Roving Reporter, Ernie Pyle

The Pittsburgh Press (August 12, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

Somewhere in Sicily, Italy – (by wireless)
All my life I have enjoyed being in hospitals (as soon as the original moaning-and-groaning stage was past), and my recent time at a frontline Army clearing station was no exception.

On the third day I was scared to death that I was well enough to leave. But the doctor looked thoughtful and said he wanted me to stay another day. I would have kissed him if he had been a nurse instead of a man with a mustache and a stethoscope.

That was the only trouble with the hospital – it didn’t have any nurses. In fact, we lacked a number of the usual hospital touches. We were hidden, inevitably, in an olive grove, and our floors were merely the earth. The toilet was a ditch with canvas around it. And if you washed, you did so in your own steel helmet. There were no such things as hospital pajamas or bathrobes. I arrived in my Army coveralls and left in my coveralls, and I never once had them off all the time I was there.

During the day they kept the sides of our tent rolled up, and it was pleasant enough lying there with nothing to do. But at night the tent had to be tightly closed for the blackout, and it became deadly stuffy. And all night long the litter-bearers would be coming and going with new wounded. It made an eerie scene in the dim glow of our single lantern, and sleep was almost impossible.

Doctor humors Ernie

So the last couple of nights we moved our cots outdoors and slept again under the wide starry skies of Sicily, and attendants brought our medicine out there in the dark. German bombers came over but we just lay there. Every morning a chaplain would come around with a big boxful of cigarettes, tooth powder and stuff.

The doctor had me on a liquid diet at first, but I gradually talked him into advancing me to a soft diet and finally to a regular one. That progression from liquid to soft to regular diet was one of the great experiences of my life, for believe it or not, all three diets were exactly the same thing – soup and canned tomato juice.

When I accused the doctor of duping me, he grinned and said:

Well, it comes under the heading of keeping the patient happy by pretending to humor his whims.

Happy! I was hungry! But as you see, I survived, and actually I must say I have never been treated more grandly anywhere than by those doctors and men.

During the time I lay at the clearing station with my own slight aches and pains, hundreds of wounded soldiers passed through on their way back to hospitals in the rear. I was in one of five small tents in which they were deposited on litters while waiting for ambulances, so I lay right among them for four days and nights. It couldn’t help but be a moving and depressing experience, and yet there was something good about it too.

Ward-boys always attentive

The two main impressions I got out of it were (1) the thoughtful and attentive attitude of the doctors and ward-boys toward the wounded men, and (2) the grand spirit of the wounded men themselves. I’ll write tomorrow about the second of these two.

As pitiful as wounded men are, it is easy to become hardened and cross with so many passing through your hands. You could eventually get to look upon them all as just so many nuisances who came deliberately to cause you more work. Yet the ward-boys treated their wounded as though they were members of their own family.

I paid particular attention as I lay there, and no wounded man ever made a request that a ward-boy didn’t go jumping to fulfill.

This was especially true of the ward-masters, who are responsible for whole tents. There were three that impressed me greatly.

One was Cpl. Herman Whitt, of Enid, Oklahoma. Before the war he was a salesman for a biscuit company. He married a beautiful Indian girl back home. Cpl. Whitt is tall, nice-looking, and talked very slowly and softly. He says he feels better about the war, doing this job of caring for the wounded than if he were up there killing people himself.

Our night ward-master was Cpl. Woodrow Cox of Milo, Oklahoma. He too is tall than six feet, and he was a ranch hand back home, yet his voice is almost like a musical instrument, and he talks with that snaillike Oklahoma drawl that is so soothing in times of excitement.

The third was Cpl. Rodney Benton, of 8030 West 5th St., Oklahoma City. You could see the difference between city and country in these boys. Rodney was all git-up-and-git. He talked faster and moved faster than the others. But all three had the same deep conscientiousness in their work and their feeling for the wounded.

Rodney is one of twins, and his identical brother Robert is a corporal in this division’s other clearing station. They are 23. Both had two years of premedical work at the University of Oklahoma, and they intend to be doctors. So you see they were in their glory here. In fact, they almost drove the doctors nuts asking questions all the time.

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The Pittsburgh Press (August 13, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

Somewhere in Sicily, Italy – (by wireless)
It was flabbergasting to lie among a tentful or wounded soldiers recently and hear them cuss and beg to be sent right back into the fight.

Of course, not all of them do. It depends on the severity of their wounds, and on their individual personalities, just as it would in peacetime. But I will say that at least a third of the moderately wounded men ask if they can’t be returned to duty immediately.

When I took sick, I was with the 45th Division, made up largely of men from Oklahoma and West Texas. You don’t realize how different certain parts of our country are from others until you see their men set off in a frame, as it were, in some strange, faraway place like this.

The men of Oklahoma are drawling and soft-spoken. They are not smart-alecks. Something of the purity of the soil seems to be in them. Even their cussing is simpler and more profound than the torrential obscenities of Eastern city men. An Oklahoman of the plains is straight and direct. He is slow to criticize and hard to anger, but once he is convinced of the wrong of something, brother, watch out.

They’re real fighters too

These wounded me of Oklahoma have got madder about the war than anybody I have seen on this side of the ocean. They weren’t so mad before they got into action, but now!

And these men of the 45th, the newest division over here, have already fought so well they have drawn the high praise of the commanding general of the corps of which the division is a part.

It was these quiet men from the farms, ranches and small towns of Oklahoma who poured through my tent with their wounds. I lay there and listened for what each one would say first.

One fellow, seeing a friend, called out:

I think I’m gonna make her.

Meaning he was going to pull through.

Another said:

Have they got beds in the hospital? Lord, how I want to go to bed.

Another said:

I’m hungry, but I can’t eat anything. I keep getting sick at my stomach.

Another said, as he winced from their probing for a deeply buried piece of shrapnel in his leg:

Go ahead, you’re the doc. I can stand it.

Another said:

I’ll have to write the old lady tonight and tell her she missed out on that $10,000 again.

Another, who was put down beside me, said:

Hi, pop, how you getting along? I call you pop because you’re gray-headed. You don’t mind, do you?

I told him I didn’t care what he called me. He was friendly, but you could tell from his forward attitude that he was not from Oklahoma. When I asked him, it turned out he was from New Jersey.

One big blond Oklahoman had slight flesh wounds in the face and the back of his neck. He had a patch on his upper lip which prevented his moving it, and made him talk in a grave, straight-faced manner that was comical. I’ve never seen anybody so mad in my life. He went from one doctor to another trying to get somebody to sign his card returning him to duty.

Dying men brought in

The doctors explained patiently that if he returned to the front his wounds would get infected and he would be a burden to his company instead of a help. They tried to entice him by telling him there would be nurses back in the hospital. But he said:

To hell with the nurses, I want to get back to fightin’.

Dying men were brought into our tent, men whose death rattle silenced the conversation and made all the rest of us grave.

When a man was almost gone, the surgeons would put a piece of gauze over his face. He could breathe through it but we couldn’t see his face well.

Twice within five minutes chaplains came running. One of these occasions haunted me for hours.

The man was still semi-conscious. The chaplain knelt down beside him and two ward-boys squatted nearby. The chaplain said:

John, I’m going to say a prayer for you.

Somehow this stark announcement hit me like a hammer. He didn’t say, “I’m going to pray for you to get well,” he just said he was going to say a prayer, and it was obvious to me that he meant the final prayer. It was as though he had said:

Brother, you may not know it, but your goose is cooked.

Then he died all alone

He said a short prayer, and the weak, gasping man tried in vain to repeat the words after him. When he had finished, the chaplain added:

John, you’re doing fine, you’re doing fine.

Then he rose and dashed off on some other business, and the ward-boys went about their duties.

The dying man was left utterly alone, just lying there on his litter on the ground, lying in an aisle, because the tent was full. Of course, it couldn’t be otherwise, but the awful aloneness of that man as he went through the last few minutes of his life was what tormented me. I felt like going over and at least holding his hand while he died, but it would have been out of order and I didn’t do it. I wish now I had.


Although no human was with the dying soldier, he was not alone. However, Ernie’s statement that he should have gone to the dying soldier highlights his humanity and compassion. I suspect he became somewhat accustomed to death while on the battlefield and his hospital stay sensitized him to the cost of war.


The Pittsburgh Press (August 14, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

Somewhere in Sicily, Italy – (August 11, by wireless)
Probably it isn’t clear to you just how the Army’s setup for the care of the sick and wounded works on a battlefront. So, I’ll try to picture it for you.

Let’s take the medical structure for a whole division, such as the 45th, which I have been with recently. A division runs roughly 15,000 men. And almost 1,000 of that number are medical men.

To begin right at the front, three enlisted medical-aid men go along with every company. They give what first aid they can on the battlefield. Then litter-bearers carry the wounded back to a battalion aid station.

Sometimes a wounded man is taken back right away. Other times he may be pinned down by fire so that the aid men can’t get to him, and he will have to lie out there for hours before help comes. Right there in the beginning is the biggest obstacle, and the weakest feature of the Army’s medical setup.

Once a soldier is removed from the battlefield, his treatment is superb. The battalion aid station is his first of many stops as he is worked to the rear, and finally to a hospital. An aid station is merely where the battalion surgeon and his assistant happen to be. It isn’t a tent or anything like that – it’s just the surgeon’s medical chest and a few stretchers under a tree. Each station is staffed by two doctors and 36 enlisted men. They are very frequently under fire.

Clearing stations leapfrog

At an aid station a wounded man gets what is immediately necessary, depending on the severity of his wounds. The idea all along is to do as little actual surgical work as possible, but at each stop merely to keep a man in good enough condition to stand the trip on back to the hospital, where they have full facilities for any kind of work. Hence if a soldier’s stomach is ripped open, they do an emergency operation right at the front but leave further operating to be done at a hospital. If his leg is shattered by shrapnel, they bind it up in a metal rack, but the operating and setting isn’t done till he gets back to the hospital. They use morphine and blood plasma copiously at the forward stations to keep sinking men going.

From the battalion aid station, the wounded are taken by ambulance, jeep, truck or any other means back to a collecting station. This is a few tents run by five doctors and a hundred enlisted men, anywhere from a quarter of a mile to several miles behind the lines. There is one collecting station for each regiment, making three to a division.

Here they have facilities for doing things the aid station can’t do. If the need is urgent, they redress the wounds and give the men more morphine, and they perform quite a lot of operations. Then the men are sent by ambulance on back to a clearing station.

The 45th Division has two clearing stations. Only one works at a time. While one works, the other takes a few hours’ rest, then leapfrogs ahead of the other one, sets up its tents and begins taking the patients. In emergencies, both clearing stations work at once, temporarily abandoning their rest-and-leapfrog routine.

All these various crews – the company aid men, the battalion aid station, the collecting station, and the clearing station – are all part of the division. They move with it, fight when it does, and rest when it does.

Stations can move quickly

Then back to the clearing stations the hospitals begin. The first hospitals are usually 40 miles or more back of the fighting. The hospitals are separate things. They belong to no division, but take patients from everywhere.

They get bigger as you go back, and in the case of Sicily patients are evacuated from the hospitals right onto hospital ships and taken back to still bigger hospitals in Africa.

The main underlying motive of all frontline stations is to get patients evacuated quickly and keep the decks clear so they will always have room for any sudden catastrophic run of battle casualties.

A clearing station such as the one I was in is really a small hospital. It consists of five doctors, one dentist, one chaplain, and 60 enlisted men. It is contained in six big tents and a few little ones for the fluoroscope room, the office, and so forth. Everybody sleeps outdoors on the ground, including the commanding officer. The mess is outdoors under a tree.

The station can knock down, move, and set up again in an incredibly short time. They are as proficient as a circus. Once, during a rapid advance, my station moved three times in one day.

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The Pittsburgh Press (August 16, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

Somewhere in Sicily, Italy – (by wireless)
Army ambulances carry four stretchers each, or nine sitting wounded. When they reach a clearing station, they back up to the surgical tent and unload.

The men lie there on their stretchers on the floor of the tent while the aid men look at their medical tags to see how severe the wounds are, in order to handle the worse ones first. Those who don’t need further attention are carried right on through to the ward tents to wait for the next ambulance going back to a hospital.

Those who have graver wounds are carried into the operating room. Two big Army trunks sit upended there on the dirt floor. The trunks contain all kinds of surgical supplies in drawers. On top of each trunk is fastened a steel rod which curves up at each end. The wounded man is carried in his litter and set on these two trunks. The curved rods keep him from sliding off. Thus, his litter forms his operating table.

A portable surgical lamp stands in a tripod over the wounded man. A little motor and generator outside the tent furnish power, but usually the doctors just use flashlights. One or two surgeons in coveralls or ordinary uniform bend over the man and remove his dressings. Medical-aid men crowd around behind, handing them compresses or bandages with steel forceps from a sterile cabinet. Other aid men give the patient another shot of morphine or inject blood plasma or give him a drink of water from a tin cup through a rubber tube they put in his mouth.

Lots of morphine used

Incidentally, one of the duties of the surgical ward-boys is to keep the sweat wiped off the surgeon’s face so it won’t drop down onto the wound.

Just outside the surgical tent is a small trench filled with bloody shirt sleeves and pant legs the surgeons have snipped off wounded men in order to get at the wounds more quickly. The surgeons redress the wounds, and sprinkle on sulfanilamide powder. Sometimes they poke for buried shrapnel, or recompress broken arteries to stop the flow of blood, or inject plasma if the patient is turning pale.

They don’t give general anesthesia here. Occasionally they give a local, but usually the wounded man is so doped up with morphine by the time he reaches here he doesn’t feel much pain. The surgeons believe in using lots of morphine. It spares a man so much pain and consequently relieves the general shock to his system.

Wounds hard to look at

On my third day at the clearing station, when I was beginning to feel better, I spent most of my time around this operating table. As they would undress each new wound, I held firmly to a lamp bracket above my head, for I was still weak and I didn’t want to disgrace myself by suddenly keeling over at the sight of a bad wound.

Many of the wounds were hard to look at, and yet Lt. Michael de Giorgio said he had never seen a human body so badly smashed up in Sicily as he had in traffic accidents back in New York, where he practiced.

One stalwart fellow had caught a machine-gun bullet right alongside his nose. It had made a small clean hole and gone clear through his cheek, leaving a larger hole just beneath his ear as it came out. It gave you the willies to look at it, yet the doctors said it wasn’t serious at all and would heal with no bad effects.

The nerviest fellow I saw had two big holes in his back. You could have put your whole hand in either one of them. As the surgeons worked on him, he lay on his stomach and talked a blue streak.

‘Got five’ with a grenade

He said:

I killed five of the sonsabitches with a hand grenade just before they got me. What made me so damn mad was that I was just out of reach of my rifle and couldn’t crawl over to it, or I’da got five more of them. Jeez, I’m hungry! I ain’t had nothing to eat since yesterday morning.

But most of the wounded say nothing at all when brought in – either because they see no acquaintances to talk to or because they’re too weak from their wounds or too dopey from morphine. Of the hundreds that passed through while I was there, I never heard but one man groaning with pain.

Another thing that struck me, as the wounded came through in a ceaseless stream on their stretchers, was how dirt and exhaustion reduce human faces to such a common denominator. It got so everybody they carried in looked alike. The only break in the procession of tired and dirty men who all looked exactly alike would be when an extreme blond was carried in. His light hair would seem like a flower in a row of weeds.


The Pittsburgh Press (August 17, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

Somewhere in Sicily, Italy – (by wireless)
Every day at the front produces its quota of freak wounds and hairbreadth escapes. Almost any wounded man has missed death by a matter of inches. Sometimes a bullet can go clear through a man and not hurt him much, while at other times an infinitesimal fragment of a shell can pick out one tiny vital spot and kill him.

Bullets and fragments do crazy things. Our surgeons picked out more than 200 pieces of shrapnel from one fellow. There was hardly a square inch of him, from head to toe, that wasn’t touched. Yet none of them made a vital hit, and the soldier will live.

I remember one soldier who had a hole in the front of his leg just below the hip. It was about the size of a half dollar. It didn’t look bad at all, yet beneath that little wound the leg bone was shattered and arteries were severed, and the surgeons were working hard to get the arteries closed so he wouldn’t bleed to death.

Another fellow I saw had caught a small shell fragment in the wrist. It had entered at a shallow angle and gone clear up the arm to the elbow, and remained buried there. The skin wasn’t even broken at the elbow, but right over the spot where the fragment stopped was a blister as big as a pigeon egg. The blister had been generated by the terrific heat of that tiny piece of metal.

Welding by artillery

That’s one thing most people don’t realize – that fragments from bursting shells are white-hot. I remember an impressive example that happened on our ship during an air raid just before we left Africa. A heavy bomb hit about 100 yards away. Among the many fragments that hit our ship was one about half as big as a tennis ball. It first struck a bronze water pipe along the ship’s rail, then tore through a steel bulkhead into the radio room, hit a sailor in the shoulder, turned at right angles and went through a radio set, and finally went through one more steel bulkhead before it stopped.

When we picked up the fragment, it had a quarter-inch plate of solid bronze welded on one side of it. The fragment’s intense heat had simply welded on a sheet of bronze as it went through the water pipe at the rail. It was welded as solidly as though it had been done on purpose.

They’ve got the medicine

Here in northern Sicily, it is all hill fighting, as it was in northern Tunisia, only worse. Getting the wounded out is often a problem. We had one wounded man who had been lowered by ropes over a sheer 75-foot cliff. He said he wasn’t so concerned about his wounds, but the thought that maybe the rope would break gave him the worst scare of his life.

German medical facilities are apparently as good as ours. Medical supply dumps that we captured show that they are well-supplied with the finest stuff.

We know that their system for collecting their wounded and burying their dead is good, for it is only after the most sudden and rapid advances on our part that we find their dead unburied.

We have captured several big Italian medical dumps. Our doctors found our surgical instruments far superior to the Italians’, but both the Germans and the Italians have bandages and compresses that are better than ours.

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The Pittsburgh Press (August 18, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

Somewhere in Sicily, Italy – (by wireless)
We had many kinds of human beings among the wounded in our clearing-station tent during the time I spent there.

We had a couple of slightly wounded Puerto Ricans, one of whom still carried his guitar and sat up on his stretcher and strummed on it ever so lightly. There were full-blooded Indians, and Negroes, and New York Italians, and plain American ranch hands, and Spanish-Americans from down Mexico way.

There were local Sicilians who had been hit by trucks. There was a captured Italian soldier who said his own officers had shot him in the face for refusing to attack. There were two American aviators who had been fished out of the sea. There were some of our own medics who had been wounded as they worked under shellfire.

There was one German soldier who had been shot apparently while trying to escape to Italy in a small boat. He was young, thin and scared to death. He objected furiously to being given a shot of morphine, apparently thinking we were torturing him. Then when he discovered he was being treated exactly like everybody else, his amazement grew. You could see bewilderment and gratitude in his face when the ward-boys brought him water and then food. And when, finally, the chaplain, making his morning rounds, gave him cigarettes, candy, toothpowder and soap, the same as all the rest, he sat up grinning and played with them as if he were a child on Christmas morning.

It took him five minutes to find out how to get the cellophane wrapper off his pack of cigarettes, and our whole tent stopped to watch in amusement.

Overboard for blood plasma

Some of the wounded were sick at the stomach. One tough-looking New York Italian, faint with malaria, tried to crawl outside the tent to be sick but passed out cold on the way. He was lying there on the ground in his drawers, yellow as death, when we noticed him. They carried him back, and 10 minutes later, he was all over his sudden attack and as chipper as anybody.

Some were as hungry as bears. Others couldn’t eat a bite. One fellow, with his shattered arm sticking up at right angles in its metal rack, gobbled chicken-noodle soup that a ward-boy fed him while the doctor punched and probed at his other arm to insert the big needle that feeds blood plasma.

And while we are on the subject of plasma, the doctors asked me at least a dozen times to write about plasma. They said:

Write lots about it, go clear overboard for it, say that plasma is the outstanding medical discovery of the war.

So, I beg you folks back home to give and keep on giving your blood. We’ve got plenty on hand here now, but if we ever run into mass casualties such as they have on the Russian front, we will need untold amounts of it.

They say plasma is absolutely magical. They say scores of thousands who died in the last war could have been saved by it. Thousands have already been saved by it in this war.

They cite case after case where a wounded man was all but dead and, within a few minutes after a plasma injection, would be sitting up and talking, with all the life and color back in his face.

The doctors asked me to repeat what you have been told so many times already – that it doesn’t make any difference what type your blood is, and that the normal person has no ill or weakening effects from giving his blood.

Doctors work ghastly hours

A frontline clearing station is made up of doctors and men who were ordinary, normal people back home. But here they live a rough-and-tumble life. They sleep on the ground, work ghastly hours, are sometimes under fire, and handle a flow of wounded that would sicken and dishearten a person less immune to it.

They’ll get little glory back home when it’s all over, but they have some recompense right here in the gratitude of the men they treat. Time and again as I lay in my tent, I heard wounded soldiers discussing among themselves the wonderful treatment they had had at the hands of the medics.

I have written already about some of the enlisted men of this clearing station, so before finishing, I’ll give you the doctors’ names. This is one of the few clearing stations that are a part of the 45th Division.

The station commandant is Capt. Carl Carrico of 2408 Reba Drive, Houston, Texas. His wife and eight-year-old boy are in Houston. He is a slow, friendly man, speckled all over with big red freckles, who takes his turn at surgery along with the others. He usually works in coveralls.

The other surgeons are Capt. Carson Oglesbee of Muskogee, Oklahoma; Capt. Leander Powers of Savannah, Georgia; Capt. William Dugan of Hamburg, New York, and Lt. Michael de Giorgio of New York.

The station’s medical doctor is Capt. Joe Doran of Iowa City. The dentist is Capt. Leonard Cheek of Ada, Oklahoma. And the chaplain is Lt. Arthur Mahr, formerly of the First United Lutheran Church, Indianapolis. Other chaplains of the division are frequently around inquiring for men of their outfits or giving last rites.

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The Pittsburgh Press (August 19, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

This is the first of a series of articles on the general who has been in the frontlines leading the American charge across Sicily.

Somewhere in Sicily, Italy – (by wireless)
As all of you who have followed this column know, we have kept our pen pointed mainly at the common soldier – the well-known G.I. – for lo, these many months, and let the exalted high command shift for itself. But now for the next few days, we are going to reverse things and write about an American general.

This is because he is pretty important, but not very well known to the public, and because I thought you might feel a little better if you knew what kind of man was in direct charge of your boys who have been doing the fighting in Sicily.

The man I speak of is Lt. Gen. Omar Nelson Bradley, who is the head of a corps of the U.S. Army.

Gen. Bradley is what you might call third in the American command over here. Gen. Eisenhower is at the top of everything. Lt. Gen. George S. Patton Jr. is the head man for our forces in Sicily. And Lt. Gen. Bradley commands the corps which has been making the main effort.

Gen. Bradley has been written about very little, and would continue to be written about very little if he had his way. He is innately modesty and humble and, on top of that, he knows that too much publicity can sometimes wreck a man’s career. But he also realizes that when a soldier is in such a position as his, he more or less becomes public property. So, he has consented graciously to my doing this series about him.

I make no bones about the fact that I am a tremendous admirer of Gen. Bradley. I don’t believe I have ever known a person to be so unanimously loved and respected by the men around and under him. In writing of him, it would be easy to slip into embarrassing overpraise, so I will try deliberately to avoid that.

Gen. Bradley came to Africa in mid-February and joined the frontline troops at Gafsa in central Tunisia, during the bitter fighting at El Guettar. He was deputy corps commander then, under Gen. Patton.

After El Guettar, Gen. Patton was called back to work on the preparations for the Sicilian invasion, and Gen. Bradley was put in command of a corps for the final great phase of our fight in northern Tunisia.

He handled that campaign so well that after it was over, he was promoted to lieutenant general, given a Distinguished Service Medal, and decorated twice by the French. He has continued to command a corps through the Sicilian campaign, and again he has handled it with distinction. Nobody knows what lies ahead for him, but we who have seen him work cannot believe that his path leads anywhere but upward.

When Gen. Bradley first showed up at Gafsa, he hardly said a word for two weeks. He just worked around, absorbing everything and getting acquainted, telling everybody to keep on doing his job just as he had been doing. In fact, he hasn’t said very much right up to this moment. Yet, after a few weeks, his influence began to be felt, and gradually, before anyone was hardly aware of it, he had this corps in the palm of his hand, and every man in it would now go to hell and back for him.

One day a colonel stopped me under a tree and said this about the general:

He has the greatness of simplicity and the simplicity of greatness.

A second lieutenant friend of mine who has served with the Canadians and twice been decorated for bravery told me this:

He is the finest officer, without exception, that I have ever served under.

And now and then you’ll hear a correspondent remark something like this:

Say, that Bradley is my man. I think he’s an old fox.

They always say it as if they were startled and quite pleased by their own sagacity at suddenly having discovered it.

But Gen. Bradley isn’t an old fox at all. He is too direct to be a fox. If he has two outstanding traits, they are simplicity and honesty. There is no pretense about him, either in method or in personality. He is just what he is, and that happens to be a plain Midwesterner with common sense and common honesty, who has studied and practiced all his adult life for the job he is doing now. And he is doing it in just the same calm way he would play a game of bridge or drive a car to the station.

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The Pittsburgh Press (August 20, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

Somewhere in Sicily, Italy – (by wireless)
Lt. Gen. Omar Nelson Bradley is 50. He is married, and has a daughter who is the apple of his eye.

Mrs. Bradley is living at West Point for the duration, as are the wives of several other generals in this area. Their daughter, Elizabeth, who is 19, will be a senior at Vassar this fall. It’s only 30 miles from Vassar to West Point, so she can be with her mother for weekends.

Each of them writes to the general about three times a week, so on the average, he gets about one letter a day from home. They usually write him V-letters.

He writes back about twice a week, although during hard campaigns, two or three weeks sometimes get by without his having time to write. When he does write, he pecks out the letters on a portable typewriter, using a very proficient two-finger system.

Elizabeth is majoring in French at Vassar, and this summer she had the ecstatic experience of talking to Gen. Henri Giraud in his own language and asking him about her father, whom Giraud had seen just before leaving Africa. Gen. Bradley, incidentally, doesn’t speak any foreign language.

‘Second greatest general’

The whole Bradley family is devout in its esteem for Gen. George C. Marshall, the Army’s Chief of Staff. When Gen. Bradley got his third star, Elizabeth wrote him a letter of congratulations in which she said they knew he was “the greatest general in the world – next to Gen. Marshall.”

Gen. Bradley is a tall man, who seems thin although he weighs 182 pounds. His legs are long and he is a terrific walker. Recently, Hanson Baldwin did a piece about him in The New York Times which Mrs. Bradley wrote her husband was “an excellent piece except he called you medium height, which makes me furious.” Actually, the general is just half an inch under 6 feet, in his socks.

The general is deeply tanned. He is getting bald on top, and the rest of his hair is cut short and speckled with gray. His head flares out above the ears more than the average man’s, giving him a “dome” and an air of erudition. He wears faintly tinted tortoise-rimmed glasses.

It would be toying with the truth to call him handsome, instead of good-looking. His face shows the kindness and calmness that lie behind it.

To me, Gen. Bradley looks like a schoolteacher rather than a soldier. When I told him that, he said I wasn’t so far wrong, because his father was a country schoolteacher and he himself has taught at West Point and other places. His specialty was mathematics.

The general doesn’t smoke at all. He takes his cigarette rations and gives them away. He drinks and swears in great moderation. There is no vulgarity in his speech. Back home, he says, he and Mrs. Bradley probably took one drink a month before supper. Over here, where liquor is hard to get, he drinks hardly ever, but he does pour a dust-cutting libation for visitors who show up at suppertime. He has three bottles of champagne that somebody gave him, and he had been saving them for the capture of Messina.

The general’s voice is high and clear, but he speaks so gently you don’t hear him very far away. His aides say they have never known him to speak harshly to anyone. He can be firm, terribly firm, but he is never gross, nor rude. His quality of “ordinariness” puts people at their ease.

‘Makes you feel like a general’

A quaking candidate for a commission in the officers’ school at Fort Benning, Georgia, was once interviewed by Gen. Bradley, and when the soldier came out, he said:

Why, he made me feel like a general myself.

He is just the opposite of a “smoothie.” His conversation is not brilliant or unusual, but it is packed with sincerity. The general still has the Midwest in his vocabulary – he uses such expressions as “fighting to beat the band” and “a horse of another color.”

Gen. Bradley is a hard man to write about, in a way, just because he is so normal. He has no idiosyncrasies, no superstitions, no hobbies. He doesn’t collect seashells. He doesn’t read Schopenhauer. There is nothing odd or spectacular about him.

He laughs good-naturedly at small things and has an ordinary Midwestern sense of humor. One day at Sidi Nsir, after Gen. Eisenhower had been visiting there, Gen. Bradley walked into the room where his chief of staff was working and said:

Bill, Gen. Eisenhower says you’re out of uniform today.

The chief of staff – a colonel and an old friend of Gen. Bradley’s – was perturbed. He looked at his leggings, his necktie, his shirt – everything seemed all right to him. And then Gen. Bradley said:

No, no, it isn’t your clothes. You’ve got on the wrong insignia.

Whereupon he walked over, unpinned the eagle from the colonel’s shirt collar, and pinned on a star. That was his way of informing his friend he had been promoted to brigadier general.

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The Pittsburgh Press (August 21, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

Somewhere in Sicily, Italy – (by wireless)
About the only superstition Omar N. Bradley has ever shown was when he was promoted to lieutenant general in June, just after the fall of Tunisia.

He knew his promotion had gone to Congress. He saw it published in the papers, and even received letters of congratulation from Washington – yet he wouldn’t pin on his third star until the official orders were actually in his hand, some weeks later.

Gen. Bradley seldom gets nervous, and he is never excited. Once, here in Sicily, a sniper took a potshot at him as he was riding in a command car, whereupon the general and two enlisted men, armed only with carbines, got out of the car and started looking for the sniper. The sniper beat it, and they couldn’t find him.

On the day we launched our final victorious attack west of Mateur last spring, the general suddenly had nothing to do. He had planned and worked strenuously for weeks to prepare for it; but once it was underway, he could only wait in personal inaction. That day did make him a little nervous, so he called two young captains who were his aides and they started on a long walk. Back in the hills, far away from everything, they stopped and the captains threw rocks into the air while the general cracked them with his rifle. That was what he did while the battle was on.

Gen. Bradley is notoriously good with a rifle. He has a sergeant driver who has been with him for years, and one reason he likes him so much is that the sergeant is a crack shot too.

Baseball, golf, hunting hobbies

In his younger days, Gen. Bradley was very athletic. He was a second-string football man at West Point and a regular on the baseball team. Baseball is his greatest love. He played left field for three years at the Point and back in the States, he never misses a chance to see a big-league game. He still holds the record for the longest baseball throw ever made at West Point. He has forgotten now how far it was, but he says it “gets longer” by legend every year.

He is a good golfer, and in peacetime usually played a couple of times a week. But when war was declared, he gave up golf for the duration.

He and Mrs. Bradley play bridge, and the general is a good poker player. He plays for moderate stakes and keeps a “poker fund” so that any losses can be paid out of that and not affect the family budget.

Hunting stands alongside baseball among his great loves. Back home, he had two bird dogs – Molly and Pete. When he came overseas, he gave Pete to an Army friend and Mrs. Bradley kept Molly. A third dog, named Tip, was 14 years old and died just before he left.

Back in Georgia, when he was commandant at Fort Benning, the general’s usual hunting partners were some of his enlisted men.

Hometown honors him

Gen. Bradley was born in Moberly, Missouri, on Lincoln’s birthday of 1893.

His hometown has recently named its airport after him, and while I was with him, he received a letter from Moberly in an envelope all decorated with printed slogans about the “Dedication of Bradley Field – Home of Lt. Gen. Bradley.” And there was a picture of him on the envelope. Gen. Bradley looked at it and said:

It looks funny to get a letter with your own picture on it, doesn’t it?

Bradley graduated from West Point in 1915. He rose to the temporary rank of major in the last war, but all his service was in the United States. Today he says:

I’ve spent 25 years trying to explain why I wasn’t overseas in the last war, so thank goodness I’ll be spared that this time.

They say that when he got orders to come overseas last winter, he was as happy as a bug. During his long Army career, Bradley served twice on the faculty at West Point, did one three-year hitch in Hawaii, spent many years at command schools preparing for just such a wartime job as he has now, and wound up in 1941 as a brigadier general in command of Fort Benning. There he expanded the Officer Candidate School, which last year turned out 40,000 new Army officers.

In February 1942, he was made a major general and assigned to the command of the 82nd Infantry Division. Later, he commanded the 28th Infantry Division, and he was on that command when ordered to Africa.

His permanent Army rank is that of colonel, and because of the fact that in achieving the wartime rank of lieutenant general, he was passed over many men his senior, he leans over backward not to say or do anything that would make it seem he felt in any way above them.

The Pittsburgh Press (August 23, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

Somewhere in Sicily, Italy – (by wireless)
Men who work under Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley say he is the fairest man they have ever known. There is absolutely no pretense about him in any way, and he hated ostentation.

He doesn’t fly his three-star flag except when formal occasions compel it. And his aides are full of stories about how he has hung in the background rather than call attention to himself by pushing up where he had a right to be. He doesn’t even own a Sam Browne belt or a dress cap.

Oddly enough, for a man so quiet and modest as he is, he doesn’t mind public speaking. He is no ringing orator, but after you listen to him for a while, his speech becomes powerful by its tone of intense sincerity.

During vital periods of each campaign, the general always comes to our correspondents’ camp and, in front of a big map, gives us a complete fill-in on the situation. When he first did this, we all liked him but weren’t especially impressed. But he grew on us just as he grows on everybody he works with, and today there isn’t a correspondent who doesn’t swear by him.

He isn’t easygoing

Despite his mildness, the general is not what you would call easygoing. Nobody runs over him. He has complete confidence in himself, and once he makes up his mind, nothing sways him. He is as resolute as rock, and people who work with him must produce or get out. They don’t get the traditional Army bawling-out from him, but they get the gate.

He has a nice quality of respecting other people’s opinions and of paying close attention to other people’s conversation. I have noticed that when he makes a phone call he always says “If you please” to the Army operator. And on the road, when an Army truck pulls out to let his three-star jeep pass, he always turns and says “Thank you” to the driver.

When he passes a bunch of engineers toiling and sweating to create a bypass around a blown-up bridge, he calls out, “You’re doing a nice job here,” to the startled lieutenant in charge.

The general rides around the front a great deal. During the campaign in northern Sicily, he averaged five hours a day in his jeep, and sometimes ran it up to eight. He laughs and says jeep riding is good for the liver.

A few times he used planes. He hopes to have a small plane of his own that will land practically anywhere, as it would save him hours each day.

On the front bumper of the general’s jeep is a red-and-white plate displaying three stars, and of course this draws a salute from every officer or soldier who is on his toes. In heavy traffic the general is returning salutes constantly. I told him that what he needed most was a little boy to do his saluting for him. He laughed and said:

Oh, that’s the way I get my exercise.

When he drives through a town the Sicilians all yell and wave, and the general waves back. Italian policemen, discharged soldiers, and even civilians snap up to the salute, and the general always salutes them back. Once in a while they give him the Fascist salute, out of old habit, and he returns that too, but in the American way.

He doesn’t affect a swagger stick, but he does sometimes carry an ordinary wooden cane with a steel spike in the end. It was given to him by former Congressman Faddis of Pennsylvania.

Hates to order bombing of city

Almost every day he visits the headquarters of each division that is in the lines. He says he could do the work by telephone, but by going in person he can talk things over with the whole division staff, and if they are planning something he doesn’t think is good, he can talk them around to seeing it his way, rather than just flatly ordering it done.

I stood with him one day on a high observation post looking ahead at a town where we were having very tough going. The Germans simply wouldn’t crack (They did later, of course). All of our officers, including the general, were worried. He said:

We’ve put enough pressure on already to break this situation, but still they hang on, so we’ll have to figure out some other way. Some commanders believe in the theory of direct attack, accepting a 30% loss of men and getting to your objective quickly, but I’ve tried to figure a plan for this to save as many lives as possible.

I said to him:

I never could be a general. I couldn’t stand up under the responsibility of making a decision that would take human lives.

And he said:

Well, you don’t sleep any too well from it. But we’re in it now, and we can’t get out without some loss of life. I hate like the devil to order the bombing of a city, and yet it sometimes has to be done.

In speaking of being bombed and of enduring the sadness of our own casualties, he said:

It’s really harder on some of the newer officers than it is on me. For although I don’t like it, after all I’ve spent 30 years preparing a frame of mind for accepting such a thing.

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The Pittsburgh Press (August 24, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

Somewhere in Sicily, Italy – (by wireless)
Gen. Bradley has around him at the front, in addition to his military staff of more than a hundred officers, a little official “family” and it really is like a little family.

It consists of his two young captain aides, his sergeant driver, his corporal orderly, and his brigadier general chief of staff, whom I’m not permitted to name.

The two aides are Capt. Chester Hansen of Elizabeth, New Jersey, and Capt. Lewis Bridge of Lodi, California. Both are 25, both graduated from college in 1939, Hansen from Syracuse University and Bridge from California Aggies. Their nicknames are Chet and Lew and that’s what the general calls them.

Both captains went through Officers’ Training School at Fort Benning when Gen. Bradley was commanding there and both came right out of the officers’ school into his family. They’ve been with him for 16 months and consider themselves the two most fortunate young officers in the American Army. They sleep in cots under a tree about 50 yards from the general’s truck, which is also parked under a tree since the general has an aversion to occupying buildings and usually keeps a command post in tents out in the open.

He drives just right

Around headquarters the two aides are on call constantly, but for jeep traveling with the general they take alternate days. Both are bright, understanding, likable fellows who worship at the general’s feet and do a good job representing him, in the same thoughtful manner he uses.

The general’s driver is Sgt. Alex Stout, of Port Barre, Louisiana, below Baton Rouge. Although he is only 23, he has been in the Army six years. He doesn’t, however, intend to make it a career. Recently, his grandmothers died and left him a fertile 275-acre farm and when the war is over, he is going back to farm it himself.

Sgt. Stout was married last Christmas Day. His wife is waiting back in Louisiana. He has a brother Noah who is a captain in the Army in Australia. Sgt. Stout has been driving for Gen. Bradley for two and a half years. He is so good that when the general reached North Africa, he sent back to the States for him.

Sgt. Stout takes meticulous pride in the general’s jeep. He has it fixed up with sponge-rubber cushions, and a built-in ration box under the back seat, and keeps it neat as a pin.

Gen. Bradley says having a good driver is important, for he relaxes while he’s riding and he can’t have a driver who annoys him by going too slow or one who keeps him tense by reckless driving. One night last winter, the general had a blackout driver who was so cautious and creepy he had to take the wheel himself and drive half the night.

An orderly orderly

Sgt. Stout is another devoted fan of the general’s. The sergeant says:

He does everything for you. I go to him with my headaches, go to him for advice, go to him for money. He treats me just like my own father does.

The general’s orderly is Cpl. Frank Cekada of Calumet, Michigan. Frank is the newest one of the general’s family, having been with him only since last March.

Frank says a colonel in Oran picked him for the job because he always kept himself looking neat and clean. He was driving a truck before he got this assignment. He had never been an orderly before but soon caught on. Frank’s duties are, as he puts it, “to keep the general happy.” He cleans the quarters, looks after the luggage while moving, and whenever he can’t find Sicilian women to do the general’s washing, Frank does it himself.

Frank is 24, and before the war was, of all things, a bartender. He says the general treats him like a personal friend and he hopes nothing happens to this job.

Gen. Bradley lives in an Army truck which has been fixed up like a tourist trailer. In the front end is a nice wide bed running crosswise of the truck, with a blanket bearing the initials of the U.S. Military Academy. Along one side is a desk with drawers under it. On the other side were a closet and washbasin. A field telephone in a leather case hangs on the end of the desk. There is a big calendar on the wall and each day is marked off with an x. There is a bookrack with four or five columns of military textbooks, one called Our Enemy, Japan, and a French grammar which the general never finds time to study.

On the front wall over the bed are painted the dates of the campaigns in North Africa, with the beginning and ending dates, and the Sicily with the invasion date.

He studies his map

We conjectured on what date the Sicilian campaign would end, and oddly enough the general’s date was a little farther off than mine. There are no pictures in the truck, no gadgets on the tables. The general has not sent home any souvenirs, in fact he has acquired only two for himself. One was a German Luger from Tunisia and the other a lovely Sicilian dagger with the Fascist emblem on the handle. On the wall opposite the table is a big map of this area of Sicily. It probably is the most important piece of equipment in the place.

The general sat there alone at night studying the map for hours, thinking and planning moves for the morrow over the frightful country ahead. There alone before his map many of the most important decisions were made.

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The Pittsburgh Press (August 25, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

Somewhere in Sicily, Italy – (by wireless)
At one time, in central Sicily, we correspondents were camped in a peach orchard behind the country home of an Italian baron. Apparently, the baron had skedaddled, as nobility is wont to do, before the fighting started. German and Italian troops had been occupying the place before we came.

The baron had built himself a big stone house that was pink and palatial, with a marvelous view over miles of rolling country. It had the usual royal peacocks strutting around but not a bath in the place. The dining room ceiling was hand-painted and the staircase gigantic, yet the royal family used porcelain washbowls and old-fashioned thundermugs. It was the perfect shabby rococo domicile of what H. R. Knickerbocker calls the “wretched aristocracy of Europe.”

While the baron lived in this comparative luxury, his employees lived in sheds and even caves in the big rocky hill just back of the house. They looked like gypsies.

Italians loot the house

When we arrived, the interior of the castle was a wreck. I’ve never seen such a complete shambles. Every room was knee-deep in debris. The enemy had thoroughly looted the place before fleeing. And servants gave us the shameful news that most of the looting and destruction was done by Italian soldiers rather than German.

They’d gone through the house shelf by shelf, drawer by drawer. Expensive dishes were thrown on the tile floor, antique vases shattered, women’s clothes dumped in jumbled heaps, pictures torn down, medicine cabinets dashed against walls, dressers broken up, wine bottles dropped on the floor, their contents turning the trash heap into a gooey mass as it dried.

It was truly the work of beasts. We tiptoed into the place gingerly, suspecting boobytraps, but finally decided it had not been fixed up. Then some of us rummaged around the debris seeing if anything left was worth taking as souvenirs. As far as I have seen, Americans have been good about not looting. Usually, they take only what is left from the Germans’ and Italians’ destruction or what the inhabitants voluntarily give them. All I could salvage were a few pieces of lace from the sewing-room floor.

Then we decided the dining room was the least messy place in the building, so we set to with grass brooms and shovels and water and cleaned it up. Thus, it became our press room. The Signal Corps ran wires from a portable generator to give us light so we could work by night.

One day, I was writing while all the other correspondents were away and a stray soldier peered in after having wandered in astonishment through the jumbled house.

He asked, “What is this place?”

I told him it was the former home of an Italian baron. His next question was so typically American you had to laugh despite a little shame at the average soldiers’ bad grammar and lack of learning.

A menagerie next door

He said:

What is these barons, anyway? Is they something like lords in England?

To avoid a technical discussion, I told him that for all practical purposes they were somewhat along the same line. He went away apparently satisfied.

Our orchard bivouac behind the castle was fine except for one thing. That was the barnyard collection that surrounded us. About an hour before dawn, we were always awakened by the most startling orchestra of weird and ghoulish noises ever put together.

Guinea hens would cackle, ducks would quack, calves bawl, babies cry, men shout, peacocks jabber and turkeys gobble. And to cap it all, a lone donkey at just the right dramatic moment in this hideous cacophony would let loose a long sardonic heehaw that turned your exasperation into outlandish laughter.

The baron’s servants were a poor-looking lot, yet they seemed very nice. Their kids hung around our camp all day, very quiet and meek. They looked at us so hungrily we couldn’t resist giving them cans of food. We tried to teach them to say grazia (thanks, in Italian) but with no success.

One day, some of us correspondents were doing our washing when one of the Sicilian women came up and took it away from us and washed it herself. When she finished, we asked her, “How much?”

They’re not lazy anyway

She said, “Nothing at all.” We said we’d give her some food. She said she didn’t expect any, that she was just doing it for us free, but we gave her some food anyway.

Stories like that are countless. The Army engineers tell me how the Sicilians would come up where they were working, grab shovels and start digging themselves and refuse to take anything for it. Whatever else you can say about them, the Sicilians don’t seem lazy.

One soldier summed it up when he said:

After living nine months with Arabs, the sight of somebody working voluntarily is almost too much for me.

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The Pittsburgh Press (August 26, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

Somewhere in Sicily, Italy – (by wireless)
The awarding of bravery medals is a rather dry and formal thing and I never heretofore bothered to cover any of these festivities, but the other night, I learned that three old friends of mine were in a group to be decorated, so I went down to have supper with them and see the show.

My three friends are Lt. Col. Harry Goslee, 3008 Neil Ave., Columbus, Ohio; Maj. John Hurley, 66 Rockaway Ave., San Francisco, California, and Maj. Mitchell Mabardy, of Assonet, Massachusetts. Goslee is headquarters commandant of a certain outfit, and Majs. Hurley and Mabardy are provost marshals in charge of military police.

They were camped under big beech trees on the Sicilian hillside just back of the battlefront. I went down about 5:30 and found my friends sitting on folding chairs under a tree outside their tent, looking through field glasses at fighting far ahead.

Any soldier will verify that one of the outstanding traits of war are those incongruous interludes of quiet that pop up now and then in the midst of the worst horror. This evening was one of them. Our troops were in a bitter fight for the town of Troina, standing up like a great rock pinnacle on a hilltop a few miles ahead.

That afternoon, our High Command had called for an all-out air and artillery bombardment of the city. When it came, it was terrific. Planes by the score roared over and dropped their deadly loads, and as they left our artillery put down the most devastating barrage we’ve ever used against a single point, even outdoing any shooting we did in Tunisia.

City seems to fly apart

Up there in Troina a complete holocaust took place. Through our glasses the old city seemed to fly apart. Great clouds of dust and black smoke rose into the sky until the whole horizon was leaded and fogged. Our biggest bombs exploded with such roars that we felt the concussion clear back where we were, and our artillery in a great semi-circle crashed and roared like some gigantic inhuman beast that had broken loose and was out to destroy the world.

Germans by the hundreds were dying up there at the end of our binocular vision, and all over the mountainous horizon the world seemed to be ending. And yet we sat there in easy chairs under a tree sipping cool drinks, relaxed and peaceful at the end of the day’s work. Sitting there looking at it as though we were spectators at a play. It just didn’t seem possible that it could be true. After a while we walked up to the officers’ mess in a big tent under a tree and ate captured German steak which tasted very good indeed.

Then after supper the six men and three officers who were to receive awards lined up outside the tent. They were nine legitimate heroes all right. I know, for I was in the vicinity when they did their deed.

Fire provides target

It was the night before my birthday and the German bombers kept us awake all night with their flares and their bombings, and for a while it looked as though I might never get to be 43 years old. What happened in this special case was that one of our generator motors caught fire during the night and it had to happen at a very inopportune moment. When the next wave of bombers came over, the Germans naturally used the fire as a target.

The three officers and six MPs dashed to the fire to put it out. They stuck right at their work as the Germans dived on them. They stayed while the bombs blasted around them and shrapnel flew. I was sleeping about a quarter of a mile away, and the last stick of bombs almost seemed to blow me out of the bedroll – so you can visualize what those men went through. The nine of them were awarded the Silver Star a few days afterwards.

The nine lined up in a row with Col. Goslee at the end. The commanding general came out of his tent. Col. Goslee called the nine to attention. They stood like ramrods while the citations were read off. There was no audience except myself and two Army Signal Corps photographers taking pictures of the ceremony.

Besides the three officers, the six who received medals were Sgt. Edward Gough, 2252 E 72nd St., Brooklyn, New York; Sgt. Charles Mitchell, 3246 3rd Ave., Brooklyn, New York; Sgt. Homer Moore, of Nicholls, Georgia; Sgt. Earl Sechrist, of Windsor, Pennsylvania; Pfc. Barney Swint, of Douglasville, Texas, and Pfc. Harold Tripp, of Worthington, Minnesota.

Both comical and pathetic

I believe the men went through more torture receiving the awards than in earning them, they were all so tense and scared. It was either comical or pathetic, whichever way it happened to strike you. Col. Goslee stared rigidly ahead in a thunderstruck manner. His left hand hung relaxed, but I noticed his right fist was clamped so tightly his fingers were turning blue.

The men were like uncomfortable stone statues. As the general approached, each man’s Adam’s apple would go up and down two or three times in a throat so constricted I thought he was going to choke.

The moment the last man was congratulated, the general left and the whole group broke up in relief and the men went separate ways.

As a spectacle it was sort of dull, but to each man it was one of those little pinnacles of triumph that will stand out until the day he dies. You often hear soldiers say:

I don’t want any medals. I just want to see the Statue of Liberty again.

But just the same you don’t hear of anybody forgetting to come around, all nervous and shined up fit to kill, on the evening he is to be decorated.

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The Pittsburgh Press (August 27, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

Somewhere in Sicily, Italy – (by wireless)
Yesterday I wrote about going down to see some old friends decorated for bravery. After it was over, we went back to the tent where one of them lives and sat there talking about old times and how good it was to get together again.

One officer had a bottle of champagne he had been saving for some occasion and since this seemed to be at least a good imitation of an occasion he got it out and we passed it around, the half dozen of us drinking it warm and out of the bottle. My palate has never been educated up to champagne and I’d just as soon have had a good swig of Bevo, but after all an event is an event and you can’t let your old friends down.

We sat out under the trees and a chill wind came up and somebody brought me a jacket to slip on. It had lieutenant colonel’s leaves on the shoulders and I suppose I could have been arrested for impersonating an officer, but I was in a nice position, having the head military policeman of the area sitting next to me, so I just flaunted my colonel’s leaves and hoped some stranger would come by to salute me.

Our host was Lt. Col. Goslee, of Columbus, Ohio. He calls himself a professional reserve officer as he has been on active duty for 10 years now. He was with us back in the first days at Oran, then got shunted off to another job and missed the fighting in Tunisia. But this summer he got switched back onto the main track again and lately he’s been making hay fast while the bombs fall.

Daughter asks for Ernie

Back home he has a wife, and a daughter of 15 who keeps writing him, the precious child, asking if he’s seen me. He also has a Dalmatian dog named Colonel who volunteered – or was volunteered – four months ago in the Dogs for Defense Army and is now serving somewhere in Virginia. Col. Goslee’s home flew two service stars in the front window – one for the man and one for the dog.

Dusk came on and we moved inside the tent so we could light our cigarettes. Our conversation drifted back to other days – Oran of last November and bitter cold Tébessa in January and the sadness of our retreat from Sbeitla and the chill sweeping winds of Gafsa and later in the spring the beauties of Béja and the final wonderful feeling of victory at Ferryville.

And we talked of how tired we had all gradually become, and nobody seemed like a hero who’d just been decorated for bravery. We talked of the miles we’ve covered and the moves we’ve made in the last nine months, of countries we’ve seen and how the whole war machine, though it grows dirtier and tireder month after month, also grows mature and smooth and more capable.

Bond with old friends

In this long time all of us over here have met thousands of different soldiers and officers. Yet those of us who became friends right at the very beginning in Africa or even back in England seem to have a bond between us as though we were members of a fraternity or a little family, and when you get back with each other again it’s comfortable and old-shoelike. We talked of people no longer with us – such people as Lt. Gen. Lloyd Fredendall and Maj. Ed Adkins, both on duty back in Memphis now. Ed, in his job as headquarters commandant, used to be a focal point of this little sitting-around group in Tunisia, just as Col. Goslee is in the same job here in Sicily.

Ed Adkins was a favorite and his name came up frequently in our conversation. He was crazy to get back to the States and we knew he’s happy there, and yet we laughed and prophesied that he reads these lines in a Memphis paper – reads how we were still going on and on, still moving every few days, still listening now and then for the uneven groan of the German night bombers, still fighting dust, darkness, and weariness and once in a while sitting around talking after supper, on cots in a blacked-out tent – when he reads about it, and visualizes us, he’s going to be so homesick for the front that he’ll probably cry.

They tell me all the soldiers who have been through the mill and have returned to America are like that. They get an itch for the old miserable life – a disgusting, illogical yearning to be back again in the place they hated. I’m sure it’s true, but I know a lot of soldiers who would like a chance to put that theory to the test.

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The Pittsburgh Press (August 28, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

Somewhere in Sicily, Italy – (by wireless)
If there were only a little more modernism and sanitation in Sicily, I think a good many of us would sort of like the place.

Actually, most of us feel friendlier toward the Sicilians than we did to the French in North Africa. And, in comparison with the Arabs – well, there just isn’t any comparison.

Nobody can deny that North Sicily is beautiful. It is mountainous, and all but the highest mountains are covered with fields and orchards. Many of the hillsides are terraced to prevent erosion. Everything is very old and, if it were only clean as well, it would be old in a nice, gentle way.

The north coast is a strange contrast to the south. On the south coast, the towns are much filthier and the people seem to be of a lower class. Coming from the south to the north, there is a freshness about the country and the people. The macadam road that follows the sea all the way from Palermo to Messina is a scenic one. I’ve heard a dozen soldiers say:

If you could only travel this road in peacetime, it would be a nice vacation, wouldn’t it?

Army buys Sicilian mules

The interior roads through the mountains are very few, mostly gravel and quite rough. All through the campaign, our troops had to use mules to get supplies up to them in the mountains, and three times during the battle, men went without food and water for as long as 60 hours. How they kept going is beyond me, but I’ve reached the point where nothing the infantry does startles me anymore.

The 3rd Division had more than 500 mules at the end of the campaign. They brought 30 burros with them from Africa, but discovered the burros couldn’t keep up with the infantry, so they had to abandon them for the stronger Sicilian mules. Most of the mules were pretty poor and we lost lots of them both by artillery fire and by plain old exhaustion.

Toward the end of the campaign, the division got so it hauled mules in 2½-ton trucks, right up to the foot of the mountains, so they could start their pack journey all fresh.

The American doughboy’s fundamental honesty shows up sometimes in comical ways. All through the campaign, the various Army headquarters were flooded with Sicilians bearing penciled notes, written on everything from toilet paper to the backs of envelopes saying:

I owe you for one mule taken for the U.S. Army on Aug. 2.


Actually, the appropriating of captured enemy equipment (including mules) for military use is legitimate and no restitution needed to be made, but the doughboys, in their simplicity, never thought of that.

Yanks sport German doodads

Captured supply dumps are impounded by the Army for reissue later but our soldiers often get in to help themselves before the Army gets there officially. For example, at one time practically every soldier you saw was carrying a packet of German bread – thin, brittle stuff that resembles what we call Ry-Krisp at home.

The soldiers seemed to like it or maybe it was just the novelty of the thing. The Germans, as usual, were well-equipped and we are now sporting lots of their doodads. Many of the officers’ outdoor field messes are now served with brand-new German folding tables and the diners sit on individual, unpainted German stools.

You also see quite a few officers sleeping in German steel cots with German mosquito-net framework above them. Speaking of mosquitoes, the summer heat and the lack of sanitation have begun to take their toll. Diarrhea is common, there is a run of the same queer fever I had, and a good many are coming down with malaria. In fact, the correspondents themselves dropped off like flies with malaria in the last weeks of the campaign. Usually, they went to the Army hospital for a few days until the attack passed, and then returned to work.

Our soldiers are very careless about their eating and drinking but you can’t blame them. One of the most touching sights to me is to see a column of sweat-soaked soldiers, hot and tired, march into a village and stop for rest. In a moment, the natives are out by the hundreds carrying water in glass pitchers, in earthen jugs, in pans, in anything, filling the men’s empty canteens. It’s dangerous to drink this water, but when you’re really thirsty, you aren’t too particular.

Ernie recovers on native food

Most of the time over here, I’ve approached native food and drink pretty much like a persnickety peacetime tourist who avoids all fresh vegetables and is very cagey about drinking water, but despite that, I came down with the fever. A couple of days after getting back to normal, I was hit with the “G.I.s,” or Army diarrhea.

Half of our camp had it at the same time. We all took sulfaguanidine, but still mine hung on. Then I moved into the field again with the troops, feeling like death, and getting weaker by the moment. One day we drove into a mountain village where the Americans hadn’t been before and the natives showered us with grapes, figs, wine, hazelnuts and peaches, and I finally said, “Oh, the hell with it,” and started eating everything in sight. And within two days I felt fine again.

MORAL: It worked once, but it’s a bad habit and you better not try it.

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The Pittsburgh Press (August 30, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

Somewhere in Sicily, Italy – (by wireless)
Outside of the occasional peaks of bitter fighting and heavy casualties that highlight military operations, I believe the outstanding trait in any campaign is the terrible weariness that gradually comes over everybody.

Soldiers become exhausted in mind and in soul as well as physically. They acquire a weariness that is mixed up with boredom and lack of all gaiety. To lump them all together, you just get damn sick of it all.

The infantry reaches a stage of exhaustion that is incomprehensible to you folks back home. The men in the 1st Division, for instance, were in the lines 28 days – walking and fighting all that time, day and night.

After a few days of such activity, soldiers pass the point of known human weariness. From then on, they go into a sort of second-wind daze. They keep going largely because the other fellow does and because you can’t really do anything else.

Dazed by weariness

Have you ever in your life worked so hard and so long that you didn’t remember how many days it was since you ate last or didn’t recognize your friends when you saw them? I never have either, but in the 1st Division, during that long, hard fight around Troina, a company runner one day came slogging up to a certain captain and said excitedly:

I’ve got to find Capt. Blank right away. Important message.

The captain said:

But I am Capt. Blank. Don’t you recognize me?

And the runner said, “I’ve got to find Capt. Blank right away.” And he went dashing off. They had to run to catch him.

Men in battle reach that stage and still go on and on. As for the rest of the Army – supply troops, truck drivers, hospital men, engineers – they too become exhausted, but not so inhumanly. With them and with us correspondents, it’s the ceaselessness, the endlessness of everything that finally worms its way through you and gradually starts to devour you.

It’s the perpetual dust choking you, the hard ground wracking your muscles, the snatched food sitting ill on your stomach, the heat and the flies and dirty feet and the constant roar of engines and the perpetual moving and the never settling down and the go, go, go, night and day, and on through the night again. Eventually it all works itself into an emotional tapestry of one dull, dead pattern – yesterday is tomorrow and Troina is Randazzo and when will we ever stop and, God, I’m so tired.

I’ve noticed this feeling has begun to overtake the war correspondents themselves. It is true we don’t fight on and on like the infantry, that we are usually under fire only briefly and that, indeed, we live better than the average soldier. Yet our lives are strangely consuming in that we do live primitively and at the same time must delve into ourselves and do creative writing.

That statement may lay me open to wisecracks, but however it may seem to you, writing is an exhausting and tearing thing. Most of the correspondents actually work like slaves. Especially is this true of the press-association men. A great part of the time they go from dawn till midnight or 2 a.m.

Grimy mentally and physically

I’m sure they turn in as much toil in a week as any newspaperman at home does in two weeks. We travel continuously, move camp every few days, eat out, sleep out, write wherever we can and just never catch up on sleep, rest, cleanliness, or anything else normal.

The result is that all of us who have been with the thing for more than a year have finally grown befogged. We are grimy, mentally as well as physically. We’ve drained our emotions until they cringe from being called out from hiding. We look at bravery and death and battlefield waste and new countries almost as blind men, seeing only faintly and not really wanting to see at all.

Just in the past month, the old-timers among the correspondents have been talking for the first time about wanting to go home for a while. They want a change, something to freshen their outlook. They feel they have lost their perspective by being too close for too long.

I am not writing this to make heroes of the correspondents, because only a few look upon themselves in any dramatic light whatever. I am writing it merely to let you know that correspondents, too, can get sick of war – and deadly tired.

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The Pittsburgh Press (August 31, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

NOTE: One of Ernie Pyle’s columns in the recent series on Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley was delayed in transmission and has just been received. It is published herewith.

Somewhere in Sicily, Italy – (by wireless)
It isn’t customary for anybody as high as a corps commander to get too close to the actual fighting, but Lt. Gen. Omar Nelson Bradley insists on keeping his command post up close, sometimes distressingly close, behind the frontlines.

Recently, he moved into a bivouac from which the artillery was still firing, with the result that he got a good working over by German dive bombers which were after our artillery.

One day we were riding in a jeep through hilly country and, just as we passed a hidden big gun at the roadside, it let off a blast right over our heads. It almost burst our eardrums and practically knocked us out of our seats. The general enjoyed telling for days how we almost got our heads blown off by our own gun.

Another day we were eating lunch at the command post of the 1st Infantry Division, then commanded by Maj. Gen. Terry Allen. It was in a big, old building close to the front, and Gen. Allen had a whole battery of his big guns right alongside the building. They blasted away throughout lunch, and the noise was deafening. They were so close that at every volley the building would shake, the table and dishes jiggle, the glassless window frames would rattle, and you could feel the blast sweep through the room.

After a little of this, Gen. Bradley turned to Gen. Allen and said:

Terry, could you arrange to have those guns shoot over the building instead of through it?

General goes by name of ‘Brad’

Gen. Bradley has a separate mess at his own command post, in a tent a few feet away from the regular mess. He has this separate mess because at almost every meal there are some visiting American or British generals there for discussions, and they need privacy and quiet while they eat. His table seats seven, and at each meal, Gen. Bradley has in one junior member of his staff in as a guest.

Generals as well as privates are human, and Gen. Bradley himself had one session with that famous Army occupational disease known as the “G.I.s” – or Army diarrhea.

On duty, the general is always spoken to as “General” or “Sir” by other officers. But I noticed that informally, such as at dinner, all the general officers call him “Brad.”

I rode and I sat around with Gen. Bradley for three days, and at times I was so engulfed in stars, I thought I must be a comet. From now on, a mere colonel will have to do a couple of somersaults to get me to look at him.

Ernie takes a kidding

As a result of all this hobnobbing with the high and mighty, I have taken considerable kidding from the other correspondents. When I returned to our camp, the other boys said:

Uh, huh – Pyle, the doughboy’s friend. Wait till all the mothers of privates hear you’ve started consorting with generals.

Every time I pass Hal Boyle, of the Associated Press, he says out of the corner of his mouth so I can hear it:

There goes that social-climbing columnist.

And Chris Cunningham, of the United Press, conjectures that if this keeps up, in a few weeks I’ll be sitting around with the correspondents making such remarks as:

Well, I told Omar that his battle plan wouldn’t work, but he insisted on trying it out anyhow.

And another one said:

We passed you on the road today and there you were riding with the big general, and bareheaded as usual when you know it’s against the rules.

So, I said:

Well, when I went with the general, I told him I couldn’t find my leggings, and didn’t like to wear a steel helmet, and was it all right? He said, “Okay.”

And then Chris chimed in and said:

That’s the way. There you go, taking advantage of the power of the press. You ought to be ashamed.

So, we have had a lot of fun about my sad tumble from a yearlong kinship with the common soldier down to the depths of associating with a general. But it was fine while it lasted, and if I must associate with generals, I know I picked a pretty good one.

But the ride is over, and tomorrow I’ll go back to sleeping under some strange tree again just like a dog. Damn it.

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The Pittsburgh Press (September 1, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

Somewhere in Sicily, Italy – (by wireless)
During the latter days of the Sicilian campaign, I spent all my time with the combat engineers of two different divisions.

For months I have been wanting to write about engineers and when I finally got around to it, it seemed as though fate had picked out the time for me – the engineers were in it up to their ears.

Scores of times during the Sicilian fighting, I heard the expression voiced by everybody from generals to privates that “This is certainly an engineers’ war.” And indeed it was.

Every foot of our advance upon the gradually-withdrawing enemy was measured by the speed with which our engineers could open the highways, clear the mines, and bypass the blown bridges.

In northeastern Sicily, where the mountains are close together and the valleys are steep and narrow, it was an ideal country for withdrawing, and the Germans made full use of it.

They blew almost every bridge they crossed. In the American area alone, they destroyed nearly 160 bridges. They mined the bypasses around the bridges, they mined the beaches, they even mined orchards and groves of trees that would be a logical bivouac for our troops.

Detector, bulldozer magic instruments

They didn’t fatally delay us, but they did give themselves time for considerable escaping. The average blown bridge was fairly easy to bypass and we’d have the mines cleared and a rough trail gouged out by a bulldozer within a couple of hours; but now and then they’d pick a lulu of a spot which would take anywhere up to 24 hours to get around.

And in reading of the work of these engineers you must understand that a 24-hour job over there would take many days in normal construction practice. The mine detector and the bulldozer are the two magic instruments of our engineering. As one sergeant said:

This has been a bulldozer campaign.

In Sicily, our Army would have been as helpless without the bulldozer as it would have been without the jeep. The bridges in Sicily were blown much more completely than they were in Tunisia. Back there they’d just drop one span with explosives. But over here they’d blow down the whole damn bridge, from abutment to abutment. They used as high as a thousand pounds of explosives to a bridge, and on one long, seven-span bridge they blew all seven spans. It was really senseless, and the pure waste of the thing outraged our engineers. Knocking down one or two spans would have delayed us just as much as destroying all of them.

The bridges of Sicily are graceful and beautiful old arches of stone or brick-facing, with rubble fill, and shattering them so completely was something like chopping down a shade tree or defacing a church.

They’ll all have to be rebuilt after the war and it’s going to take a lot more money than necessary to replace all those hundreds of spans. But I suppose the Germans and Italians figured dear old Uncle Sam would pay for it all, anyhow, so they might as well have their fun.

Nazis hit 2 high spots

Frequently the Germans, by blowing out a road carved out of the side of a sheer cliff, caused us more trouble than by bridge-blowing. In these instances, it was often impossible to bypass at all, so traffic had to be held up until an emergency bridge could be thrown across the gap.

Once in a while you would come to a bridge that hadn’t been blown. Usually that was because the river bed was so flat, and bypassing so easy, it wasn’t worth wasting explosives. Driving across a whole bridge makes you feel funny, almost immoral.

We have one whole bridge the Germans didn’t count on. They had it all prepared for blowing and left one man behind to set off the charge at the last moment. But he never got it done. Our advance patrols spotted him and shot the villain dead.

The Germans were even more prodigal with mines here than in Tunisia. Engineers of the 45th Division found one minefield, covering six acres, containing 800 mines. Our losses from mines have been fairly heavy, especially among officers. They scout ahead to survey demolitions, and run into mines before the detecting parties get there.

The enemy hit two high spots in their demolition and mine-planting. One was when they dropped a 50-yard strip of cliff-ledge coast road, overhanging the sea, with no possible way of bypassing. The other was when they planted mines along the road that crosses the lava beds in the foothills north of Mt. Etna. The metal in the lava threw our mine detectors helter-skelter, and we had a terrible time finding the mines.

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The Pittsburgh Press (September 2, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

Somewhere in Sicily, Italy – (by wireless)
The engineering forces with our Army are trained and organized to a high degree, and engineering morale is proud and high.

Strange thing, it used to be the fashion to sort of sneer at the engineers, but that day has passed. Even the infantry takes off its hat to them – for not infrequently the engineers are actually out ahead of the infantry.

Before launching into many details of how the engineers work, I’ll explain how their organization is set up, for it will make it easier for you to understand their job. Each infantry division has a battalion of engineers which is actually part of that division and works and suffers with it. The battalion consists of four companies totaling around 800 men.

Sometimes all the companies are working in separate places with various infantry regiments. At other times, in mountainous country, when the whole division is strung out in a single line 20 miles or more long, the engineer companies keep leapfrogging each other, letting one company go into 24-hour reserve for a much-needed rest about every three days.

Behind these division engineers are what are called corps engineers. They are under control of the Second Army Corps and can be shifted anywhere at the corps’ command. Corps engineers follow up the division engineers, strengthening and smoothing the necessarily makeshift work of the division engineers.

Engineers mutual-esteem society

Capt. Ben Billups of Alamogordo, New Mexico, put it this way:

Our job is to clear the way for our division of roughly two thousand vehicles to move ahead just as quickly as possible. We are interested only in the division. If we were to build a temporary span across a blown bridge, and that span were to collapse one second after the last division truck had crossed, we would have done the theoretically perfect job. For we would have cleared the division, yet not wasted a minute of time doing more than we needed to do when we passed.

Then it is the corps engineers’ job to create a more permanent bridge for the supply convoys that will be following for days and weeks afterward.

Often there is jealousy and contempt between groups of similar types working under divisions and corps. But in the engineers, it is a sort of mutual-esteem society. Each respects and is proud of the other. The corps engineers are so good they are constantly at the heels of the division engineers, and a few times, with the division engineers 100% occupied with an especially difficult demolition, they’ve pushed ahead and tackled fresh demolitions themselves.

At first, particularly, all the officers of the engineers’ battalion were graduate engineers in civil life, but with the Army expanding so rapidly and professional experience running so thin, some young officers now assigned to the engineers have just come out of officers’ school and have little or no engineering experience.


Of the enlisted men. only a handful in each company ever had any construction experience. The rest are just run-of-the-mine – one-time clerks, butchers, cowpunchers. That little handful of experienced enlisted men carries the load and they are as vital as anything I know of in the Army.

Practically every man in an engineering company has to double in half a dozen brasses. Today he’ll be running a mine detector, tomorrow he’ll be a stonemason, next day a carpenter, and the day after a plain pick-and-shovel man. But unlike the common laborer at home, he’s picking and shoveling under fire about half the time.

In the Book of Organization, the duties of the engineers are manifold. But in the specialized warfare in Sicily many of their book duties just didn’t exist and their main work was concentrated down into four very vital categories: road building and bridge bypassing; clearing of minefields; finding and purifying water for the whole division; and providing the division with maps. The latter two don’t sound spectacular but, believe me, they’re important and I’ll tell you about them at length before this series ends.