Saturday, April 18, 2015

70 YEARS AGO TODAY, AMERICA'S WORLD WAR II 'DOGFACE' COMBAT SOLDIERS LOST A BEST BUDDY -- FAMED WAR CORRESPONDENT ERNIE PYLE

THIS CRUDE MARKER WAS ERECTED BY SOLDIERS ON THE SPOT WHERE THEIR
"BUDDY," WAR CORRESPONDENT ERNIE PYLE WAS KILLED 70 YEARS AGO TODAY

My old school, Indiana University, is honoring one of the best loved products of its School of Journalism -- legendary World War II combat correspondent Ernie Pyle, the GI's most beloved reporter.

Seventy years ago today, April 18, 1945, Ernie, then 45, was killed in combat on the Japanese held, Pacific island of Ie Shima and around the world hundreds of thousands of ordinary GIs and their families mourned his passing.

Here is the link to what the Indiana University website has to say today about today's celebration of Ernie's life: http://news.indiana.edu/releases/iu/2015/04/ernie-pyle-memorial-weekend.shtml.

ERNIE PYLE
Ernie's way of covering the war was vastly different than many -- if not most -- of his fellow war correspondents who spent much of their time courting favor with and covering generals and only occasionally putting themselves into serious danger by accompanying front-line combat troops.

Unlike them, Ernie, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1944, spent most of his time on the front lines, facing all of the same risks as the men he was writing about in his straight-forward, simplistic style that so many GIs and their families back home could easily relate to. His intimate understanding of and ability to convey the hopes and fears of those men in combat earned him the title of the "Dogface's Correspondent." He was, perhaps, the first truly "embedded" combat journalist.

Long before I started my journalism training at IU's School of Journalism at Ernie Pyle Hall on the campus in Bloomington, Ind., I was well aware of Ernie and what he meant to the WWII combat soldier. My father -- an Army infantry veteran of some 300 days of combat in North Africa, Sicily and Europe during World War II -- had been among those GIs who so revered Ernie, whose columns appeared in more than 500 papers during the war.

By the time I returned to IU in 1966, after failing out in 1962 and enlisting in the U.S. Navy, Ernie was already one of my journalism heroes.

Here's what President Harry Truman had to say about Ernie: "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."

There is a tale that I heard many years ago regarding Ernie and another well-known WWII war correspondent, Robert Ruark, who many of their media colleagues regarded as the best writer among them and who went on to write such great novels as Something of Value. Just how true it is, I can't say, but it does speak well to why Ernie became to ordinary soldiers and their families the most beloved among all the war correspondents. And, of course, we all know that the only difference between a journalism tale and a fairy tale is that a fairy tale starts out "once upon a time" and a journalism tale starts out "no shit, this is the truth."

Supposedly, according to the tale, Ruark and a group of fellow correspondents were gathered in a favorite London watering hole after it was announced that Ernie, who was on the front lines at the time, had won his 1944 Pulitzer. According to the tale, the other correspondents were commiserating with Ruark saying that he, not Pyle, should have won the Pulitzer because he (Ruark) was the far better writer. However, according to the tale, Ruark silenced them saying that Ernie deserved the Pulitzer more because he was, in fact, the best of all the war correspondents.

According to the tale, Ruark said something like this: "I write the way all of you and everyone else WISHES they could write. Ernie, on the other hand, writes the way ordinary people think THEY write and that's what makes him great."

Amen.

-30-

ERNIE (CENTER LEFT)SHARES
CIGARETTES WITH
HIS "DOGFACE" PALS
THE SAD NEWS OF ERNIE'S DEATH AS IT
APPEARED IN THE CINCINNATI POST


















There is lots of additional reading on Ernie Pyle available online and in libraries. However, for a quite good synopsis on Ernie's life, here is what Wikipedia has to say about him: 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernie_Pyle


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