about their experiences and lives. This approach to the war made him the most popular columnist back home. It also garnered him the Pulitzer Prize. He didn't just write about the common soldier, he lived with them, ate with them and in some cases shared some of the more distasteful duties, such as moving the bodies of the slain.

A movie was made based on his columns for Scripps-Howard. It starred Burgess Meredith as Ernie Pyle (a pretty good likeness, actually). Here’s his take on the movie being made.

Here’s a link to one of his articles I get a kick out of: Digging and Grousing. One of the reasons I get a kick out of it is a story told to me about my grandfather. Being a stubborn Irish-American and something of a practical joker he had something to say about digging foxholes. When he was at Basic his sergeant made him dig a hole, then fill it. He did. He had to dig another hole then fill it. He did. After a few more repetitions, he apparently asked the sergeant if he was going to make him fill this one after he dug it. The sergeant, of course, said yes and my grandfather calmly handed him the shovel and told him to dig the hole himself. I think my grandfather had KP a lot and I have a feeling if they’d met, he and Ernie Pyle would have had a great laugh.

Indiana University School of Journalism: Ernie Pyle’s articles
Ernie Pyle - Wikipedia
Story of G.I. Joe - the movie
The Sad Story of Mrs. Pyle: Dave Lieber

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