Ernie Pyle: “War makes strange giant creatures out of us little routine men who inhabit the earth.”

 

 

 

 

I wanted to share a bit about a ‘hero’ of mine (for lack of better words).  I am a student of journalism and love the work and character of Ernie Pyle.  Ernie Pyle was a journalist most influential in his coverage of the front lines of World War II. 

            Pyle started as a roving reporter traveling and writing to his readers sharing his experiences abroad.  Pyle was also an aviation reporter in the early days of flight.

            The reason Pyle was so loved by his readers was the personal approach he took in his reporting and interviewing.  He was soft spoken and a great listener and his interviewees very easily opened up to him.  In his personal style of writing he set his readers in the same place and experience he was witnessing himself.  His vivid, intimate reporting style found its highest purpose in war corresponding. 

            With the war taking place overseas many families were sending their sons, brothers and husbands to far away places and wanted to feel connected to them.  Pyle provided that connection. 

            Pyle’s reporting was more intimate and more focused on the daily lives of the troops than it was on the victories, movements and generals.  He would often comment on the strangeness of war.  Those back in the U.S. needed that connection to their loved ones.

            While reporting on the war Pyle lived and traveled with the troops on the front lines.  Pyle and the troops developed a affectionate relationship.

            Reporting on the front lines has its risks and after doing tours in Italy, Africa and all over Europe Pyle went on to report on the war in the Pacific and was killed by a Japanese machinegun bullet that went through his helmet.  At the time of his death, Pyle was so loved by the American public that it is felt by many that his death overshadowed the death of President Roosevelt just six days before.

            You must read his work.  Here are some samples:

           

                                   “This One is Captian Waskow”

                                   “A Dreadful Masterpiece”

                                   “The God-Damned Infantry”

 

 

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5 Responses to Ernie Pyle: “War makes strange giant creatures out of us little routine men who inhabit the earth.”

  1. Alex W. says:

    Stunning. Just stunning… his imagery of it all reminds me of the Band of Brothers mini-series. Rather, the series probably takes after his writing, and incredibly so. I’ll admit, reading that first one gave me a nervous twitch and put me right in there… under ‘moonlight’ and all!

    What do we have today that’s even close? It all seems so,… commercial. Excuse me for saying that, I know they’re wonderful correspondents today with interesting lives and all. Maybe we can look back three-four decades from now and reassess.

  2. Journalism styles change with time, going through phases in what is practiced and what is accepted. It moves from exaggeration, sensationalization of yellow journalism to the digging, probing and harshness of muckraking to a more “just the fact ma’am” style and back again. It can get pretty interesting reading news written in the past decades.

    Now, I feel we are in the “just the facts ma’am” stage of journalism and have been there a while. That may be why you are not reading Pyle-like articles in the papers. If Pyle’s work was put out in a paper today it might be considered slightly bias or at least not entirely objective with the sentimentality in his stories (I feel they would be more at home in a modern news magazine than they would be in a modern newspaper).

    Also, we are a different people and a different nation than the America of the 1940s. If Pyle’s “This One is Captain Waskow” was put in tomorrow’s paper about Iraq rather than WWII we would read it very differently than 1940s America read it.

  3. Alex W. says:

    Thanks for enlightening me! It’s cool to see such an over-arching cyclic process in national journalism. I do see Pyle-esque writing a lot of times in many Los Angeles Times feature articles. It’s great stuff. I think it’s about time for the tide to change in narrative reporting style… To that I say, bring it on Hector. make it happen! 🙂

  4. Alex W. says:

    I just wanted to say that I got a chance to see the grave of Ernest Pyle… did not expect it being on tour in Hawaii and visiting Punchbowl National Cemetary. It was quite a moment for me, knowing this name, this journalist, this soldier, and recalling his writings having read this post!

  5. […] As we walked along Punchbowl National Cemetary, our guide brought us by some of the notable names among those buried there. One that he explained quite briefly caught me right away: Ernest Taylor Pyle. Ernie was a solder of World War I, but it was during the second World War that he became known as a true gem of a journalist. Few have written in the manner that he has, and he captured the hearts of readers everywhere with his narrative style, having made his subjects so close and personal to the reader, allowing them to be enveloped in the circumstances and environment of his subject. I would not have caught this if it weren’t for my friend’s post on our community blog… thanks Hector! I encourage you to go and read it! […]

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