Pyle file photo [936]

Ernie Pyle

Given NameErnie
Born3 Aug 1900
Died18 Apr 1945
CountryUnited States


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:

"I love the infantry because they are the underdogs. They are the mud-rain-frost-and-wind boys. They have no comforts, and they even learn to live without the necessities. And in the end they are the guys that wars can’t be won without."

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.

"Submerged tanks and overturned boats and burned trucks and shell-shattered jeeps and sad little personal belongings were strewn all over these bitter sands. That plus the bodies of soldiers lying in rows covered with blankets, the toes of their shoes sticking up in a line as though on drill. And other bodies, uncollected, still sprawling grotesquely in the sand or half hidden by the high grass beyond the beach."

ww2dbaseHe continues:

"Now that it (the landing in Normandy) is over it seems to me a pure miracle that we ever took the beach at all. For some of our units it was easy, but in this special sector where I am now our troops faced such odds that our getting ashore was like my whipping Joe Louis down to a pulp." (The wispy Pyle, probably not more than 150 pounds, alludes here to besting the noted American heavy-weight champion boxer)

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.

Last Major Revision: Feb 2005

Ernie Pyle Interactive Map


Ernie Pyle at Anzio, Italy, circa Mar 1944Ernie Pyle eating C-ration, Anzio, Italy, 18 Mar 1944War Correspondent Ernie Pyle speaking to Lieutenant John Mason Brown, northern France, 15 Jun 1944Ernie Pyle interviewing combat photographers, Guam, 1945
See all 13 photographs of Ernie Pyle

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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Event(s) Participated:
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Ernie Pyle Photo Gallery
Ernie Pyle at Anzio, Italy, circa Mar 1944
See all 13 photographs of Ernie Pyle

Famous WW2 Quote
"The raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next 500 years."

James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945

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