Roving Reporter, Ernie Pyle

The Pittsburgh Press (September 9, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

Ernie Pyle has arrived in the United States for a well-earned rest after 14 months in Europe and Africa. This column and others to follow were written by Ernie and wirelessed home before he left Sicily.

Somewhere in Sicily, Italy – (by wireless)
It was an hour after daylight when I returned to the German-blown highway crater which our 3rd Division engineers had been working on all night.

It really didn’t look as though they’d accomplished much, but an engineer’s eye would have seen that the groundwork was all laid. They had drilled and blasted two holes far down the jagged slope. These were to set upright timbers into so they wouldn’t slide downhill when weight was applied.

The far side of the crater had been blasted out and leveled off so it formed a road across about one-third of the hole. Small ledges had been jackhammered at each end of the crater and timbers bolted into them, forming abutments. Steel hooks had been embedded deep into the rock to hold wire cables.

At about 10 a.m., the huge uprights were slid down the bank, caught by a group of men clinging to the steep slope below, and their ends worked into the blasted holes. Similar heavy timbers were slowly and cautiously worked out from the bank until their tops rested on the uprights.

Wire-walking act

A half-naked soldier, doing practically a wire-walking act, edged out over the timber and bored a long hole down through two timbers with an air-driven bit. Then he hammered a steel rod into it, tying them together.

Then they slung steel cable from one end of the crater to the other, wrapped it around the upright stanchions and drew it tight with a winch mounted on a truck.

Now came the coolie scene as 20 shirtless, sweating soldiers to each of the long, spliced timbers carried and slid them out across the chasm, resting them on the two wooden spans just erected. They sagged in the middle, but still the cable beneath took most of the strain. Big stringers were bolted down, heavy flooring was carried on and nailed to the stringers.

First, Maj. Gen. Truscott arrived again and sat on a log talking with the engineering officers, waiting patiently. Around dusk of the day before, the engineers had told me they’d have jeeps across the crater by noon of the next day.

High noon on the nose

But even they will have had to admit it was pure coincidence that the first jeep rolled cautiously across the miracle bridge at high noon, to the very second.

In that first jeep was Gen. Truscott and his driver, facing a 200-foot tumble into the sea if the bridge gave way. The engineers had insisted they send a test jeep across first. But when he saw it was ready, the general just got in and went. It wasn’t done dramatically but it was a sort of dramatic thing. It showed that the “Old Man” had complete faith in his engineers.

Jeeps snaked across the rickety bridge behind the general while the engineers kept stations beneath the bridge to watch and measure the sag under each load. The bridge squeaked and bent as the jeeps crept over. But it held, and nothing else matters. When the vital spearhead of the division got across, traffic was halted again and the engineers were given three hours to strengthen the bridge for heavier traffic by inserting a third heavy upright in the middle.

They had built a jerry bridge, a comical bridge, a proud bridge, but above all the kind of bridge that wins wars. The general was mighty pleased.

1 Like

The Pittsburgh Press (September 10, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

Ernie Pyle has returned to the United States for a much-needed rest after 14 months in Europe and Africa. This column was written before his departure from Sicily.

Somewhere in Sicily, Italy – (by wireless)
I don’t know what it is that impels some men, either in peace or in wartime, to extend themselves beyond all expectation, or what holds other men back to do just as little as possible. In any group of soldiers, you’ll find both kinds.

The work of combat engineers usually comes in spurts, and it is so terribly vital when it does come, that the percentage of fast workers is probably higher than in most other branches.

On the Point Calava road crater job there were two men I couldn’t take my eyes off. They worked like demons. Both were corporals and had little to gain by their extraordinary labors, except maybe some slight future promotion. And I doubt that’s what drove them.

These two men were Gordon Uttech, of Merrill, Wisconsin, and Alvin Tolliver, of Alamosa, Colorado. Both were air-compressor operators and rock drillers. Uttech worked all night, and when the night shift was relieved for breakfast, he refused to go. He worked on throughout the day without sleep and in the final hours of the job, he went down under the frail bridge to check the sag and strain, as heavier and heavier vehicles passed over it.

Never cease, never rest

Tolliver, too, worked without ceasing, never resting, never even stopping to wipe off the sweat that made his stripped body look as though it were coated with olive oil. I never saw him stop once throughout the day. He seemed to work without instruction from anybody, knowing what jobs to do and doing them alone. He rasseled the great chattering jackhammers into the rock. He spread and rewound his air hose. He changed drills. He regulated his compressor. He drove eye-hooks into the rock, chopped down big planks to fit the rocky ledge he’d created.

I couldn’t help being proud of those men, who gave more than was asked.

Before ending this series on the engineers, I’d like to mention a few of the officers – for after all, the poor officers deserve some credit once in a while.

The whole battalion, known as the 10th Engineers of the 3rd Division, is commanded by Lt. Col. Leonard Bingham. He is a Regular Army man and therefore his home is wherever he is, but his wife lives in St. Paul, at 1480 Fairmount Ave., so he calls that home.

We usually picture Regular Army officers cut in a harsh and rigid cast, but that has not been my experience. Over here, I’ve found them to be as human as anybody else and the closer you get to the front, the finer they seem to be.

Col. Bingham, for instance, worked all night along with the rest, and he’s the one who has to take it from the division staff officers who want a hole bridged in two hours instead of 24. But he never got cross nor raised his voice.

Still digging for oil

The commander of the company I was with is Lt. Edwin Swift, of Rocky Ford, Colorado. Just before the war, he spent two years in Venezuela with Standard Oil. He hasn’t discovered oil over here yet, but some German-blown holes he’s filled were almost deep enough to hit oil.

Lt. Robert Springmeyer is from Provo, Utah. He’s an engineer by profession and a recent father. When he got the parental news, he somehow managed to buy a box of cigars, but he ran out of recipients when the box was about half gone. So now, after a long grueling job, he shaves, takes a helmet bath and then sits down against a tree and lights a big gift cigar in his own honor, the rascal.

Lt. Gilmore Reid is from 846 North Hamilton, Indianapolis. His dad runs the Purity Cone & Chip Company, which makes potato chips. Young Reid is an artist and also a railroad hobbyist. He once did a painting of a freight train at a small Midwestern station, and when he got word recently that it had been printed in color in a railroad magazine, he felt he’d practically reached the zenith of his heart’s desire.

That’s all on the Engineers. If you wake up some morning and find that the Germans have blown a big hole in your backyard, or boobytrapped your refrigerator, just give us a ring and we’ll be right over with a bulldozer and some dynamite, and fix you up.


The Army Corps of Engineers has asked the Press to publish the following request with Ernie Pyle’s column.

One hundred thousand men with construction skills are needed urgently for overseas service with the Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army, to do the kind of work described by Ernie Pyle in this series on the work of the engineers.

Construction men who want to build and fight with the Army Engineers should go to any Army recruiting station or any office of the Corps of Engineers. In Pittsburgh, the Army recruiting station is in the Old Post Office Building and the Engineers Corps is on the 9th Floor, New Post Office.

1 Like

The Pittsburgh Press (September 11, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

Ernie Pyle has returned to the United States for a much-needed rest after 14 months in Europe and Africa. This column was written before his departure from Sicily.

Somewhere in Sicily, Italy – (by wireless)
The backbone of any Army company is the first sergeant. I know one who is a beaut.

His name is, of all things, Adelard Levesque. It’s pronounced “Levek” but the soldiers call him “Pop.” He’s 42 years old, but doesn’t look it.

Of all the thousands of men I’ve met in the Army, he comes the nearest to being the fictional version of the tough, competent, old-line first sergeant. Levesque was in the last war as a mere boy. He fought in France and stayed on with the Army of Occupation in Germany until 1921.

He isn’t a Regular Army man. He spent 20 years out in the big world between war, raising a family, making a living, and seeing and doing things. He has been a West Coast iron worker and practically anything else you can mention. He has four sons in the Army and, if I remember correctly, one daughter in the Navy.

Ruggedly handsome fellow

He calls Marysville, California, his home. He is a ruggedly handsome fellow with a black mustache, and clothes that are always neat even when dirty. His energy never runs down. He talks loud and continuously. He cusses fluently and orders everybody around, including officers.

At first my mouth hung open in amazement until gradually I began to catch the spirit of Levesque. He isn’t smart-alecky nor fresh. It’s just that he’s a natural-born center of any stage. He’s a leader, and he’s one of these gifted, practical men who can do anything under the sun, and usually do it better than the next fellow.

To top it all off, he speaks perfect French and is picking up Italian like a snowball. One of his commanders told me:

He talks too much and too big, but he can back up every word he says. I sure hope we never lose him.

I asked one enlisted man about him, since they are the ones his tongue falls on most heavily. The man said:

Hell, I don’t know what this company would do without him. Sure, he talks all the time, but we don’t pay any attention. Listen at him beatin’ his gums now. He musta got out on the wrong side of the bed this morning.

Uses excellent grammar

Actually, the sergeant isn’t so ferocious. He is widely informed, and his grammar is excellent. He can discuss politics as well as bulldozers. He is alert to your own conversation and to every little thing that goes on.

One day on a mountain road, he stopped our jeep and asked the driver some questions. As he walked back to his own jeep, he turned and ordered my driver:

Go get those maps. Send a bulldozer back up here. Bring five gallons of gas, and get your spare tire fixed. Goddammit, why don’t you take care of your vehicle?

“Spare tire?” the driver asked.

The sergeant roared:

Yes, goddammit. It’s flat.

He had discovered it merely by the slight pressure of his hand as he leaned against it while talking to us. Everything he does is like that.

If you could have been on hand during the last half-hour of work on the Point Calava bridge I’ve written about recently, you would have seen as fine a drama as ever you paid $8.80 a seat for in New York.

The bridge is almost finished. The climax of 24 hours of frenzied work has come. Everybody is through. Only one man can do the final touches of bracing and balancing. That man is sitting on the end of a beam way out there over the chasm, a hammer in his hand, his legs wrapped around the beam as though he were riding a bronco.

Puts on one-man show

The squirrel out there on the beam is, of course, Sgt. Levesque. He wears his steel helmet and his pack harness. He never takes it off, even though the day is sweltering.

His face is dirty and grave and sweating. He is in complete charge of all he surveys. On the opposite banks of the crater, two huge soldier audiences stand watching this noisily profane craftsman play out his role.

Their preoccupation is a tribute to his skill. I’ve never seen a more intent audience. It includes all ranks, from privates to generals.

The sergeant yells to the winch man on the bank:

Gimme some slack. Gimme some slack, goddammit. That’s enough – hold it. Throw me a sledge. Where the hell’s a spike, goddammit? Hasn’t anybody got a spike?

How does that look from the bank now, colonel? She about level? Okay, slack away. Watch that air hose. Let her clear down. Hey, you under there, watch yourself, goddammit.

Sgt. Levesque drives the final spike deeply with his sledge. He looks around at his work and finds it finished.

With an air of completion, he clambers to his feet and walks the narrow beam back to safety. You could almost sense the curtain going down, and I know everybody in the crowd had to stifle an impulse to cheer.

If somebody writes another What Price Glory? after this war I know who should play the leading role. Who? Why, Sgt. Levesque, goddammit, who do you suppose?

1 Like

The Pittsburgh Press (September 13, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

NOTE: Ernie Pyle is now in the United States. He will take a well-deserved rest before going on to new adventures. This is one of the columns he wrote before leaving Sicily last week.

Somewhere in Sicily, Italy –
As the Sicilian campaign drew to an end some weeks ago and we went into our rest bivouac, rumors by the score popped up out of thin air and swept like a forest fire through the troops.

No. 1 rumor in every outfit, of course, was that ships already were waiting to take them back to the States. That one was so old I don’t think half the men will believe it’s true when the war ends, and they actually do start back.

Other rumors had them staying in Sicily as occupation troops, going to England, going to China, and – ugly thought – going right on as the spearhead of the next invasion.

Some people worry about such rumors that constantly sweep our armies, but personally I think they are harmless. When the Army doesn’t have women, furloughs, ice cream, beer or clean clothes, it certainly has to have something to look forward to, even if only a faint hope for some kind of change that lies buried in an illogical rumor.

In fact, I don’t know how we would endure war without our rumors.

A few days after the Sicilian campaign ended, I went back to Palermo to get in touch with what we jokingly call “civilization.”

Lots of mosquitoes!

The Army had commandeered several hotels, and I was put up in a dungeon-like cell that overlooked an alley inhabited with a melee of Sicilians who screamed constantly and never cleaned up anything.

They apparently had the concession for raising and furnishing the hotel with mosquitoes, for they came floating up like smoke from that alley. I tried mosquito netting over my bed, and just before climbing in for my first repose off the ground in five weeks, I decided I had better inspect the lovely white sheets.

My haul was three bedbugs and a baby scorpion. Civilization, she is wonderful!

In the field, most of us had mosquito nets. The mosquitoes weren’t really so bad in the country, but there were just enough to keep us worried about malaria. We strung up nets over our bedrolls in scores of fashions – all the way from tying them to tree branches, to hanging them over Italian aluminum tent poles stuck in the ground.

The climate was ideal for our Sicilian campaign. The days were hot, but nothing approaching the summer heat of Kansas or Washington.

Down on the coast the nights were just right for sleeping with one blanket. Up in the mountains, it actually got cold at night. There wasn’t a drop of rain. The Army Engineers still thank Allah every hour for the dryness, because rains would have washed out their bypasses around the blown bridges and made the movement of our vehicles almost impossible.

Nobody uses tents

Because of the climate, nobody uses tents anymore for sleeping. You just throw your blankets down on the ground and sleep in the open. Until you sleep under the open skies, you never realize how many shooting stars there are at night.

And one night, there was a frightening red glow in the east that lasted only a couple of seconds. It colored the whole eastern heavens. It was neither flares nor gunfire, so it must have been Mt. Etna, boiling and snarling.

In the Sicilian villages we passed through, the local people would take little embroidered cushions out of their parlors and give them to our soldiers to sit on while resting. It was funny to march with a sweaty infantry company, and see grimy doughboys with pink and white lacy cushions tucked under their harness among grenades, shovels and canteens.

The hazelnut and almond season came in just as the campaign ended. Practically every camp had a hundred-pound sack of almonds lying on the ground where the soldiers could just sit and crack the nuts on rocks and gorge as though it were Christmas. The local people gave us hazelnuts as we passed through the towns. I saw one company in which nearly every man took off his steel helmet and filled it full of hazelnuts, and then marched on down the road with the heavily-laden hat held in the crook of his arm.

Hazelnuts, red wine, hardtack and thou. Or what am I thinking of?

1 Like

The Pittsburgh Press (September 14, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

NOTE: Ernie Pyle has returned to the United States after 15 months in Ireland, England, Africa and Sicily. Before taking a much-needed rest, Mr. Pyle has written a couple of homecoming columns.

Washington – (Sept. 11)
How should a war correspondent who has been away a long time begin his first column after he returns to his homeland?

Frankly, I don’t know. I can’t truthfully say “My, it’s wonderful to be back,” because I haven’t had a moment to sense whether it’s wonderful or not. In my first 48 hours in America, I got two hours’ sleep, said “no” 324 times, lost my pocketbook and caught a bad cold.

That pocketbook business, incidentally, is sort of disheartening to a guy who returns full of eagerness for his own people. The wallet contained about a hundred dollars and all my War Department credentials and private papers. It had my name and address in it at least a dozen times, but it has not yet been returned.

Whoever got it, if he had a crumb of decency, could certainly send back the papers even if he kept the money. Anybody who wouldn’t do that, it seems to me, would make a fine client for some oil-boilers. This thing happened in New York on my first day home. And here I’ve been ranting for a year about the lowly Arab!

Return is explained

Perhaps you who read this column wonder why I came home just at this special time, when events are boiling over in Italy.

Well, I might as well tell you truthfully. I knew, of course, that the Italian invasion was coming up, but I chose to skip it. I made that decision because I realized, in the middle of Sicily, that I had been too close to the war for too long.

I was fed up, and bogged down. Of course you say other people are too, and they keep going on. But if your job is to write about the war, you’re very apt to begin writing unconscious distortions and unwarranted pessimisms when you get too tired.

I had come to despise and be revolted by war clear out of any logical proportion. I couldn’t find the Four Freedoms among the dead men. Personal weariness became a forest that shut off my view of events about me. I was no longer seeing the little things that you at home want to know about the soldiers.

When we fought through Sicily, it was to many of us like seeing the same movie for the fourth time. Battles differ from one another only in their physical environment – the emotions of fear and exhaustion and exaltation and hatred are about the same in all of them. Through repetition, I had worn clear down to the nub my ability to weight and describe. You can’t do a painting when your oils have turned to water.

There is, in the months and years ahead, still a lot of war to be written about. So I decided, all of a sudden one day in Sicily, that you who read and I who write would both benefit in the long run if I came home to refreshen my sagging brain and drooping frame. To put it bluntly, I just got too tired in the head. So here I am.

It has been 15 months since I left America. Things at home have changed a lot in that time, I’m sure. But at first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much change.

When I rode in from the airport in New York, and checked into the hotel, everything was so perfectly natural that it truly seemed as though I had never been away at all. It was all so normal, so exactly like what it had been on other returns, that I couldn’t realize that now I was going through that beautiful hour that millions of our men overseas spend a good part of their waking hours yearning for and dreaming about. I do hope that when their hour comes, they’ll find themselves more capable of enthrallment by it.

Sugar bowl surprise

On the whole, the few little things that struck me the most were normal things that I had thought would be gone by now. I was surprised to find sugar bowls on the table. We have plenty of sugar in the Army overseas, but we had figured you were very short over here.

And I was astonished at finding the store windows of New York looking so full and so beautiful. I’d like to take a pocketful of money and just go on a spree, buying everything that was smart and pretty whether I really wanted it or not.

We’ve had nothing to spend money on for so long, over on the other side. The countries we’ve been in were so denuded; why, England was shorter of everything after one year of war than we are after nearly two.

The decline of traffic on the streets was noticeable; and how much nicer it is too, isn’t it? In fact, it’s too nice, and I propose to recreate some of our old congestion by getting out my own jalopy and dashing nonessentially around the streets for a month or so.

Well, anyway, on second thought, it’s wonderful to be home.

1 Like

The Pittsburgh Press (September 15, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

Washington –
There are a few little African items. I’d like to wind up before this column stops and goes on furlough.

For example, I never got around to telling you about Bob Hope when he was over there. I ran across Bob Hope and his crew in Sicily. In fact, for a couple of days, we did the highlights and shadows of one bombed Sicilian city in such hilarious conjunction that it looked as though I were becoming a member of the troupe.

There are certain dissenters to the policy of sending American entertainers overseas. Now and then you’ll hear some officer say:

After all, we’re over here to fight, not to be entertained. Don’t they know there’s a war on?

But it has been my experience that the most confirmed users of such phrases are usually a good many miles behind the lines. If it’s all possible to give the troops a little touch of America through these movie stars, then I’m all for it.

Bob Hope is one of the best that ever went to Africa. He has the right touch with soldiers. He can handle himself as well in a hospital full of suffering men as before a rough audience of 10,000 war-coarsened ones.

When Hope goes into a hospital, he’s liable to go up to a poor guy swathed in bandages, and instead of spreading out the old sympathy he will shake hands and say something such as:

Did you see my show this evening, or were you already sick?

Army can’t use them

At their regular show, Hope carefully explains the draft status of his troupe, so that the soldiers won’t think they’re draft dodgers. He says that his singer Jack Pepper has been classified 5-X, or “too fat to fight.” Hope himself is in Class 4-Z, meaning “Coward.” And their guitar player Tony Romano is Double S Double F, meaning “Single man with children.” Sure, it gets a laugh.

The Hope troupe, which included lovely Frances Langford as the fourth member, really found out about war when they were over there. Every time they’d stop in a city, there’d be a raid there that night. Actually, it got to look as though the Germans were deliberately after them.

They had the distinction, while in Sicily, of playing closer to the frontlines than any other entertainers, and playing to the biggest audiences. One afternoon they did their outdoor show for 19,000 men.

If this column appears in Hollywood, let it be taken as legal testimony in verification that no matter what narrow-escape story Bob tells when he gets back, it’s true.

I don’t know Gen. Eisenhower very well, because I was at the headquarters city very little during the African campaign, and had no occasion to bother him with my presence anyhow.

But I do admire him greatly, and I suppose just to salve my own vanity and to be able to say I’d seen him recently. I went in to say goodbye the day before I left Africa.

General approval

The general is an observant man. He both flattered me and put me at ease by congratulating me on some recent ones of these columns which he’d read in Stars & Stripes. He left his desk and sat in a big lounging chair in the corner while we talked.

I told him (and with sincerity) that I’d seen our Army grow in Africa from an insufficient, green, bumbling organization up to the point of perfection where now, unless he was able to tell me something wrong with it, I would have to go home without being able to criticize a thing over there.

He said if you could sit at his desk for 18 hours it would seem to you that everything was wrong with it. But I know that in that informal remark the general was tasking the mechanic’s view, and that actually he knows it’s a pretty well-oiled machine by now.

As I left his office, I said half-jokingly:

Is there anything you want me to tell the folks at home when I get there?

He grinned and said:

Oh, just tell them to stick together.

1 Like

The Pittsburgh Press (September 16, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

Washington –
John Steinbeck is a recent addition to our corps of war correspondents in the Mediterranean, as you know. He is now with the invasion forces somewhere along the Italian shores.

Some people are speaking of Steinbeck and me as competitors in the field of war columning. I’m flattered by the inference. But there is neither competition nor comparison. It would be belittling Steinbeck’s genius to compare him with any daily deadline-catcher.

I’ve always been a Steinbeck worshiper. For my money, he’s the greatest writer in the world. I think it one of literature’s losses that he never got to England during the Blitz, to record the moving spirit of that unrecapturable winter. But while he was missing that he was producing The Moon is Down, so maybe it was all right after all.

I’m glad that Steinbeck is at last with the wars. For he carries to them a delicate sympathy for mortal man’s transient nobilities and beastlinesses that I believe no other writer possesses.

Surely, we have no other writer so likely to catch on paper the inner things that most people don’t know about war – the pitiableness of bravery, the vulgarity, the grotesquely warped values, the childlike tenderness in all of us.

They meet in Africa

I met Steinbeck for the first time in Africa, just after returning from Sicily.

For some reason, I had always been afraid of Steinbeck, even while admiring him. Several times in California, I’d passed up the chance to meet him. And there in Africa, it was several days before I got up the courage to introduce myself.

And then, as so often happens in such cases, Steinbeck turned out to be human as hell, friendly, story-telly, laughy and gay. He even admits he’s awfully homesick, though he’s been gone only three months.

He is a big bruiser of a guy who belies the fine edge of sensitiveness within him. He goes around needing a haircut and with his sleeves rolled up, looking almost as unmilitary as I do.

Walk along the streets with him and you’ll find his mind constantly pierced and impressed by every little event or scene before him. Sometimes he’s serious and sometimes he’s funny and sometimes he’s sardonic. But it’s always himself; he isn’t one of those people who act.

He makes such remarks as:

There’s something about a jeep that brings out the worst in every driver.

And one day we were standing on the curb when a dirty, ragged Arab child ran up and asked for money.

Steinbeck looked down at him a long time with mock gravity, and then he said:

Do you mean to tell me that to your hopeless heritage of malnutrition, ignorance and internecine warfare, you now propose to add the degradation of charity?

The bewildered child turned and ran away.

Enjoys his own stories

If somebody tells a story Steinbeck will tell one too, and laugh at his own stories like the rest of us humans. Correspondent H. R. Knickerbocker has a good description of him. Knick says:

A lot of these celebrated writers, when you meet them, act as though they might let out some secret of their profession if they opened their mouths. But this guy Steinbeck, hell, he gives forth and keeps on giving.

I don’t know how long Steinbeck intends to stay abroad. I hope not too long. You don’t have to live with war forever to absorb its basic character. A few months will equip him with all the sight and understanding of war he needs for the production of a great book. The war is better for having him in it.

1 Like

The Pittsburgh Press (September 17, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

Washington –
This is the last of these columns before we go on furlough. I’ve never looked forward to any experience in my life as I now look forward to a month of blank, utter rest.

I came across from Africa by Clipper. It was the third time I’d flown the Atlantic. Our trip was a special, unscheduled one, bringing a planeload of Navy men back from Africa for schooling and new assignments.

On the long stages of the homeward journey, the sailors would help the stewards carry out the dishes after out meals. And as the sailors slept in the chill air of the high altitudes, the stewards would carefully cover them with blankets. It was sort of touching.

There were no bombs, so we all slept on the floor or in our seats. Most of the sailors crossed the ocean and arrived in New York in their blue work dungarees, although some did change to whites just before we arrived.

Sent home to study

At one of our stops, a spectator asked:

What are these boys, survivors from a torpedoed ship?

Actually, none of them was. They were all skilled craftsmen being sent home to study a little and then go to sea again with new ships.

One of the pleasures of being back in America is that I have to make only one copy of this column. Over in Sicily, I was making seven copies of every one.

I’d send two copies by courier plane from Sicily back to the headquarters city – one copy for transmission, the other for the censor’s files. Then next day I’d send two duplicates, just in case the first sea got lost, which it sometimes did.

Those four copies were in abbreviated cable form. Then, in addition, I’d make three copies in full form – two to be sent to Stars & Stripes, which publishes this column, and one to keep for myself, just in case everything got lost.

Two of three times everything did get lost, but it was always so long afterward before I found it out that the columns weren’t any good by then anyhow.

During these few days that I’m writing here in Washington, I just write a page and walk over and hand it to my boss. I’m trying to work up to the day when I can get him to write it for me, and then I’ll have the literary situation reduced to the irreducible and utopian minimum – I won’t have to make any copies at all!

In Washington, I did something that millions of soldiers would give an eyetooth to do. I put on civilian clothes.

The only suit I have in the world is in London. But a year ago last spring, I’d left some bags in storage here in Washington, so I delved into them looking for odd pieces of civilian raiment. I found two old sportscoats with the elbows out, but no pants at all. Since I am not blessed with the right kind of legs to justify going around the streets of Washington without pants, I had to go out and buy a new pair.

Lingering at the mirror

Also, I splurged on a new hat and new pair of shoes. Now I am a sight for sore eyes. I’m so damn handsome I haven’t been able to tear myself away from the mirror.

My lost pocketbook has been returned. It came in the mail, from Wilmington, Delaware. IT was nicely wrapped in tissue paper, with brown paper around that, and neatly addressed in pen and ink.

All my credentials and private papers – my correspondent’s card, my inoculation list, my Short Snorter bills, my last war discharge, even a British one-pound note – were all there, all intact. But the hundred bucks in American money was gone.

I’m grateful beyond words for the return of the wallet and the credentials. And it’s comforting to know that our thieves are honest thieves. And what would I do with a hundred bucks if I had it?

That’s all, now, for quite a while. Take care of yourselves. And please don’t wake me up till October.


Although I will miss Ernie’s columns from the European War Theater, I recognize his strong desire to break from the war to rest and recuperate. He has been a valuable part of the war effort and I expect to hear from him again in the future. Thank You, Ernie.


The Pittsburgh Press (November 10, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

This is the first of a new series of columns by Ernie Pyle, in which the famous war reporter tells his impressions and experiences at home. Mr. Pyle is about to push off on a new assignment to the war zones.

They say that when people lie in hospitals for two or three months, they have to learn to walk all over again when they finally get out of bed.

That’s the way I feel about column-writing after being away from it for nearly eight weeks. I feel as though I should take a correspondence course in how to start the first sentence. Even more so, I feel how nice it would be never to write a column again at all.

It really is hard to start back to the old grind. It’s hard to regiment yourself to daily, consecutive toil. It’s hard to force yourself away from home, with all its close ties and warm routines. But in these times, a fellow can’t just sit forever.

So, there’ll be a few “home” columns, and then there may be some days’ lapse while this pale chronicler again is being wafted across the oceans. And then, if all goes well, the old war columns will start once more.

Ernie dreads going back again

It is one of our popular heroic myths that anybody who comes back from the combat zone begins to itch after a few weeks, and finally gets so homesick for the front he can hardly stand it. In the movies, he starts back before his furlough is up.

Pap! And also tish! I’ve never hated to do anything as badly in my life as I hate to go back to the front. I dread it, and I’m afraid of it. But what can a guy do? I know millions of others who are reluctant, too, and they can’t even get home. So here we go.

The decision, it’s true, is my own. Nobody is forcing me to go back. Probably that’s the reason I feel so glum about it. Going back is all my own fault. I could kick myself.

During my stay at home, I’ve met a good many men back from overseas, men who really had been through the mill. I could sense in them the beginning of restlessness. Some even admitted they would like to go back overseas. But – and this is my point – I never met a single one who would ever go back into actual combat again if he could help it.

What returned soldiers actually do feel, after a while, is a sort of guilt at being here so comfortable and nice, when the guys you went through so much with are still over there taking it. You feel like a deserter and a heel – not so much to the war effort, but to your friends who are still over there freezing and getting shot at.

Few are really touched here

People at home all ask you about the same questions:

  1. When will the war end? One guess is as good as another, if not better.

  2. What has become of the 7th Army? I don’t know, and couldn’t tell if I did know.

  3. What do you think about the home front? Honestly, it’s hard for me to say. I don’t truly feel that we’re very much at war here at home, but for some reason I can’t seem to get very exercised about it.

In home spirit, we aren’t in the war as deeply as some other countries, but I don’t see how we could be. With us so big and scattered, and the enemy so far away, the war is bound to seem academic to most of us. Only those who have received the dreaded telegram from the War Department feel it really.

Materially, it seems to me we hardly have been touched by war here at home. Okay, it’s hard to buy liquor, and women’s socks are awful, and you have to ride the bus, but so what? Our little annoying restrictions and shortages are so puny compared to those of other countries. We are still so rich and so well-fed and so plentiful.

I can’t see that it’s anybody’s fault, or even that it’s shameful, especially. We haven’t had anything yet, on a national scale, to burn and crucify us into anything greater than we were to begin with.

To most of us, the war doesn’t really hurt. The war is only a sense of oppression that hangs above our hearts. It’s an insecurity that we sense, not a pain that we feel. And I don’t see how it could be otherwise, unless we were fighting on our own doorsteps, in our own cities.

1 Like

The Pittsburgh Press (November 11, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

This is the second in a short series of columns by Ernie Pyle about his impressions and experiences while enjoying a brief rest at home. Mr. Pyle soon will be back on the wat fronts to resume his epic reporting about our fighting men.

This is certainly an immodest kind of column for a fellow to be writing, but then of course I am an immodest fellow.

Which is just a way of introducing our thesis for today, entitled “What Does It Feel Like to Be a Celebrity?” The subject being, of all people, me in person!

I wouldn’t be writing like this except that people – all the way from Washington bellhops clear up to my own Aunt Mary on the farm – tell me that I am now a celebrity. So, let’s assume for purposes of no-argument that it’s true, and get on with our business of “what does it feel like to be one?”

Well, it feels pretty good. It has its ups and its downs. Every now and then you get sort of panicky. Once in a while you get resentful. Most of the time you just feel too rushed and a little bewildered, and kinda pleased.

I suppose the main thing is that 99 out of 100 of us are born with a certain amount of vanity, or pride, or egotism or whatever you want to call it. And when you hit a point where you’re recognized every time you step out, you can’t help but feel short of sparkly inside.

Furthermore, you get a lot of things by being “known” that you’d never get otherwise. I mean stores will get “shortage” articles from under the counter and sell them to you; railroad and airline men will give you a reservation after turning other people away; the plumber and the typewriter repairman, who aren’t accepting calls before a week from Saturday, will come immediately when you phone. All that is wonderful.

‘Blooey’ goes your private life

On the deeper side, I think anybody who tries as hard as I do to write a good column would be dishonest if he said the compliments of thousands of people meant nothing to him. The compliments of just one person mean a lot to me. When you finally get enough compliments to make you a celebrity, you feel hugely rewarded.

Celebrity, though, has its drawbacks. Your private life vanishes. The most sincere plaudits of people, when multiplied and piled too high, can become something obsessing you, claiming your life away from you.

Since returning to America two months ago, we have had hundreds and hundreds of offers, requests, demands, and even time-taking favors bestowed upon us. We have declined nearly everything proposed, yet the mere act of saying “No,” if you have to say it enough times, eventually consumes much of your time and most of your mind.

Under normal conditions, a man gives most of his time to his job and his family. That’s the way it should be.

But when the bolt of fame strikes, a guy better be mighty careful or he’s going to wind up giving most of his time to his new career of being a celebrity, and practically no time at all to his family and real friends. And the job which gave him prominence in the first place will be done merely at odd moments, with his mind on something else.

Ernie kids his famous self

I want to avoid that, and believe I can, but I think it takes a little practice. I’m not concerned that my head will be turned by too much attention; but I am concerned that lack of experience may make me fumble considerably before I learn the right method of achieving a balanced life again. Apparently, you just have to enlarge yourself inside, to make room for a little more than you’ve bargained for. It’s a harder nut to crack than you might think.

Actually, we have a lot of fun, my friends and me, kidding ourselves about this new fame.

For example, the day our book came out. The New York Times Book Review Section gave it the entire front page, and a wonderful review it was, too. So, after reading it through elatedly a couple of times, I thumbed through the rest of the section, and then said to my friend Lee Miller:

Why, the dirty so-and-so’s, they’ve also reviewed some other people’s books in this issue!

I think that on the whole I’m fairly safe from the perils of celebrity. For one thing, it came a little too late. I’m 43, and it doesn’t matter so much anymore.

My life has been pretty full and pretty pleasant; I’ve got most everything I ever wanted, but I’ve had some blows, too; I’ve contributed a little and received a great deal. Through the years, I did my job the best I could, and this is what happened. I didn’t plan it, and I didn’t ask for this, I could have done without it, but now that it’s here, I’m pretty sure I can take it.

As I said in the beginning, this is all kind of immodest. But it’s all kind of true, too.

1 Like

The Pittsburgh Press (November 12, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

Ernie Pyle, before he again takes off for the war fronts, is writing a short series of columns on what he has seen, heard and felt at home. This is the third.

Clinton, Indiana –
My father is in the hospital for the first time in his life. He celebrated his 76th birthday there the other day.

He has been in the hospital for six weeks now, and has a month to go. He enjoys it more than anything that’s happened to him in years.

My father stumbled and fell at the foot of some steps in the basement of Rhoades’ store in Dana, the last of September. He didn’t break anything, but he was so badly bruised and wrenched that he couldn’t move, and Mr. Lunger had to carry him upstairs in his arms. Mr. Lunger said my dad felt just like a feather, for he’s a little fellow like me.

They put him in an ambulance and brought him to the Clinton Hospital, eight miles from our home near Dana. He couldn’t move at all for several days, he was so sore.

Then he got to having nightmares and staggering around in his room at night, so the surgeon put a splint on his hip to keep him in bed.

Splint becomes ‘flint’

It’s merely a safety precaution, for the doc says he might break his already weakened hipbone just be wandering around the room. My dad gets mixed up and calls the splint a “flint” when he tells about it.

The nurses all adore my dad, because he is mild and undemanding and extremely grateful for everything they do. As a consequence, they do more for him than anybody else. They joke with him and poke fun at him, and he likes that.

The night my dad had his night-long nightmare was quite an occasion. Actually, he was delirious, for part of the time he thought he was in Rockville, 25 miles away, and part o the time out in a tent in the hospital grounds (he must have been reading too many of my war stories, for there isn’t any tent in the hospital grounds).

At any rate, it was while he was “in the tent” that he had to get up. He got out of bed and couldn’t find the door to the bathroom. He got completely lost there in the dark. Then he felt the foot of the bed, and since he figured he was in a tent with no floor but the ground, what difference did it make? The nurses caught him at that, and put him back in bed. I don’t believe I’ve heard my father get as tickled in 40 years as when he recounts the story.

After a while, the nurses found him wandering around the room again., they asked him what he thought he was doing. He said why, he was just trying to find his way back to the hospital. He thought he was up at Dana, and it was time for him to be getting back.

After that, they put sideboards on his bed, so he couldn’t get out. But he thought some strange men in the room were after him, and in trying to get away he worked his legs out through the spaces in the sideboard, and got caught and all tangled up, and was hanging practically upside down when the nurses found him. After that, they put the “flint” on his hip, to keep him in bed for sure. He hasn’t had any nightmares since.

Keeps score on new babies

My father really seems to relish being in the hospital. He has a nice corner room where he can look out at the front lawn and see people come in. His general health is good, and he looks fine. The nurses give him a bath every morning, and one of them shaves him.

He says the hospital food is wonderful. They’ve really converted him down here. He has never eaten butter nor drunk coffee in his life; now he’s consuming both and loving it. He has about 10 visitors a day, and he keeps his door open all the time for fear he’ll miss something going on out in the hall.

The Clinton Hospital, like hospitals all over the county I’m told, is producing more babies than at any time in history. As one of the nurses said:

The Army is sure shelling out the babies.

My dad is quite struck with this wholesale addition to the population, and every morning asks the nurses the score for the night. He and the nurses make jokes about it. My dad is scared to death they’ll get mixed up and take him to the delivery room someday.

My dad is neither blind nor deaf, but he is a little of each. His eyes are so bad people have to read his letters to him, and you have to speak rather loud to him. Which leads to a little story.

The night I arrived, several members of our family met the train and we drove right to the hospital. The folks hung back so I could go ahead into the room alone.

So, I went in and my father held out his hand, and we talked together for about a minute, and then the rest of them came in. He greeted them all, and then asked if they had been to the depot yet. They said yes, and then my dad said:

Did Ernest come?

So, they all howled and said:

Who do you think you’ve been talking to the last few minutes?

He said:

Why, I thought it was Clyde Howard.

Clyde is the barber up at Dana. My dad was very chagrined.

1 Like

The Pittsburgh Press (November 13, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

While preparing to return to the wear zones for a new series of columns about U.S. fighting men, Ernie Pyle has written several columns about his visit home. This is the fourth.

Dana, Indiana –
My Aunt Mary Bales stays alone on the farm while my father is in the hospital. She goes to bed about 9, but doesn’t sleep very well because she’s scared.

She doesn’t know what she’s scared of, unless it’s just the dark, and strange noises outdoors. I know how it is, for I was always afraid of darkness on the farm too.

Betty the dog sleeps on the front porch, and Aunt Mary depends on her to keep the “buggers” away. That’s an old Midwest term I’d completely forgotten. It means “spooks.”

Betty is the dog we got for my mother when she was alive. My mother called her Snooky but Aunt Mary called her Betty. Now that my mother is gone, it has become permanently Betty. It has never sounded quite right to me.

The dog is older now, and not quite so frisky. But every now and then she’ll get a spell, and if you keep yelling at her to urge her on, she’ll circle the house about 10 times at a dead run, as though she were chasing a rabbit.

We haven’t any livestock left except chickens, so the work isn’t hard for my Aunt Mary. But she never stops for a second, and never runs out of something to do. In a couple of years, she’ll be 80. You’d have a hard time making anybody believe it.

‘Only’ the labor lost

About three years ago, my folks built an outside chimney on the west side of the house, so they could put an oil stove in the west room. But something was wrong with it, and the stove never worked very well. On days of west winds, the fire would blow clear out.

They decided it was because the chimney was hollow clear to the ground, thus making a suction or something. So, a few days before I got home, Aunt Mary decided to fix it.

She spent an entire day carrying bucketfuls of dirt and small rocks in from the gravel pit, then getting up on a chair and pouring the stuff with a little shovel down through the stovepipe hole. It took from early morning till suppertime to get the hollow chimney filled up almost level with the flue.

We haven’t tried the stove since then, but as Aunt Mary says:

Maybe it won’t work, but it didn’t work the other way either, so all I could lose was a day’s work.

We have a new baseburner in the front room. Rather it isn’t new, but a second-hand one a neighbor sold us. It’s a great big thing, but it doesn’t seem to heat as well as our old one did. They say that’s the way when you get awfully used to something. And we were certainly used to that old baseburner. I forget whether my Aunt Mary said we’d had it for 24 years or 40 years. Anyhow the grate inside it finally burned out, and since you can’t buy a new grate nowadays, we had to drum up a second-hand stove.

I’m crazy about baseburners. They heat so evenly, and never go out. And as somebody said, there’s nothing warmer or cozier than to come home at night and see the soft gentle glow of the baseburner shining through the front window out of the dark room.

Postcard from ‘somebody good’

I think I’ve told you in years past about my father’s weekly postcard from San Diego. It started four or five years ago, before my mother died. Once a week there’d come a postcard from San Diego addressed to “Ernie Pyle’s Mother.” It never said anything except some little cheery greeting, but it never failed to come. We didn’t know who sent them.

Then after my mother died in the spring of 1941, the cards came addressed to “Ernie Pyle’s Father.” They’d still coming, one every week. One arrived during my visit. We must have more than 200 of them by now. We still don’t know who sends them. Just somebody good, that’s all we know.

My Aunt Mary is an emotional woman, and sentimental too, and very expressive. She is terribly proud of the fame that has come to this column, and tells me so in every letter. And she often says:

Oh, if your mother could only be here to see this success.

But my Aunt Mary is wrong. My mother wouldn’t care much about all this. She would only care whether her son was genuine, and modest, and kind. It she thought he was that, nothing in the world could make her half as proud. On our visits home before she died, she hardly ever spoke of our travels or work or the outside world at all.

And my father feels pretty much the same way. It’s the little things that count. I do think he’s sort of pleased at the way things have gone, but he never mentions it.

I brought him one of my books when I came past, and a little ivory kangaroo I’d bought in Khartoum. They’re both on the table beside his hospital bed. I notice he shows visitors the kangaroo first, and says proudly:

See what Ernest brought me from Egypt.

The book is dedicated to my father on the flyleaf, but he hasn’t noticed it yet, and I haven’t said anything to him about it.

1 Like

The Pittsburgh Press (November 15, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

Ernie Pyle is writing a short series of columns on his experiences at home, prior to showing off for another assignment to a war zone.

Dana, Indiana –
Mrs. Howard Goforth, one of our farm neighbors down the road, is recovering from an impact with a corncrib.

The other day she and Howard drove over to Nellie Hendricks’ after something. Howard doesn’t drive. Mrs. Goforth has been doing all the driving for 20 years and never had an accident.

But this day she swung around in the Hendricks’ barn lot, and then something unexplainable happened, and she couldn’t get the car stopped, and rammed head-on into the corncrib.

It smashed the front end of the car, shattered the windshield, broke the steering wheel into three pieces against Mrs. Goforth’s chest, and almost cut one of Howard’s fingers off.

And, incidentally, it moved the big corncrib nine inches off its concrete foundation.

Farmers do have the finniest auto accidents. Things like barns and corncribs and wagons are always getting in the way. And if nothing’s in the way, they have accidents anyhow.

Nary a tree nor a bush

I remember years ago when Bill Satterlee was trying to switch from a Model-T to a brand-new gearshift Ford. He took it out in a 20-acre open pasture with not a tree nor a bush in it, and without ever hitting a thing he wrecked that new Ford so badly they couldn’t even trade it in. It seems he just kept turning it over and over.

This country drivin’ ain’t safe.

They’re telling a joke around Dana in which my name figures.

Last spring, The Indianapolis Times had a big statewide collection going on, to raise money to send cigarettes to our troops throughout the world. The fund was promoted in my name, since I was overseas writing about the boys.

Newsdealers and drugstores all over the state put up collection boxes. In the drugstore at Dana, they had a mason jar on the glass counter, with a penciled pasteboard sign saying “Ernie Pyle’s Cigarette Fund.”

One day a woman came in, looked at it in astonishment for a long time, and finally said to the druggist:

Why, I always supposed he had enough money to buy his own cigarettes.

Iva Jordan, who was my first schoolteacher nearly 40 years ago, had a stroke while I was out west. Berthas and Iva Jordan live all alone on the farm, just a mile from us across the fields, but two miles if you go around the road.

Will Jordan, Bertha’s husband, died a long time ago, and Bertha and Iva have done it alone on the farm ever since then.

Iva’s left side is paralyzed. She can just wiggle the fingers on her hand, that’s all. They have a hospital bed for her in the west room, and she is quite comfortable.

They’ll manage somehow

All these years Bertha and Iva had a hired hand or two, but now they are in a predicament, because everybody has gone to the Army and they can’t get a man anywhere. Bertha has to do everything herself, as well as look after Iva. They don’t know how they’ll get through the winter, but I suppose they’ll manage somehow.

The stroke didn’t affect Iva’s face, nor her speech. She says maybe it would be a good thing if it had, for she just talks everybody to death. She says twice visitors have just got up and left after about ten minutes with her, because she wouldn’t let them get a word in. But, as she says, what’s the use of having visitors if they won’t listen to you?

I can’t see that the war has affected our farming neighborhood very much at all, except that none of the young men are left.

Farmers set groaning boards almost the way they used to, and I don’t know of any serious shortage of anything. In the country stores you can still find things that have long been extinct in the city. The crops are good, and nearly everybody is getting things fixed up around the farm and getting a little ahead.

Nobody from our neighborhood has been killed in action yet, although two have died in camp of ordinary illness. In a vacant lot on Main Street, where a store burned down nearly 30 years ago and nothing was ever built in its place, they have a huge signboard bearing and names of everybody in our township who is serving with the Armed Forces.

Oddly enough, my name is on it, although technically I’m not in the Armed Forces at all. But I’m proud that they waived the technicality and included me. And oddly enough again, although I’m a civilian and also older than all the others, I guess I’ve seen more action so far than anyone else on the list.

Here at home, I see the veterans of the last war, most of them my contemporaries, and for some strange reason I feel more easy and at home with the boys of this war than my old cronies.

I suppose that’s because some mysterious fate has merely delayed for a year or two the arrival of my inevitable rheumatics. But I carry my liniment all the time anyhow, just in case. Nobody’s pulling any of this youth-stuff wool over my eyes.

1 Like

The Pittsburgh Press (November 16, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

Ernie Pyle is writing a short series of columns on his experiences and impressions at home while taking a rest from his arduous assignment in the war zones. He is about to shove off again for the battlefronts.

Washington –
Miss Malvina Thompson, who is Mrs. Roosevelt’s personal secretary, called up at 3:30 and said could I come over at 5 and have tea with Mrs. Roosevelt. Being a man of few words, I said, “Sure.”

I did add, however, that the only coat I had was an old gray one with the elbows out, and I mean out. Miss Thompson said they didn’t care, if I didn’t.

So, I washed my face and at 4:40 put on my Army mackinaw and walked around Lafayette Park for 20 minutes to get up my courage, and then plunged into the White House.

A butler took my coat, and an usher stood waiting to escort me into the waiting room. I shook hands with him out of excitement, which I suppose I shouldn’t have done.

I sat in a small red velvet room on the ground floor. Down the hall I could hear Mrs. Roosevelt laughing and talking with people, and then she was at my door, with the usher introducing us.

Mrs. Roosevelt is very, very happy-like. She said she wanted to see my coat because Miss Thompson had told her I would be ragged. So, I showed her my elbows and said I sure wasn’t fooling. I told her I thought it ridiculous to buy new clothes when I was out of uniform only a few weeks, and she said:

Perfectly ridiculous. I agree with you.

We went up to the second floor in an elevator which she operated herself, and into a pleasant west room which had bookcases and several small desk pictures of the President scattered around.

In a minute Miss Thompson joined us, and Mrs. Roosevelt very flatteringly quoted Miss Thompson as having said this was one tea she wanted to come to. I had supposed there was always a crowd at 5 o’clock tea at the White House, but there were only the three of us.

Ernie’s a little weakish

At first, I was a little weakish, and sweaty around the upper lip, and I kept wiping my face with a handkerchief. But Mrs. Roosevelt kept talking and I didn’t need to think much until after I had calmed down a little.

One of the first things she said was:

I wish you would do for the boys in the South Pacific what you’ve done for those in Africa.

I told her we had considered that as the next trip, but had finally come to the conclusion I had better stick to Europe awhile.

She said well maybe that was right, but she’d learned from her trip that the boys in the Pacific felt neglected. You have such a sense of Mrs. Roosevelt’s sincerity and genuine interest in people that I had to hold onto myself to keep from saying:

Okay, I’ve changed my plans. I’m going to the Pacific.

Mrs. Roosevelt spoke frequently of the President, either as Franklin, Mr. Roosevelt, or the President. I was amazed at the candid way in which she related what she had said to him about something, or what he had said to her.

A good part of her conversation was devoted to her feelings about preparing for the post-war period; how important it was that we have jobs all ready for the soldiers when they come back; how we must make factories more modern and homes more livable.

But the conversation wasn’t all on such matters. She spoke of Quent Reynolds and his broadcast, and of John Steinbeck, whom she has never met but admires.

In turn, I told her a couple of little war stories. Miss Thompson and I both smoked one cigarette after another. Mrs. Roosevelt didn’t smoke, but seemed to keep herself busy at the tea table. After it was over, I had the impression she had been pouring tea the whole hour, yet actually we only had one cup around.

Splutters into his tea

Finally, we got off onto column writing, and how long it takes each of us. Ordinarily Mrs. Roosevelt dictates hers at the end of the day, in about half an hour., I told her it took me half a day to write a column, and she said:

Yes, but you write a much better column than I do!

Since it is bad taste to dispute the opinion of the First Lady, I just spluttered into my tea.

I’d been worried about how I was to know when to leave. A couple of times I uncrossed my legs in small tentative rising gestures, but neither time did Mrs. Roosevelt or Miss Thompson respond to the cue, so I figured it was still all right.

Finally, I realized it was 10 minutes till 6, so I got up and said I must let them get to their other appointments. So, they got up, and Miss Thompson said goodbye, and Mrs. Roosevelt took me back down in the elevator.

She said this was the same elevator the Teddy Roosevelt kids used to ride their ponies up and down in, and that you could still see the hoof scars on it, and indeed it was very old and scuffed up.

We shook hands in the lobby, and I left with the feeling that I had been talking to a woman who is unique, who is remarkable, and who is all good. As a mutual friend said, you have a hard time to keep from loving her.

The colored butler held my old Army mackinaw, opened the door, and said a friendly goodbye. At the front gate, one of the policemen asked how soon I was going back overseas. After that, I walked off across Lafayette Park alone, in the chill dusk air, feeling light as a feather.


The Pittsburgh Press (November 17, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

Ernie Pyle is writing a short series of columns on his experiences and impressions at home while taking a rest from his arduous assignment in the war zones. He is about to shove off again for the battlefronts.

Albuquerque, New Mexico –
You don’t seem to feel the war so very much here in Albuquerque. There are plenty of reasons you should feel it; but I think maybe the bigness of the West, and the stoicism of the Indians, and the magnificence of the sky – somehow, it’s all so big it can sort of absorb tragedy, and tears, and sorrow.

Few communities have been harder hit by the war than Albuquerque. I mean really hit – in the heart. Nearly 400 Albuquerque boys vanished on Bataan. More than 1,300 from throughout this sparsely-populated state were lost with the Philippines.

News of the Albuquerque boys is scarce. Official death notices have been received on 113 of them. More than 300 are still listed as “missing.” Unquestionably many of the remainder are dead by now, from disease and starvation in the Jap prison camps.

The parents of these 1,300 boys feel that they were martyred but it’s too late to do anything about that now, so they don’t make an issue of it.

Form society to aid captives

Instead, they have formed an association, to do what they can – which isn’t much. It is called the Bataan Relief Organization. Their sole purpose is to try to get little relief shipments to their suffering children in the Jap camps.

It would, of course, please the families of this suffering group if our High Command were to direct the mass of American might immediately at the Philippines and at Japan’s heart. It is only human nature that they should feel that way.

Yet they realize the war is broader and greater than their own grief, so they do not attempt to lobby the War Department in any way. They do send an occasional delegate to Washington, but it’s to arrange for relief shipments to their boys, and nothing else.

The Spanish-American people of one community alone recently collected $38 in pennies, nickels and dimes to help send the organization’s president, Dr. V. H. Spensley, to Washington.

Around three-fourths of the 1,300 lost men are of Spanish or Indian blood. Many families have two sons gone with Bataan. The man who laid the brickwork for our house is among them. So is the boy called “Lightning” who used to deliver our groceries. Everywhere you go, you notice the inroads Bataan made upon Albuquerque.

The biggest shipment sent to the boys so far went on the Gripsholm in September. The first shipment of relief packages, sent more than a year ago, reached the prison camps in January, and unquestionably saved many lives.

The last shipment on the Gripsholm cost $27 a box. The contents were meticulously chosen. From $8 to $12 worth of every package was made up of vitamin and salt tablets. Each box also included 250 malted-milk tablets.

In addition to that went candy, antiseptic pencils, underwear, socks, sweaters, shoestrings, chewing gum and razors (they bought up every razor in Albuquerque). Everything that came in glass or tin cans was repacked. The state police helped pick up the packages from all over the state. At the last minute, some packages were specially flown to New York by TWA to catch the Gripsholm.

War bond goal doubled

The Relief Organization holds meetings, gives dances, and is very active. In January, it fostered a statewide “MacArthur Day.” It conducted a one-week war bond and stamp drive, with a quota of $300,000, and raised over $600,000.

The government gave it the right to name a Flying Fortress, so in July the Spirit of Bataan was christened at the Albuquerque Air Base.

The Bataan Relief Organization lists as its purpose:

To obtain immediate relief for all American soldiers held as Japanese prisoners of war, their release as quickly as possible, and their safe delivery home.

And as one of the officers adds:

…trying desperately to keep the heroic deeds of these almost forgotten heroes kindled in the hearts of their countrymen.

My old set in Albuquerque has ceased to exist. It wasn’t a set of young bucks either, but of mature, some of them middle-aged, men. The fun we used to have playing croquet, bowling, shooting at tin cans, and sometimes just going downtown and raising Cain – it will all have to wait for years now before it can ever be resumed. For there’s nobody around anymore.

Earl Mount, the big-hearted, hard-bitten contractor, is in the Aleutians; Arthur McCollum, always sad because he never got overseas in the last war, has made it in this one; Barney Livingstone, the newspaperman, is serving the Navy in Washington; Doc Connor has been freed from delivering babies and has gone into the Navy. There were five of us – and all five of us are gone. But when we all get back – Albuquerque, look out!


Did someone say bowling?


1 Like

The Pittsburgh Press (November 18, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

Ernie Pyle is writing a short series of columns on his experiences and impressions at home while taking a rest from his arduous assignment in the war zones. He is about to shove off again for the battlefronts.

Albuquerque, New Mexico –
During a part of my vacation here in Albuquerque my old friend Paige Cavanaugh came over from Inglewood, California, and spent his vacation.

Cavanaugh is a farm boy from Salem, Indiana, who was on the Mexican border when he was 16, was in France throughout the last war, somehow made his way through Indiana University in the early ‘20s, and then went to California, where he has been fretting about the weather for the last two decades.

Cavanaugh says it took him two years to get from private to PFC in the last war, and he’s afraid he couldn’t equal such a meteoric rise in this one, so he’s decided to sit it out.

Cavanaugh and I both like to work (at certain times and at certain things). So, while he was here, we mowed the lawn twice, spread fertilizer and iron sulphate on it, cleaned and adjusted all the nozzles on the sprinkler system, poisoned several an-tholes, split and stacked in the shed a ton of fireplace wood, and washed the dishes every day.

In addition to that Cavanaugh all alone spaded up every foot of ground of the big south lot, just in order to get the stickers turned under so the dog could run around without getting them in her feet.

‘Wanton destruction’ begins

When all that was done, we went to work on the woodshed, which is the catchall. Every house has a catchall, in some form or other. The woodshed was so stacked with junk you could hardly get the door open. I said:

I’ll fix that. We will use the principle of wanton destruction. We will pillage and we will burn.

So, Cavanaugh dug a great hole in the backyard. You could have put half a jeep in it. And then we began carrying stuff out of the woodshed and throwing it in that hole. When it was full, we set a match to it.

All afternoon we carried stuff out of the woodshed and stacked onto the fire. People up in the Jemez Mountains thought we were Indians, trying to signal a message. I don’t know what our neighbors thought, and don’t want to know.

But one thing on our destruction list stumped us. That was a big old-fashioned radio that weighed about 60 pounds and hadn’t played a note for years.

I was going to burn it, but Cavanaugh said no, it was too good to destroy, let’s give it to somebody. So, we looked up several radio repair shops, and started out.

I said:

I’ll bet we have trouble. People will think there’s some catch to giving a radio away, and will be suspicious.

And I was right. I went into a radio shop and explained the circumstances. I said:

We haven’t got room for it at our house. It’s old, but it’s big and has lots of parts in it you could use. There’s no catch to it. We just want to give it away.

The woman behind the counter gave me the old don’t-you-try-to-cheat-me-young-man look and said condescendingly:

Well, bring it in, we’ll look at it.

So, Cavanaugh lugged the huge thing in, almost breaking his back. The woman gave him the cold eye, and never so much as said thank you.

After we left, we got mad. As the afternoon wore on, we got madder. I said:

That guy will spend $5 fixing that thing up, and sell it for $75.

Cavanaugh said:

Sure he will. And they didn’t even say thank you. Let’s go and take it away from them.

Stuck with it again

And by jimmy we did. We just went back and said we’d changed our minds, and lugged the thing back to the car. Now we were stuck with it again.

On the way home we stopped to see our friend Sister Margaret Jane, who is Mother Superior at St. Joseph’s Hospital. We told her what we’d done, and Sister almost died laughing at our audacity. Then she said:

Well, if you don’t know what to do with it, give it to me. One of the workmen can fix it up, and we can sure use it around here.

So, we lugged it into the ambulance entrance of the hospital, heaved a great sigh of relief, and went on home. After a while the phone rang. It was Sister Margaret Jane. She was laughing so hard she could barely talk.

We asked:

What’s the matter?

She said:

Why, we’ve just plugged the radio in and it started right off playing. There wasn’t anything the matter with it at all!

1 Like

The Pittsburgh Press (November 19, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

In a short series of columns, Ernie Pyle is describing his experiences on the home front, before taking up soon another assignment to the battlefronts.

Albuquerque, New Mexico –
When I get back to the front, nobody less than a brigadier general had better try to high-hat me. Not that anybody ever did, but I’m just issuing a warning.

For I am a colonel myself. Not just a colonel once; not just a colonel twice; but three times a colonel. Yep – a New Mexico colonel. Aide-de-camp on the staff of the Governor.

Governor Clyde Tingley started it, several years ago. Then along came Governor Johnny Miles, and he kept up the tradition by making me a colonel again. And now the newest Governor – Jack Dempsey – seeing no way out, has had to follow suit.

Personally, I like the idea. Maybe I wouldn’t like it if I weren’t a colonel, but since I am a colonel, I like it. You get special license plates saying “Staff Officer,” and the State Police leave you pretty much alone unless you kill somebody, and furthermore, the Governor takes you to lunch.

I was just getting onto the hang of how to use our ration points when my vacation was over, and now I have to leave. Rationing doesn’t seem to me so bad, once you get onto it.

Tea strainers and death

There are lots of little things you can’t buy, but honestly, I don’t see that anybody is in much pain from it, for example, it’s impossible to buy any kind of tea strainer in Albuquerque except a plastic one which soon goes to pieces. But then did you ever hear of anybody dying for lack of a tea strainer?

Our groceryman says that the point system, instead of running him out of business as he feared, has actually doubled his fruit and vegetable business.

The reason is that people buy fresh stuff all month and eat or can it, and then at the last of the coupon period, in order not to let coupons go unused, they come in and buy just as much canned stuff as they used to.

Which would seem to indicate that the theory behind rationing has slipped somewhere along the line.

One of the greatest pleasures of my vacation was to have a real auto again. After a year of jeep and truck riding, it was like a suburb of Heaven to get into our Pontiac convertible. I didn’t know whether it was going half the time or not, because you couldn’t hear the engine. And bumps, why, you’d think the country around Albuquerque was all made of velvet.

The car has to go back into storage, for unfortunately That Girl, being poetic rather than mechanical-minded, has never learned to drive. It’s a shame too, because now she either has to strike out across the mesa on foot, like a prospector, or else spend two-thirds of her not-too-lavish wages on taxicabs.

That Girl doesn’t like it

She doesn’t like this business of keeping the home fires burning while everybody else is away. But who does?

It is the ones who stay, like her, that really take the rap. For those behind life is lonely, routine, sometimes seemingly frustrated. But for us who go, new things always appear to be endured, there is excitement, and change, and misery to challenge you. There is so little time for mooning. I am glad that I can go instead of stay – if anybody has to go.

Our little house is still a gem. Now it has some Algerian rugs on the floor, Moroccan hassocks before the fireplace, Congo ivory on the mantle.

We can still see 80 miles from our front window, and the sunsets are still spellbinding. Quail still peck in our front yard. Roaming neighborhood dogs come and visit us. So do children. The postman always has something peasant to say.

We have two cups of hot tea very early in the morning, and we are sitting here drinking it when the first dawn comes over the Sandias. The sun soon warms the desert, and the day grows lazy for us who are home on furlough. Life seems too good here within these few square feet ever to bear going away.

1 Like

The Pittsburgh Press (November 20, 1943)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

Ernie Pyle is describing his impressions of the home front in a short series of columns before shoving off again on assignment to the battlefronts.

Albuquerque, New Mexico –
Charlie Binkley is the man who put up our house. He was boss carpenter of the construction crew when we built, here on the edge of the mesa, three years ago.

He is a middle-aged Midwesterner – religious, friendly, deeply conscientious about his work. He still drops in to chat once in a while. He came past one recent Sunday morning.

As he walked across the yard, That Girl said to me:

Oh, I forgot to tell you. Charlie has lost both of his boys since you were here.

We shook hands and I said I was sorry about the boys, Charlie sat down and said yes it was pretty tough, and left an awful void. Your only two children gone within a few months of each other – one from an operation, one in a crash in New Guinea. Charlie said:

The Missus is about to go crazy.

There isn’t any construction anymore, so Charlie works at the air base. He is still kind to people, and drives around dropping in here and there to see the friends who live in the scores of houses he built, checking up on little things they need done, making conversation and trying to keep from being too lonesome and blank.

There’s nothing else to do

Charlie Binkley is able to take his terrible double-blow – just as most of the rest of us would take it – because there’s nothing else you can do but take it.

Out meat-man at Campbell’s grocery for years was “Mr. Mac.” We were good friends and he was always pleasant and helpful. Yet during all those years I never knew what his name actually was.

Then one day while I was at home, the phone rang, and it was “Mr. Mac” on the wire. He said:

I’m in the Navy now, just home on a few days’ furlough. I’d like to come down and swap yarns with you.

Pretty soon he came walking down the street. He is nearly 50. He had on his shipboard working clothes of Navy dungaree and jacket. The little white hat cocked on the back of the head of a middle-aged man made him look odd. His name is Rupert H. McHarney.

He said:

I’m a watertender first class. That seems a funny thing for a butcher to be. But that’s what I was in the last war, and it all came back after a few weeks.

I asked:

How did you come to go in at your age?

He said:

Well, I was in the last war and just figured we started a job that we didn’t get finished. My boy is an ensign in naval aviation, and we were fixed so I could leave. My only worry was how my mother would take it. She’s pretty old and I was afraid she would object. But when I wrote her, she wrote back and said you do whatever you feel you have to do. So, I went in.

“Mr. Mac” has been at sea constantly for a year. He has seen action in the Pacific. He can have a shore job any time, but he likes it at sea, and he takes a certain pride in holding up his end of the work among younger men. He says the only trouble he’s had was a spell of swollen ankles from walking the hard decks.

The young and the old

We’ll be an odd mixture after the war when we come back to Albuquerque: Strange young men who have never been away; strange old men who dashed out and fought at the first alarm.

In Tunisia last winter, I met and wrote about a young lieutenant in the Paratroopers named Jack Pogue. He was adjutant to the famous Col. Edson Raff. He turned out to be a fellow Nex Mexican, from Estancia Valley just over the mountains from Albuquerque.

A few days after I got home, Jack’s mother called up, she said she was teaching school at Moriarty; teaching for the first time in 15 years. She called because she just wanted to talk to somebody who’d seen Jack, even though it had been a long time.

A month went by, and she was in the city and called again, just to tell me she’d had three letters from Jack and that he was fine.

Then that same evening the phone ring again. The person at the other end was sobbing violently. Through the chokes I made out the voice of Mrs. Pogue. I knew what would be coming next, as soon as she could speak. But it was a little different from what I thought.

She sobbed:

I’ve just got the word, and had to call you – Jack’s a German prisoner.

So, I began talking fast. I said:

Well, that’s okay, Mrs. Pogue. That means he’s all right. The Germans are ethical about prisoners. He’s safe, and out of danger now, and that means he’ll come back to you after the war.

The choked answer that came back was startling – and thrilling too.

Yes, but that isn’t what Jack wanted. He wanted to FIGHT!

1 Like