|A Year of Indiana History - 2016|
Ernie Pyle (August 3, 1900 – April 18, 1945)
The son of William Clyde Pyle and Maria Taylor, Ernie was a native of Dana, Indiana. He attended local schools at Dana, and then enlisted in the United States Navy Reserve during World War I. He served three months active duty before the war ended. After completing his reserve duties, he attended Indiana University, editing the Indiana Daily Student Newspaper. He also toured Asia with members of his fraternity. He left Indiana University before graduating to take a job with a newspaper in LaPorte, Indiana. After a few months in La Porte, he went to Washington, DC to report for The Washington Daily News. During this time, he met Geraldine "Jerry" Siebolds, whom he married in 1925.
From Editor to Columnist
Pyle worked several stints as editor for the Washington Daily News. In between editing jobs, he quit to travel across the United States with his wife. He came down with a severe case of the flu in 1932 and went to live in California for several months to recover. Upon his return, he took over as columnist for syndicated columnist Heywood Broun, who was on vacation. Pyle's eleven columns about his life in California were a hit with his colleagues and the public. The Scripps-Howard newspaper chain hired him to write a daily column in 1935. His writing encompassed ordinary people that he encountered in his travels across America.
He continued this column until 1942. War had broken out and Pyle became a war correspondent. He continued his trait of writing about common people by eschewing covering generals. Instead, he wrote about the GI's that fought the war in the trenches and on the line. His everyman reporting won him a Pulitzer Prize in 1944. His columns were popular among the public and the soldiers he wrote about and his fame rose to a national level.
Death Under Fire
Pyle hit the beach with the Army's 305th Infantry Regiment of the 77th "Liberty Patch" Division on the small island of Iejima. During the landing, he had a premonition about his death. The troops secured their positions, and Pyle walked to have a chat with a regimental commanding officer. Too late, they found that they had not secured the position completely. A Japanese machine gun fired a burst of bullets. Pyle and the officer dove for cover. After a pause, the two men rose up to reconnoiter their position. A bullet from another machine gun burst caught Pyle above the temple, killing him instantly. He is interred at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. The 77th Army Reserve Command issued a Purple Heart to Pyle, a rare occurrence for a civilian.
The Ernie Pyle Development Fund Inc. maintains a museum to Pyle in his home town of Dana, Indiana. Those interested in further information or visiting the museum may contact:
The Friends of Ernie Pyle
P.O. Box 345
Dana, IN 47847
Ernie Pyle World War II Museum
120 W Briarwood Ave Dana,
A Year of Indiana History - 2016
© Paul Wonning