Ernie Pyle
By: Jenny Trembath
March 20, 2000

Ernie Plye
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 couldn’t 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”
(Tobin 6).

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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 America’s
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:
It’s better than a million dollars. It’s 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 people’s
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 America’s involvement in
WWII, reporting on Allied operations in North Africa, Sicily,
Italy, and France. Pyle’s 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.
Pyle’s 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 can’t 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 airman’s flight pay. In May
of that year Congress acted on Pyle’s 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 over the
hillsides and in the ditches along the high rows of hedge
throughout the world. Dead men by mass production in one
country after another. Month after month and year after
year. Dead men in winter and dead men in summer. Dead
men promiscuity that they become monotonous. Dead men in
such monstrous infinity that you come to almost hate them.
In 1945 Pyle went to “the Pacific theater,” his last
assignment from “Scripps-Howard.” One year after receiving the
Pulitzer Prize he was killed by Japanese machine-gun fire. He
died in Ie Shima, a small island west of Okinawa while
traveling with a group of infantrymen.

When Pyle died his column was in 400 daily newspapers and
300 weekly newspapers. The soldiers paid tribute to him with a
simple plaque reading, “At this spot, the 77th Infantry
Division lost a buddy, Ernie Pyle, 18 April 1945.” Since then
Ernie Pyle’s birthplace home was moved from it’s rural site to
its present location and became a state historic site in July,

Ernie Pyle was known by many people and his death during
World War II was a shock. His bravery was shown and people
around the world appreciated it.

Works Cited
1. Tobin, James. Ernie Pyle’s War: America’s Eyewitness To
World War II. New York: The Free Press, 1997.

2. Whitman, Mark. “Ernie Pyle.” Access Indiana Teaching and
Learning Center. 1997. 5 March 2000
3.Wilson, Ellen. Ernie Pyle: Boy From Back Home.
Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company Inc., 1955.

1.”Ernie Pyle.” Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 2000.
CD-ROM. 2000 ed.

2.”Ernie Pyle State Historic Site.” Indiana State Museum
and Historic Sites. 2 March 2000
3. Tobin, James. Ernie Pyle’s War: America’s Eyewitness To
World War II. New York: The Free Press, 1997.

4. Whitman, Mark. “Ernie Pyle.” Access Indiana Teaching and
Learning Center. 1997. 5 March 2000
5Wilson, Ellen. Ernie Pyle: Boy From Back Home.