Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Ernie Pyle: August 3, 1900 – April 18, 1945

Ernie Pyle died sixty-one years ago on Ie Shima in the Pacific.

Some of his best wartime columns can be found here, including his most famous one, "The Death of Captain Waskow."

My favorite, apart from the Captain Waskow column, are the three columns he wrote from the Normandy beachhead. One was the "The Horrible Waste of War":

"It was a lovely day for strolling along the seashore. Men were sleeping on the sand, some of them sleeping forever. Men were floating in the water, but they didn't know they were in the water, for they were dead.

"The water was full of squishy little jellyfish about the size of your hand. Millions of them. In the center each of them had a green design exactly like a four-leaf clover. The good-luck emblem. Sure. Hell yes."

In "A Long Thin Line of Personal Anguish" he wrote about the personal possessions of the dead, left on the Normandy beaches:

"Here in a jumbled row for mile on mile are soldiers' packs. Here are socks and shoe polish, sewing kits, diaries, Bibles and hand grenades. Here are the latest letters from home, with the address on each one neatly razored out - one of the security precautions enforced before the boys embarked.

"Here are toothbrushes and razors, and snapshots of families back home staring up at you from the sand. Here are pocketbooks, metal mirrors, extra trousers, and bloody, abandoned shoes. Here are broken-handled shovels, and portable radios smashed almost beyond recognition, and mine detectors twisted and ruined.

"Here are torn pistol belts and canvas water buckets, first-aid kits and jumbled heaps of lifebelts. I picked up a pocket Bible with a soldier's name in it, and put it in my jacket. I carried it half a mile or so and then put it back down on the beach. I don't know why I picked it up, or why I put it back down."

If you're ever in Albuquerque, be sure to visit the Ernie Pyle home, now a municipal branch library. It's beautifully preserved, has a memorial to Ernie on the grounds, and contains a large amount of memorabilia. More on that can be found here.


Wall Street Versus America was published by Penguin USA on April 6.
Click here for its Amazon.com listing and here for more information on the book, from my web site.

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