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WWII War Correspondent Ernie Pyle: He Brought the Front Line to the Front Room

American journalist Ernest Taylor “Ernie” Pyle was one of the most famous war correspondents of WWII. Using his folksy writing style, Pyle connected with his readers and brought the realities of the battlefront to living rooms across America. At his peak, his columns appeared in 400 daily and 300 weekly newspapers. His devoted readers included political and military leaders and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. His coverage of campaigns in North Africa, Italy, and France earned him a Pulitzer Prize. While reporting on the war in the Pacific Theater in April 1945, Pyle was killed by enemy machine-gun fire on the Japanese island of le Shima.

Born August 3, 1900, in Dana, Indiana, Pyle grew up on a farm. He longed for adventure and after graduation from high school, registered for the WWI Draft and joined the US Naval Reserve. WWI ended before he got a chance to see the world, so after returning home, Pyle enrolled in journalism classes at Indiana University. One semester shy of graduation, Pyle took a job at an Indiana newspaper. His unassuming nature, ability to make friends and engaging writing style opened doors at a string of newspapers. He was eventually hired by Scripps-Howard and became a roving reporter.  

In 1940, Germany invaded France and Pyle traveled to England to report on the Battle of Britain. His columns from London brought international acclaim and Pyle became a household name. Pyle returned home, but when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and the US entered the war, he headed back overseas. He petitioned for a draft deferment with hopes of remaining a war correspondent, and in 1942 he followed British and American troops during the invasion of North Africa.

On D-Day, Pyle was one of a few war correspondents chosen to accompany US troops during the invasion of Normandy. He boarded General Omar Bradley’s ship Augusta and went ashore at Omaha Beach on June 7, 1944. His poignant articles resonated with Americans who followed the progress of the war through his writings. Pyle returned home a folk hero in the fall of 1944. The stress of war and the impact of seeing so much death and carnage took an emotional toll. Pyle took a few months off but soon felt compelled to return to the battlefield. In January 1945, he headed for the Pacific Theater. He was with US forces on Iwo Jima, during strikes on Tokyo, and reported on the invasion of Okinawa.

On April 18, 1945, Pyle went ashore on the island of le Shima with the 77th Infantry Division. Le Shima was a small island northwest of Okinawa and the 77th was securing an airfield. Pyle was traveling by jeep with Lt. Col. Joseph B. Coolidge when they came under sniper fire. They jumped into a ditch to take cover. Pyle raised his head to look around and a bullet from machine-gun fire hit him just below the brim of his helmet. He was killed instantly at just 44-years-old.

Ernie Pyle’s death photo was discovered in 2008

The 77th Infantry Division erected a monument at the site of his death and Pyle was awarded a Purple Heart, a rare honor for a civilian. Tributes to Pyle poured in. Soldiers named a B-29 Superfortress in his honor, the film The Story of G.I. Joe premiered two months after Pyle’s death. It was a tribute to American infantryman as told through the eyes of Pyle and received four Academy Awards nominations. During the American occupation, a theater in downtown Tokyo was renamed the Ernie Pyle Theater, and the U.S. Postal service issued a postage stamp with Pyle’s image on it. Ernie Pyle is buried in the Punchbowl Cemetery on the island of Oahu.

To read the columns Pyle filed in the months before his death, click here. To see military records that relate to Pyle’s writings and to learn more about WWII, search Fold3 today!

55 Comments

  1. Nice Post… Its very Informative and Interesting Post

  2. You should know that “D-Day” is used inn all operation plans. I’ve written quite a few. A normal beginning reads “On D-Day, H-Hour the X Corps will….” When the plan becomes an operation order the D and the H are replaced by the exact day and time for the beginning of the operation.

    • Hello Gene ~ Thank you for your service. Are you retired army? I ask because your name sounds familiar to me as someone my father might have known. He retired in 1977 from Fort Huachuca. ~ Sara Hayden

    • Thank you for this info. I always wondered but forget to search for the answer. Now I know.

  3. By the way, there is no University of Indiana. However, the journalism school at Indiana University is named for Ernie Pyle, it’s famous graduate.

    • I’m from Clinton Indiana. It is just a few miles south of Dana. Ernie Pyle was and is a big hero in That part of Indiana. My aunt always kept a picture of him In her dining room.

  4. My mom lived in Washington, D.C. during the war. I remember her talking about him.

  5. Ernie Pyle was one of the most respected correspondents. I remember that we always listened to him when he was on the radio. I remember the day he died, it was like some one we knew had been killed

  6. Ernie Pyle and My Fathers Navy Seabee Commanding Officer were good buddies..They met at Ulithi Asor, Pyle wrote about him in one of his books.

  7. “Shima” means island in Japanese. Le Shima is nonsense—it look like Italian or French. The name is “Ie shima” Or more likely “Iejima” with a Capital “I”, not a lower case “L”.

    (I lived in Tokyo for 9 years.)

  8. While doing some filming on Okinawa in 1987, we visited his marker on Ie Shima. It was still well kept and beautiful in its simplicity

  9. Simply the best writer who covered actual events. Clear, concise, sad, amusing, all rolled into one!

  10. I was stationed on Okinawa in 1967-68. I visited Ie Shima island a few times and always stopped my Ernie Pyle’s memorial. I loved the story of GI Joe as a kid and got to visit the spot as a young soldier.

  11. Ernie Pyle is commemorated on the bronze ‘gates’ on either side of the entrance to Richardson Hall, Fort Shafter, HI. “Left and right of the outside entrance to the building are two bronze panels containing the insignia of all divisions and units that trained and fought in the Pacific Theater in World War II. One panel also commemorates beloved journalist Ernie Pyle, killed while serving with Soldiers of the Pacific in April 1945.”

  12. Two years ago, while visiting my son on Okinawa, we visited the island and saw the memorials on Pyle. It was very moving as I have heard of him my whole life. I got several photos.

  13. I was a child during WW2 but I remember his name and hope to read his articles when I have more time today.

  14. In the 1950’s we lived on Okinawa and my Dad took me over to Ie Shima specifically to visit Mr. Pyle’s memorial. It is nice to read that it’s still cared for. My father stood quietly for a few minutes at the monument. He had been in the war as well. I know he was moved.

  15. My grandmother’s glory was she baby sat Ernie in his early years. We were taught to be proud of our heroes of the era. A few years ago I visited his museum in Dana

  16. Born in 1939, my early memories were mostly from WWII. I had a construction company an kept passing a sign indicating Ernie Pyle’s birthplace near Dana, IN. I did stop one time about 1965 and took the short tour. I don’t know whether the home/museum is still available for tourists.

  17. I discovered Ernie Pyles’s books while in High School. Being interested in WW II, I used his books for all of my English classes book reports. While visiting the “Punch Bowl” in Hawaii in 1975, happened to pass his grave.
    Visited his home in New Mexico in 2006, obtaining a list of his books. Great “Soldier Correspondent” writing about the GI in the foxholes.

  18. Ernie Pyle went to Indiana University, not the University of Indiana.

  19. I won a Gold Medal in an Arkansas public speaking contest in 1952 during my high school junior year with a reading one of Ernie Pyle’s columns.

  20. My grandma collected all his columns while my dad in the Pacific. I also have a book of his cartoons if any library wants them

    • Hello Louise,
      I have been filming and documenting many of our WWII veterans for many years now, working to preserve their legacy for our future generation. If you would be willing to share copies of any of Mr. Pyle’s documents or cartoons, I would be proud to feature some of them in my future veteran productions. Thank you for you consideration. Regards,
      Lynn Cooper
      Colorado Eighth Air Force Historical Society
      [email protected]

  21. While stationed on Okinawa I visited the island of Le Shima; it was very moving to see the place were Ernie Pyle was shot and killed. He was a true hero and great journalist.

  22. I am retired and a volunteer driver for a van carrying veterans to VA Hospitals for their appointments. A few years ago one of my passengers told me he was in the foxhole with Pyle when he was killed. I have met a lot of very interesting veterans riding in the van.

  23. I am retired and a volunteer driver for a van carrying veterans to VA Hospitals for their appointments. A few years ago one of my passengers told me he was in the foxhole with Pyle when he was killed. I have met a lot of very interesting veterans riding in the van.

  24. I am a graduate of Ernie Pyle school # 90 in Indianapolis Indiana. I attended this school in 1950ies. I really enjoyed story of Ernie Pyle. My father and uncles served in WW11.
    .

  25. Surprising that he raised his head while under fire. Apppears that he had a lapse of judgment.

  26. I have read Ernie Pyle’s books. He had a way with words and with people that made each and every one important and worth listening to. I loved his writings. He made each person he interviewed “real” to the readers, and his description of what was going on around him in battle, etc. helped the public understand a little more about the war. I was born during the war and read his books in the 1970s.

  27. I am a tour guide to the island battlefields of the Pacific War. I have had the privilege to visit Ernie’s memorial on Ie Shima three times; visited his grave in Honolulu several times, and visited his birthplace in Dana, Indiana. Unless there is still a travel restriction to Okinawa because of the pandemic, I will be taking a tour group to Okinawa in October. Visiting Ie Shima is on our itinerary. It is a very well kept memorial, about an acre in size and surrounded by a white wall. The Japanese do a good job of maintaining it.

    • John, thanks for keeping Ernie in your plans. We are the Ernie Pyle Legacy Foundation and are Pyle family members.Check out our web site and face book pages. We work with the American Legion who is charge
      of the site on Le Shima.

    • John, I’m pleased to hear you got to visit Ernie’s memorial sites. My brother carved out the stone that is slayed in Honolulu. I hope you get to take the tour to Okinawa.
      Alma Stricker Mellinger formerly from Piqua, Ohio, now in Arizona

  28. I met Ernie Pyle when I was eleven and he was visiting a newspaper my father owned in New Mexico. He had a home in Albuquerque. The home is now a museum and part of the library system. Tourists aften overlook this attraction when visiting New Mexico.
    I also helped with the campaign to have the post office issue a Pyle stamp. There were few with like him.

  29. Thank you for this lovely write-up about Ernie Pyle. My grandfather, Joseph L. Dailey who was also originally from Indiana, moved to Albuquerque. He wrote Ernie’s will. Must have been 1944 or 1945. My mother remembers him meeting Ernie Pyle at his house on Girard for this purpose. Albuquerque had a memorial for him and my grandfather spoke. Because my grandfather died when I was too young to remember him, when I discovered a recording of him speaking at the memorial located at the University of New Mexico library, I was thrilled to hear his voice.

  30. My father was Army Infantry anti tank gunner in No Africa and then Italy. He had so much respect for Ernie Pyle. I still have his books he bought to try to explain to Mom what he had gone through because he couldn’t talk about it. Pyle had a gift on not only writing about what he saw but capturing the gritty details of battles while respecting those who fought. A national treasure.

  31. My father, John William Johnson, Jr., was an 18 year old sailor on the Augusta on D Day. On the 50th anniversary of D Day I gave him a couple of books about the invasion, and I asked him questions about that time. He said that the men on the ship did not know what was going on, but they knew it had to be something big. There were several high ranking officers and Ernie Pyle on the ship, so they knew it was significant.

  32. I lived in Tokyo for many years and remember the theater. I was a child then but don’t remember if I actually went in.

  33. FYI
    …..Ernie Pyle’s house in Albuquerque is (and was the first) Public Library branch. It was my first ‘tourist’ stop after moving to the city. My Dad carried “Brave Men” with him in the ETO and ultimately to Japan during his time in the Army. He was slightly wounded in December 1944 in the ETO. He used the book to collect addresses of the men in his unit.

  34. While looking at my father in law’s photos of his time on Okinawa I found a snapshot of a cross with a solder crouched behind it. The cross says Ernest T Pyle. There is a plaque leaning on the cross. Is this where Ernie Pyle was buried? It looks very different from the picture above which is his death photo. It is in a field with trees off in the distance. Is this where he was buried?

  35. Ernie Pyle was not killed by a sniper. Ie Shima had not yet been fully secured on Apr. 18. The same machine-gunner who fired the first shots at the jeep in which Pyle and the three others were riding was the same man who fired the fatal round.

  36. HE WAS ONE OF THE BEST WAR CORRESPONDENT’S OF WORLD WAR TWO AND THE MOST POPULAR AMONG THE GI.’S AND MARINES. BELIEVE IT OR NOT I HAVE A BOOK OF HIS STORIES COPYRIGHTED 1945 SOME ONE HAD TAPED A REAL PICTURE IN THE BOOK OF EARNIE AND HIS PARENTS IT’S NOT A CUT OUT IT’S A PICTURE THAT SOMEONE TOOK OF HIM WITH HIS PARENTS IT WAS TAPED TO THE INSIDE OF THE BOOK. I BOUGHT THE BOOK AT A SALVATION ARMY THRIFT STORE 7 YEARS AGO.

    • Mike, I have a copy of a Ernie Pyle book entitled “Brave Men” also copyrighted 1945, that was handed down to me by my Dad! I suspect the book was scheduled to be released or was on hold temporarily, until his death may have jump started the release!! Since he died April 1945 & the book apparently released in 1945 I suppose it could have been either! The book I have is done in the “at war” format (I suspect yours is also), which is to say the conservation of paper meaning it was printed in double columns per page using smaller print! In this book Brave Men, he literally, over a great period of time, lived with & wrote stories about every branch involved in WWII, much of it about the personal lives of the military men & their exploits!! I have read & reread the book so many times but never, ever tire of reading it!! His writing style showed so much personal care about men & women who served!! Time to read it again!! Thanks for sharing!!

  37. I had a professor at Texas A&M in 1962 who was written about in one of Pyle’s books. He was known as “Satch” Elkins because he was a demolitions man. He said Ernie was a unique war correspondent because he stayed close to the men in the heat of battle. He talked with them and he fully understood what they were feeling.

  38. Very interesting and informative article. I have an interest in Ie Shima. My father was stationed there in 1945. He had been shot down in North Africa during operation Torch and after recuperating and teaching other pilots to fly in Naples, Florida he was asked by another officer if he would join up with his outfit in the Pacific. Another reason for my remembering this information is that I was born in Nov. 1945! It may be possible that my father was there at the time of Ernie Pyle’s death.

  39. When I was a young boy in Japan around 1953, some sailors from the USS Filippine Sea (docked in Yokosuka) took me to the ”Ernie Pyle Theater” in Tokyo. We watched Danny Kaye perform. I had no idea what any of it meant, but I enjoyed it very much. I still sometimes wonder what became of those openhearted and kind sailors.

  40. I heard about Ernie Pyle when I was a little girl. What an accomplishment for someone from the tiny town of Dana, Indiana, just down the road from the even tinier village of Scottland, Illinois, where my grandfather lived. I have read some of his articles and they are so close to the heart of what was happening.

  41. While visiting on Oahu Island, I had the awesome pleasure of touring the Punch Bowl Cemetery. I saw his grave twice. I had heard so much about him from my father, a soldier in World War II. Ernie Pyle was an inspirations to all. Thanks for a great article.

  42. This was a good read, especially the embedded articles Ernie had written for his newspaper columns in the months before his death. As and older guy, born just after WW II, I have had a great interest in knowing about it. I had a bother and two brothers-in-law who served in the PTO, one in the Navy and one in the Army. The one who served in the Army made 4 invasions in the South Pacific, from New Caledonia to Luzon during 42-45. The men enjoyed reading Pyle’s accounts in the papers when they could get one and would pass them around.

  43. I am so pleased to see this war correspondent hero come back to life. My brother worked at the Piqua Stone and Granite when Ernie died. My brother had the privilege to carve out his grave marker which is now in Honolulu. I also have a picture of Ernie with a few children in Guam. As it turns out. My brother, and a little girl in that photo, met each other, not knowing their connection to Ernie. My brother, John and MarieAnna married. We all cherish the memories of Ernie and his connection to our family. I still have the photos if there is any interest out there. Another brother, Alfred Stricker was in the Normandy invasion on June 7 1944. So much history!! Many thanks to the author of this site.

  44. I have been to Oahu, hi several times. Each time I go to Punch bowl cemetery to visit the grave of a friend and Ernie Pyle always a solemn experience

  45. Very interesting read.

  46. I was born December, 1939. My first memories are my grownups surrounding a big radio listening to the war news. And looking for rationed items when shopping with my Mom. I am lately very interested in Ww2. My step father was on a ship called the Locust (I think) during the Okinawa and South Pacific battles. He suffered from the memories of suicide bombers all his life
    Could you recommend Ernie Pyles writing I would learn from. Thanks everybody