Editorial: Ernie Pyle – a great reporter and a patriot

Ernie Pyle was a war correspondent – the most famous, most revered war correspondent ever to take pen to paper. In his syndicated columns for the Scripps Howard newspaper chain, he told the story of World War II, viewing it not as a massive military confrontation pitting nations against nations but as a boots-on-the-ground fight for survival that placed young men at the crossroads of life and death, at the confluence of fear and courage.

Pyle didn’t romanticize the war – if anything, he was brutally honest in documenting its toll on life and limb – but he ennobled the men who fought and he honored their service and sacrifice. The Indiana native’s humane and insightful reporting earned him the respect and affection of not only the troops but also countless readers at home and around the world.

In commemoration of the 70th anniversary of D-Day – June 6, 1944, when allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, France, for one of the most pivotal battles of the war – the Scripps Howard Foundation and the Ernie Pyle World War II Museum in Dana, Indiana, have distributed three of Pyle’s most memorable columns. Two of the columns, D-Day success was a miracle and Walking on the beach amid the waste of war, are published in the June 2-8 issue of the Fort Worth Business Press. Both are also posted under the Opinion tab on our website, fwbusinesspress.com, along with the third column, Soldiers’ gear traces loss.

Beyond Pyle’s impeccable reporting and exquisite writing, the columns reveal a most remarkable and gratifying aspect of his war coverage – his unequivocal and unabashed patriotism, his unapologetic acknowledgement of which side he was on.

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“Now that it is over it seems to me a pure miracle that we ever took the beach at all,” Pyle wrote in the days after the Normandy invasion. “For some of our units it was easy, but in this special sector where I am now our troops faced such odds that our getting ashore was like my whipping Joe Louis down to a pulp.”

“We” took the beach, he said. “Our units.” “Our troops.”

Can you imagine such language from later generations of reporters whose curious definition of objectivity has so often made them seem determined to discredit America’s military and undermine our nation’s ability to wage war?

A fair and unfettered press is crucial to the preservation of democracy, of course, and no public institution is above scrutiny and criticism – even, and sometimes especially, the armed forces. But at a moment when a grateful nation pauses to reflect upon the heroic service of our country’s greatest generation in a war that saved the world from tyranny, it’s only fitting that we pay tribute as well to a great reporter of that generation – a reporter who understood the magnitude of the conflict he was covering, who understood the nobility of the principles his country was defending, and who proudly cast his lot with those who fought to keep us free.