Famous obituaries, Ernie Pyle

Ernie Pyle, in Normandy March 18, 1944. Photo courtesy of the Ernie Pyle Museum.

From the roadways of America to the battlefronts of Normandy and the Pacific Islands, Ernie Pyle articulated the human experience with an unparalleled sense of sympathy.

Famed daily news columnist and popular war correspondent, Ernie Pyle, known for his intimate depiction of soldiers on the frontline was killed Tuesday on Shima Island, west of Okinawa.

Lt. Col. Joseph B. Coolidge said, “I was so impressed with Pyle’s coolness, calmness and his deep interest in enlisted men. They have lost their best friend.”

Born Earnest Taylor Pyle to parents William and Maria Pyle on a farm near Dana, Indiana August 3, 1900.

Pyle attended Indiana University, was a member of the fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon and was the editor of the student newspaper. A semester shy of graduating from the university, Pyle took a job at a paper near LaPort, Indiana.

However, just three months later, Pyle moved to Washington D.C. and took a job as a reporter with a new tabloid called, The Washington Daily News, which he eventually became the managing editor of.

While in Washington, Pyle met his wife whom he married in 1925, Geraldine “Jerry” Siebolds. After taking some time away from the Daily News to travel the American roadways with his wife in 1926, Pyle returned to the Daily News and became the first Aviation columnist in America.

Amelia Earhart once said, “Any aviator who doesn’t know Pyle is a nobody.”

When noted syndicated columnist, Heywood Broun was on vacation, Pyle had the opportunity to write eleven columns that would earn the attention of Scripps-Howard editor-in-chief G.B. Parker.

Parker said Pyle’s writing had “a Mark Twain quality that knocked my eye out”. In 1935, Pyle began writing a national column for the Scripps-Howard Alliance Group.

For seven years Pyle traveled the countryside in his car writing columns as a rove journalist.

In 1942, following America’s entry into the war, Pyle became a war correspondent and applied his folksy style of writing to provide a unique perspective of the common solider.

Pyle’s supporters were not exclusive to the common man either, as President Truman and Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt were dedicated followers of his writings.

Mrs. Roosevelt promoted Pyle in her column by saying, “I have read everything he (Pyle) has sent from overseas.”

It was his ability to capture the true experience of war in columns such as, “The Death of Captain Waskow” that earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1944.

Pyle was not satisfied with being just a war correspondent; he used his writing to champion better pay and conditions for the soldiers. In 1944, Pyle wrote a column urging that soldiers in combat should receive “fight pay” similar to the airmen who were receiving “flight pay” for when they actually saw action. As a result of his work, Congress passed “The Ernie Pyle Bill”, which provided $10 per month extra pay for combat infantrymen.

In late 1944, Pyle decided to cover the military activity in the Pacific Islands. This was a difficult time for him as a correspondent because, according to Pyle, his heart was with the infantrymen in Europe.

Pyle was traveling about one mile forward of his command post with three other men, including Lt. Col. Coolidge, commanding officer of the 305th Infantry Regiment, when enemy fire opened up on their vehicle.

According to Lt. Col. Coolidge’s account, the men escaped by jumping into a ditch where during a pause in the fire, Pyle raised his head above the ditch and was killed instantly by Japanese machine-gun.

Ernie Pyle will be laid to rest on the Island of Shima.

Earnest “Ernie” Pyle is survived by his father, William C. Pyle of Dana, IN; His Wife Geraldine “Jerry” Pyle of Albuquerque, NM; his aunt Mary Bales of Dana, IN.

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