By: Jenny Trembath
March 20, 2000
When a machine-gun bullet ended the life of Ernie Pyle in
the final days of World War II, Americans spoke of him in the
same breath as they had Franklin Roosevelt. To millions, the
loss of him was as great as the loss of the wartime president.
Since WWII correspondent Ernie Pyle was so famous, his death on
the battlefront came as a shock to people around the world.
Ernest Taylor Pyle was born August 3, 1900 to Will and
Marie Pyle. He was born an only child on the Same Elder farm
just southwest of Dana, Indiana. His father, Will Pyle, was a
tenant farmer because he couldnt make a steady living from
being a carpenter, which is what he really liked to do. Pyle
described his father, He never said a great deal to me all his
life, and yet I feel we have been very good friends, he never
gave me much advice or told me to do this or that, or not to.
Marie Pyle filled the role of family leader. She enjoyed tasks
at hand: raising chickens and produce, caring for her family
and serving the neighbors. Pyle describes her, She thrived on
action, she would rather milk than sew; rather plow than bake
Through school Pyle loved to write. During high school he
was reporter, then editor, then editor in chief for his high
school newspaper. When he graduated high school, he too was
caught up in the patriotic fever of the nation upon Americas
entry into WWI (Whitman 2). He enlisted in the Naval Reserve
but before he could finish his training an armistice was
declared in Europe. After that he attended the University of
Indiana to study journalism, but left before he graduated.
Ernie Pyle persued his love for writing, and became a cub
reporter for LaPorte Herald. For months later he was offered
a $2.50-per-week raise to work for the Washington Daily News.
He wrote the countries first daily aviation column for four
years before becoming the papers managing editor. Pyle was a
reporter, copy editor, and aviation editor until 1932, when he
accepted a job for the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain. Pyle
loved to travel and persuaded Scripps-Howard executives to
allow him to be a roving reporter. Ernie Pyle was very excited
to be a roving reporter:
Its better than a million dollars. Its a new job, the
best job in the world. Just think! No more sitting
behind a desk! No more sticking to the same old office!
No more writing headlines of editing other peoples
stories (Wilson 66).
The six years he was a roving reporter for Scripps-Howard he
crossed the continent some 35 times. He wrote about all kinds
of things: mountain climbing, making soap, digging for gold,
zippers that stuck, and his folks back home. Whenever he found
a good story, he stopped for a day or two. He would talk to
all kinds of people. The he would write his story in a hotel
room that night. People that read his column described it as
just like receiving a letter (Wilson 65).
In 1940 Ernie Pyle went to England to report on the Battle
of Britain. In 1941 he began covering Americas involvement in
WWII, reporting on Allied operations in North Africa, Sicily,
Italy, and France. Pyles column during WWII reported on the
life and sometimes death of the average soldier to the millions
of the American home front. He had a simple, warm, human
writing style. He was widely popular, especially during WWII.
Pyles columns covered almost every branch of the service
from quarter-master troops to pilots. He saved his highest
praise for the common foot soldier,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 necessities. And in the end they
are the guys that wars cant be won without (Wilson 66). His
columns which eventually appeared in 200 newspapers did more
than just inform. In 1944 Pyle proposed that combat soldiers
be given fight pay similar to an airmans flight pay. In May
of that year Congress acted on Pyles suggestion and gave
soldiers 50% extra pay for combat service. Also in 1944 Pyle
was awarded Pulitzer Prize in reporting for his distinguished
reports from the European battlefront.
Ernie Pyle showed his bravery through doing the job he did
even though he hated war. After he died a column he wrote
about his hatred for war was found in his pocket:
The unnatural sight of cold dead men scattered