Feature Ernie Pyle's Writings

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Ernie Pyle's Writings

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Ernie Pyle's Typewriter

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During the Second World War, newsman Ernie Pyle became a household name by giving voice to the common foot soldier. Pyle reported from the front lines in North Africa and Europe. Pyle's final mission was to report on the invasion of Okinawa. It was the largest amphibious operation of the Pacific War and one of the most dangerous. It was here that Ernie Pyle was killed. Below are some of his reports from Okinawa.

LOOKS LIKE AMERICA

OKINAWA, April 10, 1945 – Since this island is the closest to Japan we’ve landed on and since we seem to feel this really is Japan, rather than just some far outpost, I’ll try to describe to you what it looks like.

Actually it doesn’t look a great deal different from most of America. In fact it looks much more like America than anything the Marines have seen for the last three years.

The climate is temperate rather than tropical, and so is the vegetation. There are tropical-like trees on and near the beaches – I think they’re pandanus bushes. But there are also many trees of the fir family with horizontal limbs.

The country over which my regiment passed during the first two days was cultivated. It rose gradually from the sea and was formed into small fields.

It didn’t look at all unlike Indiana in late summer when things have started to turn dry and brown, except that the fields were much smaller.

The wheat, which looks just like ours, is dead ripe in the fields now. The Marines are cutting it with sickles. In other fields are cane and sweet potatoes.

Each field has a ditch around its edge, and dividing the fields are little ridges about two feet wide. On top of the ridges are paths where the people walk. All through the country are narrow dirt lanes and now and then a fairly decent gravel road.

As you get inland, the country becomes rougher. In the hills there is less cultivation and more trees. It is really a pretty country. We had read about what a worthless place Okinawa was, but I think most of us have been surprised about how pretty it is.

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SETTLING IN

OKINAWA, April 27, 1945 - … Marines may be killers, but they’re also just as sentimental as anybody else.

There is one pleasant boy in our company whom I had talked with but didn’t have any incident to write about him, so didn’t put his name down.  The morning I left the company and was saying goodbye all round, I could sense that he wanted to tell me something, so I hung around until it came out.  It was about his daughter.

This Marine was Corp. Robert Kingan of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.  He has been a Marine for thirteen months and over here eleven months.  His daughter was born about six weeks ago.  Naturally he has never seen her, but he’s had a letter from her!

It was a V-letter written in a childish scrawl and said: “Hello, Daddy, I am Karen Louise.  I was born Feb. 25 at four minutes after nine.  I weight five pounds and eight ounces.  Your Daughter, Karen.”

And then there was a P.S. on the bottom which said: “Postmaster – Please rush.  My Daddy doesn’t know I am here.”

Bob didn’t know whether it was actually his wife or his mother-in-law who wrote the letter.  He thinks maybe it was his mother-in-law – Mrs. A. H. Morgan – since it had her return address on it.

So I put that down and then asked Bob what his mother-in-law’s first name was.  He looked off into space for a moment, and then started laughing.

“I don’t know what her first name is,” he said.  “I always just called her Mrs. Morgan!”

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This was Pyle’s last published column.

Published with the kind permission of the Scripps Howard Foundation.