America at war! (1941–) – Part 5

Mindanao Yanks near Davao Gulf

Rome awaits return of Duce

ROME, Italy (UP) – The Italian capital today eagerly awaited the return of its chief balcony performer Benito Mussolini whom patriots claimed to have captured in Northern Italy.

Confirmation of Mussolini’s arrest was still lacking, but the Italians were already planning his swansong performance in Rome – a trial for collaboration for which the penalty is death.

The Rome radio said that Mussolini and his cohorts captured with him would be tried by a people’s court. However, it was believed the United Nations War Crimes Commission might have something to say about that.

Editorial: Convincing evidence

Editorial: If this be perfectionist–

Editorial: ‘So long’

He squatted at his typewriter, struggling again to array a troop of sturdy words that would serve his mood.

There were many words in his mind; but the ones he wanted had to come from his heart. And his heart was brooding, for another of his friends was dead. As man to man, he wanted to call out, “So long,” in an hour when so many were dying, so many that anything less than death was beginning to seem incredible.

The words came from his typewriter, slowly, but firmly and sincerely. They spoke of the terror of death and the way it can grip a man; and at the end they said: “I know that he, like myself, had come to feel that terror.”

Ernie Pyle snapped shut the lid on his typewriter. His story was done. It proved to be his last. Ernie had said: “So long.”

And so, with great sorrow, we print Ernie Pyle’s final column today.

In San Francisco –
Edson: Gets stuck way up above ‘Peanut Heaven’

By Peter Edson

Ferguson: Learning charm

By Mrs. Walter Ferguson

Background of news –
Poland and Russia

By Bertram Benedict

Third annual good books week begins

Observance to be throughout world

Editorial: Woman prisoner shows fortitude and faith in God

By the Religious News Service

Monahan: Playing card drive gets underway

100,000 decks for servicemen is goal set by Local ‘40&8’
By Kaspar Monahan

Garrison: Jack Haley – Champ gloomy Gus

By Maxine Garrison

Millett: Busy wife has tiring task

By Ruth Millett

Staggering Bucs easy prey for Cubs

Paul Derringer gets third win in comeback – unearned runs blast Sewell in 7-3 loss

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

This is Ernie Pyle’s last column. It is a beautiful tribute to Fred Painton, war correspondent who died of natural causes on Guam a few weeks ago. Ernie was on Okinawa when he was informed of Mr. Painton’s death. Ernie took time out from covering the war to write this touching story about his friend. Only a few days later, Ernie was killed.

OKINAWA (by Navy radio) – This is a column about Fred Painton, the war correspondent who dropped dead on Guam a short time ago.

Fred wrote war articles for Reader’s Digest and many other magazines. He even gambled his future once writing a piece for the Saturday Evening Post about me.

Fred was one of the little group of real old-timers in the European war. He was past 49 and an overseas veteran of the last war. His son is grown and in the Army. Fred had seen a great deal of war for a man his age.

He was just about to start back to America when he died. He had grown pretty weary of war. He was anxious to get home to have some time with his family.

But I’m sure he had no inkling of death, for he told me in Guam of his post-war plans to take his family and start on an ideal and easy life of six months in Europe, six in America. He had reached the point where life was nice.

Fred Painton was one of the modest people; I mean real down-deep modest. He had no side whatever, no ax to grind, no coy ambition.

He loved to talk and his words bore the authority of sound common sense. He had no intellectualisms. His philosophy was the practical kind. He was too old and experienced and too wise in the ways of human nature to belittle his fellow man for the failures that go with trying hard.

Prided self on production

Fred didn’t pretend to literary genius but he did pride himself on a facility for production. He could get a thousand dollars apiece for his articles and he wrote a score of them a year. And his pieces, like himself, were always honest. I’ve known him to decline to do an assignment when he felt the subject prohibited his doing it with complete honesty.

Fred’s balding head and crooked nose, his loud and friendly nasal voice, his British Army trousers and short leggings were familiar in every campaign in Europe.

He took rough life as it came and complained about nothing, except for an occasional bout with the censors. And even there he made no enemies for he was always sincere.

There were a lot of people Fred didn’t like, and being no introvert everybody within earshot knew whom he didn’t like and why. And I have never known him to dislike anyone who wasn’t a phony.

Fred and I have traveled through lots of war together. We did those bitter cold days, early in Tunisia, and we were the last stragglers out of Sicily.

We both came home for short furloughs after Sicily. The Army provided me with a powerful No. 2 air priority, while Fred had only the routine No. 3.

We left the airport at Algiers within four hours of each other on the same morning. I promised Fred I would call his wife and tell her he would be home within a week.

When I got to New York I called the Painton home at Westport, Connecticut. Fred answered the phone himself. He had beat me home by three days on his measly little priority! He never got over kidding me about that.

Natural death seems incongruous

As the war years rolled by, we have become so indoctrinated into sudden and artificially imposed death that natural death in a combat zone seems incongruous, and almost as though the one who died had been cheated.

Fred had been through the mill. His ship was torpedoed out from under him in the Mediterranean. Anti-aircraft fire killed a man beside him in a plane over Morocco.

He had gone on many invasions. He was in Cassino. He was ashore at Iwo Jima. He was certainly living on borrowed time. To many it seems unfair for him to die prosaically. And yet…

The wear and the weariness of war is cumulative. To many a man in the line today fear is not so much of death itself, but fear of the terror and anguish and utter horror that precedes death in battle.

I have no idea how Fred Painton would have liked to die. But somehow, I’m glad he didn’t have to go through the unnatural terror of dying on the battlefield. For he was one of my dear friends and I know that he, like myself, had come to feel that terror.

This is Ernie Pyle’s last column. The Press has printed all the stories written before he was killed by Jap machine-gun bullets on Ie Island, off Okinawa.

For the second time in little more than a year, we publish with sadness and deep regret the final column of a great reporter and a splendid human being. In February 1944, we printed the last column of Raymond Clapper who, like Ernie, met death covering the Pacific warfare.

It has been suggested that The Press publish some of Ernie’s former columns. But we have done this in the past when he was on vacations, and another publication of those columns would, we believe, probably be something of a letdown after the stories which led to his death.

Hence, this is goodbye to Ernie. As he, himself, wrote in the concluding sentence of his book Here Is Your War:

“When we leave here for the next shore, there is nothing we can do for the ones beneath the wooden crosses, except perhaps to pause and murmur: ‘Thanks, pal.’”

Stokes: The big kid

By Thomas L. Stokes

Love: Lesson learned

By Gilbert Love

Are we coddling prisoners of war?

Disintegration of Germany hurts prisoners
By S. Burton Heath

‘Are you all right?’ Ernie asked of major just as bullet hit him

Pyle lived 2 or 3 minutes, officer said, but he was unconscious all the while
By Bryce Watson, USCG combat correspondent

This story just arrived. It tells of Ernie Pyle’s last words, and details of the ambush of which he was the victim. His last column is printed today, on this page.

ON THE IE SHIMA BEACHHEAD (delayed) – I watched a battered jeep return with the body of Ernie Pyle, bringing him 500 yards from the forward area.

The Ie Shima terrain is smooth here, looking like the Indiana farmland where he was born – except it is broken by lines of advancing tanks and tractors.

Maj. George H. Pratt, who was beside Ernie on that tragic instant, was sitting wearily in front of an abandoned Jap cave.

“Ernie Pyle,” Maj. Pratt said softly, “was worth two divisions as a morale factor alone.”

Ernie’s body had just been recovered from beneath the machine gun and sniper fire up ahead by John J. Barnes of Petersburg, Virginia. He was the driver of the jeep when it happened, and had remained with Ernie, pinned down by fire.

5 start out in jeep

The body was resting near Maj. Pratt. Ernie’s battledress was unpressed, his dusty shoes shielded from the sun by a poncho.

“He was one of the enlisted men really,” Maj. Pratt said.

When the jeep had started out, hours before, there had been four men in it besides Ernie – Dale Bassett from Denver, Colorado; Lt. Col. L. B. Coolidge of Helena, Arkansas; Barnes, the driver, and Maj. Pratt, who is from Eugene, Oregon. They were driving to the front lines.

Suddenly, a Jap machine gun opened up.

The swath of fire swung to the right and swept under the jeep which pitched to a halt.

Dive into ditches

All five men went into the ditches. Barnes dived to the left, the others to the right.

The machine gun swept back and forth across their positions.

“I looked to my left,” said Maj. Pratt. “Ernie looked at me and smiled. He raised up slightly and said: ‘Are you all right?’”

There had been a slight break in the firing. Just as Ernie Pyle asked his question, a burst got him.

Lives several minutes

“He went backward slowly,” Maj. Pratt said. “It was a head wound. Thank God he never knew what happened. It was two or three minutes before he was dead, maybe, but he was unconscious all the time.”

The machine gun was joined by sniper fire. All four men on the right side of the road managed to crawl away.

But Barnes had to remain until a special detail of infantrymen cleaned out the area, about four and a half hours later.

Then Barnes drove his flat-tired jeep back with Ernie’s body.

Voice breaks

As I talked to Maj. Pratt, his voice broke several times.

“He was so damned modest and human,” he said.

I walked toward the beach, to the temporary burial ground. Men were standing about, saying nothing.

There were other dead there. In death, Ernie Pyle was lying among the common, trudging foot soldiers – the brave men – he had glorified in life.

That Girl: Your memory of Ernie his reward

Saturday, April 28, 1945

The following statement to Ernie Pyle’s readers is published at the request of Mrs. Pyle:

To all of you who have tried to find words to express the grief in your hearts for the deeply personal loss you feel because Ernie has gone from us, I want to say I am one of you. Our loss is a common loss. Your letters and messages made me feel you had come to me for comfort – the comfort that Ernie had given you each day.

That he will live in your hearts forever will be his reward – his monument.