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Ernest Taylor Pyle

Also Known As: "Ernie"
Birthdate: (44)
Birthplace: near Dana, IN, USA
Death: April 18, 1945 (44)
le Shima, Okinawa, Japan (hit by Japanese machine-gun fire during WWII)
Place of Burial: Honolulu, Honolulu County, Hawaii, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of William Clyde Pyle and Maria Pyle
Husband of Geraldine Elizabeth Pyle

Occupation: correspondent
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Ernie Pyle

Ernest Taylor Pyle (August 3, 1900 – April 18, 1945) was an American journalist who wrote as a roving correspondent for the Scripps Howard newspaper chain from 1935 until his death in combat during World War II. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1944. His articles, about the out-of-the-way places he visited and the people who lived there, were written in a folksy style, much like a personal letter to a friend. He enjoyed a following in some 300 newspapers.

Early life and World War I

Pyle was born on a tenant farm near Dana, Indiana on August 3, 1900. When he was almost 18, he joined the United States Navy Reserve. World War I ended soon after, so Pyle served for only three months.

After the war, Pyle attended Indiana University, traveled to the Orient with his fraternity brothers of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and edited the student newspaper. However, he didn't graduate and instead, with only a semester left at Indiana, he accepted a job at a paper in LaPorte, Indiana. He worked there for three months before moving to Washington, D.C. A tabloid newspaper, The Washington Daily News, founded in 1921, had hired Pyle as a reporter. All of the editors were young, including Editor-in-Chief John M. Gleissner (one of Warren G. Harding's drinking buddies); Lee G. Miller (author of An Ernie Pyle Album – Indiana to Ie Shima); Charles M. Egan, Willis "June" Thornton; and Paul McCrea.[3] Pyle was named managing editor of the Washington Daily News and served in the post for three years, all the while fretting that he was unable to do any writing.

While in Washington, he met Geraldine "Jerry" Siebolds, his "fearful and troubled wife", with whom he carried on a tempestuous relationship. They were married in 1925. Jerry suffered from intermittent bouts of mental illness and alcoholism. Pyle described her as "desperate within herself since the day she was born".

In 1926, Pyle tired of work at a desk in the news room, quit his job, and with his wife headed out on the road to see America in a Ford roadster. The Pyles traveled more than 9,000 miles before Ernie returned to his job with the Daily News. In 1928, he became the country's first aviation columnist, a role he played for four years. Famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart summed it up: Any aviator who didn't know Pyle was a nobody. Pyle became managing editor of the Daily News in 1932.

The opportunity to return to writing came in 1934 after he spent time on a leisurely trip to California to recuperate from a severe bout of flu. Upon his return, it was suggested that he write some columns about his trip to fill in for the vacationing syndicated columnist Heywood Broun. The series of eleven columns was a hit. G.B. ("Deac") Parker, editor in chief of the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain, said he had found in Pyle's vacation articles "a Mark Twain quality that knocked my eye out". In 1935, Pyle was relieved of his duties as managing editor and began writing a national column for the Scripps-Howard Alliance group. He wandered around the country and the Americas in his car, writing columns about the unusual places and people he met in his ramblings. Select columns were later compiled and published in Home Country. Nevertheless, Pyle suffered from fits of deep depression, never satisfied with the quality of his writing. The daily column continued until 1942, after America's entry into the war.

World War II

Following the entry of the U.S. into World War II, Pyle became a war correspondent, applying his intimate style to the war. Instead of the movements of armies or the activities of generals, Pyle generally wrote from the perspective of the common soldier, an approach that won him not only further popularity but also the Pulitzer Prize. Among his most widely read and reprinted columns is "The Death of Captain Waskow." His wartime writings are preserved in four books: Ernie Pyle In England, Here Is Your War, Brave Men, and Last Chapter.

After his return for a vacation, he wrote to his college roommate, Paige Cavanaugh: "Geraldine was drunk the afternoon I got home. From there she went on down. Went completely screwball. One night she tried the gas. Had to have a doctor." The two were divorced on April 14, 1942, and remarried by proxy while Pyle was in Africa on March 10, 1943. In 1944, he wrote a column urging that soldiers in combat get "fight pay" just as airmen were paid "flight pay." Congress passed a law authorizing $10 a month extra pay for combat infantrymen. The legislation was called "The Ernie Pyle bill."

He reported from the United States, Europe, Africa, and the Pacific. His reporting was interrupted several times by leaves to return home to care for Jerry while they were still married and to recuperate from the stresses of combat, including nearly being killed in the accidental bombing by the Army Air Forces at the onset of Operation Cobra near Saint-Lô in Normandy in July 1944. Pyle publicly apologized to his readers in a column on September 5, 1944, that he had "lost track of the point of the war", and that another two weeks of coverage would have seen him hospitalized with a war neurosis. He hoped that a rest in his home in New Mexico would restore his vigor to go "warhorsing around the Pacific".

When Pyle decided to cover events in the Pacific, he butted heads with the U.S. Navy over its policy forbidding the use of the actual names of sailors in his reports and won an unsatisfying partial victory in that the ban was lifted only for him. His first cruise was aboard the aircraft carrier USS Cabot, in which he saw an "easy life" in comparison to the infantry in Europe, resulting in several unflattering portraits of the Navy. Pyle was soon criticized by fellow correspondents, newspaper editorials, and G.I.s for giving apparent short shrift to the difficulties of the war in the Pacific. During the tiff he admitted that his heart was with the infantrymen in Europe, but he persevered to report on their efforts during the invasion of Okinawa. He was noted for having premonitions of his own death and predicted before landing that he would not be alive a year hence.

On April 18, 1945, Pyle died on Ie Shima, an island off Okinawa, after being hit by Japanese machine-gun fire.[13] He was travelling in a jeep with Lieutenant Colonel Joseph B. Coolidge (commanding officer of the 305th Infantry Regiment, 77th Infantry Division) and three other men. The road, which ran parallel to the beach two or three hundred yards inland, had been cleared of mines, and hundreds of vehicles had driven over it. As the vehicle reached a road junction, an enemy machine gun located on a coral ridge about a third of a mile away began firing at them. The men stopped their vehicle and jumped into a ditch. Pyle and Coolidge raised their heads to look around for the others; when they spotted them, Pyle smiled and asked Coolidge "Are you all right?" Those were his last words. The machine gun began shooting again, and Pyle was struck in the left temple (the Ernie Pyle State Historic Site in Dana, Indiana, contains a telegram from the Government to Pyle's father stating Pyle was killed by a sniper). The colonel called for a medic, but none were present. It made no difference – Pyle had been killed instantly.

He was buried with his helmet on, laid to rest in a long row of graves among other soldiers, with an infantry private on one side and a combat engineer on the other. At the ten-minute service, the Navy, Marine Corps, and Army were all represented. Pyle was later reburied at the Army cemetery on Okinawa, then moved to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific located in Honolulu. When Okinawa was returned to Japanese control after the war, the Ernie Pyle monument was one of only three American memorials allowed to remain in place. Pyle was among the few American civilians killed during the war to be awarded the Purple Heart.

Honors, archives, and burial

Pyle's legacy is preserved at Indiana University, where he began his journalism training. The School of Journalism is housed in "Ernie Pyle Hall", and scholarships, established soon after his death, are still given to students who have ability in journalism, the promise of future success in the profession, and a military service record. A major initial contribution to the scholarships came from the proceeds of the world premiere of the film, The Story of G.I. Joe, which starred Burgess Meredith as Pyle.

In 1947, his last home in Albuquerque, New Mexico was made into the first branch library of the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Library System, named in honor of its famous occupant. Today, the Ernie Pyle Library houses a small collection of adult and children's books, as well as Pyle memorabilia and archives. The bulk of his archives, however, are at the Lilly Library at Indiana University; the Ernie Pyle State Historic Site at Dana, Indiana; and the Wisconsin State Historical Society. The Ernie Pyle State Historic Site in Dana, Indiana includes Pyle's boyhood home, fully restored. The site also features a World War II-era Quonset hut containing many of Pyle's army artifacts (including his Purple Heart), plus items donated by the people of the community where Pyle grew up.

Pyle is buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. 25 years after his death, a special plaque was presented there to the people of Hawaii honoring Pyle, by his nephew, Bruce L. Johnson, Grand Master of Chinese Wand Exercise.

A stone monument was erected on Ie Shima at the site where Pyle was killed. The monument has the form of a truncated pyramid echoing the truncated-triangle shape of the "Statue of Liberty" Division's insignia on the upper facade, with engraved text below: "At this spot the 77th Infantry Division lost a buddy, Ernie Pyle, 18 April 1945."

Pyle was depicted on a 16-cent United States postage stamp issued in 1971. Charles M. Schulz paid tribute to Pyle in the Peanuts comic strip for Veteran's day in 1997 and 1999. Elementary schools near Pyle's hometown of Dana, Indiana, and in Bellflower, California, are named for him, as well as one in Fresno, California.

Postmortem photo

In June 2008, 63 years after his death, a photo resurfaced, showing Pyle, shortly after his death. The photo, taken by Army photographer Alexander Roberts, was believed by AP archivists and a Pyle biographer to be heretofore unpublished, however, it was published at least twice: in the December 14, 1979, edition of the Burlington, North Carolina Daily Times-News and in the 1983 memoir, Buddy Ernie Pyle: World War II's Most Beloved Typewriter Soldier, by retired Army and AP photographer Rudy Faircloth.

B-29 Superfortress – The Ernie Pyle

The employees of Boeing-Wichita, through the 7th War Loan Drive, paid for and built a Boeing B-29 Superfortress, Serial Number 44-70118, and dedicated it on 1 May 1945 The Ernie Pyle. The Ernie Pyle was ferried to the Pacific War Theater by a crew commanded by Lieutenant Howard F. Lippincott (USAF Lt. Colonel, ret, dec). It was initially assigned to the Second Air Force, Kearney Air Force Base and sent to the Twentieth Air Force, Pacific Theater of Operations on 27 May 1945. The nose art was removed when the aircraft reached its intended operations base in the Pacific as the base commander thought it would become a prime target of the Japanese for propaganda reasons. The Ernie Pyle survived the war and was returned to the United States on 22 October 1945. It was stored at Pyote AAF TX and disposed as surplus on 25 March 1953.


Their life consisted wholly and solely of war, for they were and always had been front-line infantrymen. They survived because the fates were kind to them, certainly — but also because they had become hard and immensely wise in animal-like ways of self-preservation.

The best way I can describe this vast armada and the frantic urgency of the traffic is to suggest that you visualize New York city on its busiest day of the year and then just enlarge that scene until it takes in all the ocean the human eye can reach clear around the horizon and over the horizon. There are dozens of times that many.-On preparations to invade at Normandy

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Ernie Pyle's Timeline

August 3, 1900
near Dana, IN, USA
April 18, 1945
Age 44
Okinawa, Japan
Honolulu, Honolulu County, Hawaii, United States