|Born||3 Aug 1900|
|Died||18 Apr 1945|
Contributor: Bryan Hiatt
ww2dbaseIn an era before television, Ernie Pyle brought World War II home to millions of Americans. At the time of his death on an island near Okinawa in 1945, his work appeared in over 400 daily and 300 weekly newspapers.
ww2dbaseBorn in Indiana, Pyle began work as a journalist in 1923. His work was varied: editor, aviation columnist, and later roving columnist for the Scripps-Howard news service, where, along with his wife, he traveled across America 35 times in search of material.
ww2dbaseIn 1940, he left for England to cover the Battle of Britain and his work there introduced many readers to a country at war. Upon the United States' entry into World War II, Pyle covered Allied operations throughout North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France, and later in the Pacific.
ww2dbasePyle's true gift as a writer was his ability to show the men on the ground doing the things that were largely unknown and give them credit for it. He writes:
ww2dbasePyle's most enduring column is arguably "The Death of Captain Waskow." In it, Pyle just didn't pay tribute to one soldier killed in Italy. He paid tribute to all the men who worked hard to earn the respect and friendship of many, who died in unknown battles far from home.
ww2dbaseHis dispatches from Normandy continued to show the human cost of war and the determination of "the boys" despite the tough German defenses and numerous losses.
ww2dbaseA testament to his popularity and power came in 1944 when Pyle suggested "that combat soldiers be given 'fight pay,' similar to an airman's flight pay. In May of that year, Congress acted on Pyle's suggestion, giving soldiers 50 percent extra pay for combat service, legislation nicknamed 'the Ernie Pyle bill.'"
ww2dbaseIn the end, Pyle's legacy is perhaps best summed up by a sign posted by the soldiers he covered at the time of his death. "At this spot, the 77th Infantry Division lost a Buddy, Ernie Pyle, 18 April 1945."
ww2dbaseWhile some have criticized Pyle for his folksy style, he endeared himself to a nation by telling the story of its sons at war as best he could within the constraints of military censorship and column length.
ww2dbasePyle's alma mater maintains a selection of his work here.
ww2dbaseSources: Indiana University School of Journalism, University of San Diego History Department, Wartime.
Ernie Pyle Timeline
|3 Aug 1900||Ernie Pyle was born.|
|18 Apr 1945||Ernie Pyle was killed on Ie Shima off Okinawa, Japan.|
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