Roving Reporter, Ernie Pyle

The Pittsburgh Press (August 17, 1944)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

On the Western front, France – (by wireless)
The commander of the particular regiment of the 4th Infantry Division that we have been with is one of my favorites.

That’s partly because he flatters me by calling me “General,” partly because just looking at him makes me chuckle to myself, and partly because I think he’s a very fine soldier.

Security forbids my giving his name. He is a Regular Army colonel and he was overseas in the last war. His division commander says the only trouble with him is that he’s too bold, and if he isn’t careful, he’s liable to get clipped one of these days.

He is rather unusual looking. There is something almost Mongolian about his face. When cleaned up he could be a Cossack. When tired and dirty he could be a movie gangster. But either way, his eyes always twinkle.

He has a facility for direct thought that is unusual. He is impatient of thinking that gets off onto byways.

He has a little habit of good-naturedly reprimanding people by cocking his head over to one side, getting his face below yours and saying something sharp, and then looking up at you with a quizzical smirk like a laughing cat.

Jacket fits like a sack

The colonel goes constantly from one battalion to another during battle, from early light till darkness. He wears a new-type field jacket that fits him like a sack, and he carries a long stick that Teddy Roosevelt gave him. He keeps constantly prodding his commanders to push hard, not to let up, to keep driving and driving.

He is impatient with commanders who lose the main point of the war by getting involved in details the main point, of course, being to kill Germans. His philosophy of war is expressed in the simple formula of “shoot the sonsabitches.”

Once I was at a battalion command post when we got word that 60 Germans were coming down the road in a counterattack. Everybody got excited. They called the colonel on a field phone, gave him the details and asked him what to do. He had the solution in a nutshell.

He just said, “Shoot the sonsabitches,” and hung up.

Another of my favorites is a sergeant who runs the colonel’s regimental mess. He cooks some himself, but mostly he bosses the cooking.

His name is Charles J. Murphy and his home is at Trenton, New Jersey. Murph is redheaded, but has his head nearly shaved like practicably all the Western Front soldiers – officers as well as men. Murph is funny, but he seldom smiles.

When I asked him what he did in civilian life, he thought a moment and then said:

Well, I was a shyster. Guess you’d call me a kind of promoter. I always had the kind of job where you made $50 a week salary and $1,500 on the side.

How’s that for an honest man?

Murph and I got to talking about newspapermen one day. Murph said his grandfather was a newspaper man. He retired in old age and lived in Murph’s house.

‘Went nuts reading newspapers’

Murph said:

My grandfather went nuts reading newspapers. It was a phobia with him. Every day he’d buy $1.50 worth of 3-cent newspapers and then read them all night.

He wouldn’t read the ads. He would just read the stories, looking for something to criticize. He’d get fuming mad.

Lots of times when I was a kid, he’d get me out of bed at 2 or 3 in the morning and point to some story in the paper and rave about reporters who didn’t have sense enough to put a period at the end of a sentence.

Murph and I agreed that it was fortunate his grandfather passed on before he got reading my stuff, or he would doubtless have run amuck.

Murph never smoked cigarettes until he landed in France on D-Day, but now he smokes one after another. He is about the tenth soldier who has told me that same thing. A guy in war has to have some outlet for his nerves, and I guess smoking is as good as anything.

All kinds of incongruous things happen during a battle. For instance, during one lull I got my portrait painted in watercolor. The artist sat cross legged on the grass and it took about an hour.

The painter was Pfc. Leon Wall, from Wyoming, Pennsylvania. He went to the National Academy of Design in New York for six years, did research for the Metropolitan Museum and lectured on art at the New York World’s Fair.

Artist Wall is now, of all things, a cook and KP in an infantry regiment mess. He hasn’t done any war paintings at all since the invasion. I asked him why not. He said: “Well, at first I was too scared, and since then I’ve been too busy.”

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The Pittsburgh Press (August 18, 1944)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

On the Western Front, France – (by wireless)
Soldiers are made out of the strangest people.

I’ve recently made a new friend – just a plain old Hoosier – who is so quiet and humble you would hardly know he was around. Yet in our few weeks of invasion, he has killed four of the enemy, and he has learned war’s wise little ways of destroying life and preserving your own.

He hasn’t become the “killer” type that war makes of some soldiers; he has merely become adjusted to an obligatory new profession.

His name is George Thomas Clayton. Back home he is known as Tommy. In the Army he is sometimes called George, but usually just Clayton. He is from Evansville, where he lived with his sister. He is a frontline infantryman of rifle company in the 29th Division.

By the time this is printed he will be back in the lines. Right now he is out of combat for a brief rest. He spent a few days in an “Exhaustion Camp,” then was assigned briefly to the camp where I work from – a camp for correspondents. That’s how we got acquainted.

Clayton is a private first class. He operates a Browning automatic rifle. He has turned down two chances to become a buck sergeant and squad leader, simply because he would rather keep his powerful BAR than have stripes and less personal protection.

He landed in Normandy on D-Day, on the toughest of the beaches, and was in the line for 37 days without rest. He has had innumerable narrow escapes.

Twice, 88s hit within a couple of arms’ lengths of him. But both times the funnel of the concussion was away from him and he didn’t get a scratch though the explosions covered him and his rifle with dirt.

Then a third one hit about 10 feet away, and made him deaf in his right ear. He had always had trouble with that ear anyway – ear aches and things as a child. Even in the Army back in America he had to beg the doctors to waive the ear defect in order to come overseas. He is still a little hard of hearing in that ear from the shell burst, but it’s gradually coming back.

When Tommy finally left the lines, he was pretty well done up and his sergeant wanted to send him to a hospital, but he begged not to go for fear he wouldn’t get back to his old company, so they let him go to a rest camp instead.

And now after a couple of weeks with us (provided the correspondents don’t drive him frantic), he will return to the lines with his old outfit.

Clayton has worked at all kings of things back in that other world of civilian life. He has been a farm hand, a cook and a bartender. Just before he joined the Army, he was a gauge-honer in the Chrysler Ordnance Plant at Evansville.

When the war is over, he wants to go into business for himself for the first time in his life. He’ll probably set up a small restaurant in Evansville. He said his brother-in-law would back him.

Tommy was shipped overseas after only two months in the Army, and now has been out of America for 18 months. He is medium-sized, dark-haired, has a little mustache and the funniest-looking head of hair you ever saw this side of Buffalo Bill’s show.

While his division was killing time in the first few days before leaving England, he and three others decided to have their hair cut Indian fashion. They had their heads clipped down to the skin all except a two-inch ridge starting at the forehead and running clear to the back of the neck. It makes them look more comical than ferocious as they had intended. Two of the four have been wounded and evacuated to England.

I chatted off and on with Clayton for several days before he told me how old he was. I was amazed; so much so that I asked several other people to guess at his age and they all guessed about the same as I did – about 26.

Actually, he is 37, and that’s pretty well along in years to be a frontline infantryman. It’s harder on a man at that age.

As Clayton himself says, “When you pass that 30 mark you begin to slow up a little.”

It’s harder for you to take the hard ground and the rain and the sleeplessness and the unending wracking of it all. Yet at 37, he elected to go back.

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The Pittsburgh Press (August 19, 1944)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

On the Western Front, France – (by wireless)
The ways of an invasion turned out to be all very new to Pfc. Tommy Clayton, the 29th Division infantryman we were writing about yesterday.

It was new to thousands of others also, for they hadn’t been trained in hedgerow fighting. So they had to learn it the way a dog learns to swim. They learned.

As we said yesterday, this Tommy Clayton, the mildest of men, has killed four of the enemy for sure, and probably dozens of unseen ones. He wears an Expert Rifleman’s badge and soon will have the proud badge of Combat Infantryman, worn only by those who have been through the mill.

Three of his four victims he got in one long blast of his Browning automatic rifle. He was stationed in the bushes at a bend in a gravel road, covering a crossroads about 80 yards ahead of him.

Suddenly three German soldiers came out a side road and foolishly stopped to talk right in the middle of the crossroads. The BAR has 20 bullets in a clip. Clayton held her down for the whole clip. The three Germans went down, never to get up.

His fourth one, he thought was a Jap when he killed him. In the early days of the invasion, lots of soldiers thought they were fighting Japs, scattered in with the German troops. They were actually Mongolian Russians, with strong Oriental features, who resembled Japs to the untraveled Americans.

On this fourth killing, Clayton was covering an infantry squad as it worked forward along a hedgerow. There were snipers in the trees in front. Clayton spotted one and sprayed the tree with his automatic rifle, and out tumbled this man he thought was a Jap.

To show how little anyone who hasn’t been through war can know about it – do you want to know how Clayton located his sniper? Here’s how…

When a bullet passes smack over your head, it doesn’t zing; it pops the same as a rifle when it goes off. That’s because the bullet’s rapid passage creates a vacuum behind it, and the air rushes back with such force to fill this vacuum that it collides with itself, and makes a resounding “pop.” Clayton didn’t know what caused this, and I tried to explain.

“You know what a vacuum is,” I said. “We learned that in high school.”

And Tommy said, “Ernie, I never went past the third grade.”

But Tommy is intelligent and his sensitivities are fine. You don’t have to know the reasons in war, you only have to know what things indicate when they happen.

Well, Clayton had learned that the pop of a bullet over his head preceded the actual rifle report by a fraction of a second, because the sound of the rifle explosion had to travel some distance before hitting his ear. So, the “pop” became his warning signal to listen for the crack of a sniper’s rifle a moment later.

Through much practice he had learned to gauge the direction of the sound almost exactly. And so out of this animal-like system of hunting, he had the knowledge to shoot into the right tree and out tumbled his “Jap” sniper.

Clayton’s weirdest experience would be funny if it weren’t so flooded with pathos. He was returning with a patrol one moonlit night when the enemy opened upon them. Tommy leaped right through a hedge and, spotting a foxhole, plunged into it.

To his amazement and fright, there was a German in the foxhole, sitting pretty, holding a machine pistol in his hands. Clayton shot him three times in the chest before you could say scat. The German hardly moved. And then Tommy realized the man had been killed earlier. He had been shooting a corpse.

All these experiences seem to have left no effect on this mild soldier from Indiana, unless to make him even quieter than before.

The worst experience of all is just the accumulated blur, and the hurting vagueness of too long in the lines, the everlasting alertness, the noise and fear, the cell-by-cell exhaustion, the thinning of the ranks around you as day follows nameless day. And the constant march into eternity of your own small quota of chances for survival.

Those are the things that hurt and destroy. And soldiers like Tommy Clayton go back to them, because they are good soldiers and they have a duty they cannot define.

When you’re wandering around our very far-flung frontlines – the lines that in our present rapid war are known as “fluid” – you can always tell how recently the battle has swept on ahead of you.

You can sense it from the little things even more than the big things–

From the scattered green leaves and the fresh branches of trees still lying in the middle of the road.

From the wisps and coils of telephone wire, hanging brokenly from high poles and entwining across the roads.

From the gray, buried powder rims of the shell craters in the gravel roads, their edges not yet smoothed by the pounding of military traffic.

From the little pools of blood on the roadside, blood that has only begun to congeal and turn black, and the punctured steel helmets lying nearby.

From the square blocks of building stone still scattered in the village streets, and from the sharp-edged rocks in the roads, still uncrushed by traffic.

From the burned-out tanks and broken carts still unremoved from the road. From the cows in the fields, lying grotesquely with their feet to the sky, so newly dead they have not begun to bloat or smell.

From the scattered heaps of personal debris around a gun. I don’t know why it is, but the Germans always seem to take off their coats before they flee or die.

From all these things you can tell that the battle has been recent – from these and from the men dead so recently that they seem to be merely asleep.

And also from the inhuman quiet. Usually, battles are noisy for miles around. But in this recent fast warfare a battle sometimes leaves a complete vacuum behind it.

The Germans will stand and fight it out until they see there is no hope. Then some give up, and the rest pull and run for miles. Shooting stops. Our fighters move on after the enemy, and those who do not fight, but move in the wake of the battles, will not catch up for hours.

There is nothing left behind but the remains – the lifeless debris, the sunshine and the flowers, and utter silence.

An amateur who wanders in this vacuum at the rear of a battle has a terrible sense of loneliness. Everything is dead – the men, the machines, the animals – and you alone are left alive.

One afternoon we drove in our jeep into a country like that. The little rural villages of gray stone were demolished – heartbreaking heaps of still smoking rubble.

We drove into the tiny town of La Detinais, a sweet old stone village at the “T” of two gravel roads a rural village in rolling country, a village of not more than 50 buildings. There was not a whole building left.

Rubble and broken wires still littered the streets. Blackish gray stone walls with no roofs still smoldered inside. Dead men still lay in the street, helmets and broken rifles askew around them. There was not a soul nor a sound in town; the village was lifeless.

We stopped and pondered our way, and with trepidation we drove on out of town. We drove for a quarter of a mile or so. The ditches were full of dead men. We drove around one without a head or arms or legs. We stared, and couldn’t say anything about it to each other. We asked the driver to go very slowly, for there was an uncertainty in all the silence. There was no live human, no sign of movement anywhere.

Seeing no one, hearing nothing, I became fearful of going on into the unknown. So, we stopped. Just a few feet ahead of us was a brick-red American tank, still smoking, and with its turret knocked off near it was a German horse-drawn ammunition cart, upside down. In the road beside them was a shell crater.

To our left lay two smashed airplanes in adjoining fields. Neither of them was more than 30 yards from the road. The hedge was low and we could see over. They were both British fighter planes. One lay right side up, the other lay on its back.

We were just ready to turn around and go back, when I spied a lone soldier at the far side of the field. He was standing there looking across the field at us like an Indian in a picture. I waved and he waved back. We walked toward each other.

He turned out to be a 2nd Lt. Ed Sasson of Los Angeles. He is a graves registration officer for his armored division, and he was out scouring the fields, locating the bodies of dead Americans.

He was glad to see somebody, for it is a lonely job catering to the dead.

As we stood there talking in the lonely field a soldier in coveralls, with a rifle slung over his shoulder, ran up breathlessly, and almost shouted: “Hey, there’s a man alive in one of those planes across the road! He’s been trapped there for days!”

We stopped right in the middle of a sentence and began to run. We hopped the hedgerow, and ducked under the wing of the upside-down plane. And there, in the next hour, came the climax to what certainly was one of the really great demonstrations of courage in this war.

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The Pittsburgh Press (August 21, 1944)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

On the Western Front, France – (by wireless)
We ran to the wrecked British plane, lying there upside down, and dropped on our hands and knees and peeked through a tiny hole in the side.

A man lay on his back in the small space of the upside cockpit. His feet disappeared somewhere in the jumble of dial and rubber pedals above him. His shirt was open and his chest was bare to the waist. He was smoking a cigarette.

He turned his eyes toward me when I peeked in, and he said in a typical British manner of offhand friendliness, “Oh, hello.”

“Are you alright?” I asked stupidly.

He answered, “Yes, quite. Now that you chaps are here.”

I asked him how long he had been trapped in the wrecked plane. He said he didn’t know for sure as he had got mixed up about the passage of time. But he did know the date of the month he was shot down. He told me the date. And I said, out loud, “Good God!”

For wounded and trapped, he had been lying there for eight days.

His left leg was broken and punctured by an ack-ack burst. His back was terribly burned by raw gasoline that had spilled. The fool of his injured leg was pinned rigidly under the rudder bar.

His space was so small he couldn’t squirm around to relieve his own weight from his paining back. He couldn’t straighten out his legs, which were bent above him. He couldn’t see out of his little prison. He had not had a bite to eat or a drop of water. All this for eight days and nights.

Yet when we found him, his physical condition was strong, and his mind was as calm and rational as though he were sitting in a London club. He was in agony, yet in his correct Oxford accent he even apologized for taking up our time to get him out.

The American soldiers of our rescue party cussed as they worked, cussed with open admiration for this British flier’s greatness of heart which had kept him alive and sane through his lonely and gradually hope-dimming ordeal.

One of them said, “God, but these limeys have got guts!”

It took us almost an hour to get him out. We don’t know whether he will live or not, but he has a chance. During the hour we were ripping the plane open to make a hole, he talked to us. And here, in the best nutshell I can devise from the conversation of a brave man whom you didn’t want to badger with trivial questions, is what happened…

He was an RAF flight lieutenant, piloting a night fighter. Over a certain area the Germans began letting him have it from the ground with machine-gun fire.

The first hit knocked out his motor. He was too low to jump, so – foolishly, he said – he turned on his lights to try a crash landing. Then they really poured it on him. The second hit got him in the leg. And a third bullet cut right across the balls of his right-hand forefingers, clipping every one of them to the bone.

He left his heels up, and the plane’s belly hit the ground going uphill on a slight slope. We could see the groove it had dug for about 50 yards. Then it flopped, tail over nose, onto its back. The pilot was absolutely sealed into the upside-down cockpit.

“That’s all I remember for a while,” he told us. “When I came to, they were shelling all around me.”

Thus began the eight days. He had crashed right between the Germans and Americans in a sort of pastoral no-man’s-land.

For days afterwards the field in which he lay surged back and forth between German hands and ours.

His pasture was pocked with hundreds of shell craters. Many of them were only yards away. One was right at the end of his wing. The metal sides of the plane were speckled with hundreds of shrapnel holes.

He lay there, trapped in the midst of this inferno of explosions. The fields around him gradually became littered with dead. At last American strength pushed the Germans back, and silence came. But no help. Because, you see, it was in that vacuum behind the battle, and only a few people were left.

The days passed. He thirsted terribly. He slept some; part of the time he was unconscious; part of the time he undoubtedly was delirious. But he never gave up hope.

After we had finally got him out, he said as he lay on the stretcher under a wing, “Is it possible that I’ve been out of this plane since I crashed?”

Everybody chuckled. The doctor who had arrived said:

Not the remotest possibility. You were sealed in there and it took men with tools half an hour to make an opening. And your leg was broken and your foot was pinned there. No, you haven’t been out.

“I didn’t think it was possible,” the pilot said, “and yet it seems in my mind that I was out once and back in again.”

That little memory of delirium was the only word said by that remarkable man in the whole hour of his rescue that wasn’t as dispassionate and matter-of-fact as though he had been sitting comfortably at the end of the day in front of his own fireplace.

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The Pittsburgh Press (August 22, 1944)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

On the Western Front, France – (by wireless)
I would like to tell you in detail the remarkable story of the wounded RAF pilot whom we released after he had lain unnoticed in the wreckage of his plane for eight days on a battlefield.

Several American soldiers sprung out of somewhere a few moments after we arrived. They grasped the situation instantly, and began tearing at the sides of the plane with pliers and wire clippers. They worked as though seconds had suddenly become jewels.

The tough metal came off in strips no bigger than your fingers, and only after terrific pulling and yanking. It seemed as if it would take hours to make a hole big enough to get the pilot out.

The ripping and pounding against the metal sides of the hollow plane made a thunderous noise. I peered inside and asked the pilot: “Does the noise bother you?”

He said:

No, I can stand it. But tell them to be careful when they break through on the other side – my leg is broken, you know.

But the American boys worked faster than we believed possible. They tore their fingers on the jagged edges of the metal; they broke strong aluminum ribs with one small crowbar and a lot of human strength. Soon they had a hole big enough so that I could get my head and shoulders inside the cockpit.

Somebody handed me a canteen of water and I shoved it through the hole to the pilot. He drank avidly. When he put the canteen down, he set it on his bare chest and held it with both hands.

“By God, I could drink a river dry,” he said.

Somebody outside said not to let him drink anymore right now. The pilot said, “Would you pour some on my head?”

I soaked my dirty handkerchief, and rubbed his forehead with it. His hair was nut brown in color and very long. His whiskers were reddish and scraggly and he had a little mustache. His face seemed long and thin, and yet you could tell by his tremendous chest that he was a big man and powerful.

His eyes were not glassy, but I was fascinated by his eyeballs. They didn’t protrude; it was just that they were so big. When he turned them toward you, it was as though he was slowly turning two big brown tennis balls.

He had complete command of his thoughts. The half-delirium you would expect of a man trapped for eight days without food or water, just did not exist in him. He was

His face was dirty from much sweating, but the skin of his body was white and clean. There was a small scab on his forehead and there were some light bruises on his arms.

Inside the plane, the stench was shocking. My first thought was that there must be another man in the plane who had been dead for days. I said to the pilot: “Is there someone else in the plane?”

And he answered, “No this is a single seater, old boy.”

What I had smelled was the pilot himself. We couldn’t see the lower part of his left leg, but we judged it must be gangrenous and in a horrible shape.

“I can move my right leg,” he said, “it’s all right. In fact, I’ve had it out from here several times and moved it around for exercise. But the left one I can’t move.” I asked, “Where did you get the cigarette you were smoking when we got here?”

He said:

Your chap gave it to me. The one who came first. He lighted it for me and stuck it in through the hole, and went searching for the rest of you.

I was wondering if it wasn’t dangerous for him to be smoking inside the wrecked plane. I mentioned something about his being lucky that the plane hadn’t caught fire when he crashed. And he said:

I’ll tell you about that. Do you see that woods a little way north of us?

There were several small woods but I said, “Yes.”

He said:

Well, that first night they set fire to that woods. I could tell it by the glow in the cockpit. And here the plane was soaked with hundred-octane gasoline. I thought the fire would spread right across the field. But it didn’t.

Actually, what he had thought was the woods afire was the little town of La Detinais, which had been set afire by shelling. I didn’t bother to tell him, for he was alive, and after all what could the technicalities matter?

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The Pittsburgh Press (August 23, 1944)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

On the Western Front, France – (by wireless)
You may have wondered how that British pilot happened to be found after lying for eight days unnoticed, trapped in his wrecked plane.

Well, as I told you, a bullet had clipped the balls of his right-hand forefingers, clear to the bone. He had put his cream-colored handkerchief over them to stop the bleeding. As the wound dried, the handkerchief stuck to his fingers, and to pull it off would have been painful. It still stuck to his fingers all through the ordeal of getting him out; It was still elapsed in his hand as the ambulance jeep drove away with him.

To go back, through the days of his waiting he had that handkerchiefed right hand stuck through a little hole in the plane’s side, moving it slowly back and forth.

Just after I had stopped that day to talk to Lt. Ed Sasson in the field, two mechanics from an armored division came down the road in a jeep. They were looking at the wrecked plane as they drove along, and suddenly they saw this slight movement. They stopped and went over to make sure, and they found inside there one of the brave men of this war. That’s when they came running for us.

The two boys to whom this British flight lieutenant owes his life are Sgt. Milton Van Sickel of Brainard, Minnesota, and Cpl. William Schinke of Gresham, Nebraska.

At last, we had the pilot out of the plane and on a stretcher under a wing. The doctor took some scissors and started cutting away his clothes. It must be hot in those cockpits in flight, for the pilot wore nothing but short trousers and a blue shirt.

The doctor cut off the pants and then the shirt. The pilot lay there naked. He was a man of magnificent physique.

The calves of his legs were large and athletic. In the calf of the left leg was a round hole as big as an apple. But to our astonishment, there was no deterioration of flesh around it. The wound was already healing perfectly. The leg wasn’t even burned, as he had told us. What then could it have been that we smelled in the plane?

We turned him over and then we saw. His back was burned by spilled gasoline, from his shoulders to the end of his spine. It was raw and red.

He had been forced to lie on it all the time, unable to move. At last festering had started, and then gangrene. We could see the little blue-green moldy splotches. That was what we had smelled. He didn’t know about that. The odor had developed inside his little cubbyhole so gradually that he hadn’t been aware of it. He was shocked by the smell of fresh air, but he still didn’t know about the other. He had been worried only about his leg.

I don’t know what the doctor really thought. The pilot was obviously in wonderful physical shape, considering such an ordeal. The doctor told him so. But he looked a long time at that gangrenous back, and then they temporarily bandaged it.

As they were working on him, the doctor asked if the pilot had a wallet or any papers. He said yes, his had been in his hip pocket. The doctor lifted the blood-smeared pants and cut the wallet out with a pair of scissors. From the other pocket he cut a silver cigarette case.

“That’s good, old boy,” the pilot said. "I’m grateful that you found that.”

We asked him if he had a wrist watch. He said yes, but it had fallen off and was probably in the debris where he had been lying. But we couldn’t find it, and finally gave it up.

As he lay on his stomach on the stretcher, they tied a metal splint around his wounded leg. While they were doing this, I bathed his head again in water from a canteen.

A soldier lit another cigarette and gave it to him. It dropped through his fingers onto the wet grass, and became soaked. I lit another one and put it in his fingers.

He took a long, deep drag, and put his head down on the litter and closed his eyes. The morphine finally was making him groggy, but it never did put him out.

The cigarette burned up almost to his fingers. An officer said, “It’s going to burn him,” and started to pull it from between his fingers. But the pilot heard and lazily opened his eyes, took another puff, and with his thumb pushed the cigarette farther out in his fingers. Then he closed his eyes again. He lay there for a few minutes like that.

Then again, he rolled those great eyes up and said to me:

“What date did you say this was?” I told him.

“That’s wonderful,” he said. “My wedding anniversary is just three days away. I guess I’ll be back in England for it yet.”

The medics were all through. They covered the naked pilot with a blanket and carried him to the road. Everybody in our little crowd loved the man who had the heart to be so wonderful.

As they put the stretcher down in the gravel road, waiting for the jeep to turn around, one of the armored division soldiers leaned over the stretcher and said with rough emotion:

If you’d been a damn German, you’da been dead five days ago. Christ, but you British have go guts!

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The Pittsburgh Press (August 24, 1944)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

On the Western Front, France – (by wireless)
We had sent one soldier to the nearest aid station as soon as we discovered the wounded British pilot, trapped for eight days in his plane. He had to drive about six miles.

Just a few minutes after the other soldiers finished tearing two holes in the sides of the plane, a medical captain and three aid men popped through the hedge and came running.

The doctor knelt down and sized up everything in a few seconds. He asked an aid man for morphine. The pilot willingly held out his right arm. and the doctor stuck a needle into the bend of the elbow. The pilot never flinched, but looked on almost approvingly.

The doctor said to him:

You’re in good condition. This is just to make it easier for you when we start to pull you out. We’ll wait a few minutes for it to take hold.

While we were sitting there on the ground beside the plane, waiting for the morphine to take effect, the pilot said: “I am delaying you from your work. I’m frightfully sorry about it.”

One of the soldiers, touched by the remark, blurted:

Good God, lieutenant, you aren’t delaying us. This is what we’re here for. We’re just sorry we’ve been so long getting you out.

The pilot momentarily closed his eyes and put his hand on his forehead. And then, as if in resignation at his own rudeness in bothering us, he said: “Well, I don’t know what I should do without you.”

Morphine never put him out

So incredibly strong was that pilot’s constitution that the morphine never put him out.

They waited about 10 minutes. Then two soldiers took off their web belts and looped them around the pilot’s armpits. The medics on the other side said they had hold of his trapped foot and could gradually free it.

The pilot said:

It’s my back that’s weak. All the strength seems to be gone from the small of my back. You’ll have to help me there.

They pulled. The pilot, although without food for eight days, was tremendously strong, and he reached above his head to the plane’s framework and helped lift himself.

The belts slipped, and the soldiers took them off. They knelt and lifted his shoulders with their hands. They had padded the jagged edges of the torn aluminum, over which they would have to slide him, with the heavy rubber of his collapsible lifeboat.

The doctor said, “We’ll be as easy as we can. Tell us when to quit.”

And the brave man said, “Go ahead. I’ll stand it as long as I can.”

They pulled again. The pilot made a face and exerted himself to help them. They slid him slowly a few inches through the hole, until he suddenly called: “Whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa! My back! It’s stuck to the ground. We’ll have to break it loose slowly.”

Pilot offers suggestion

They surveyed the possibilities a while, trying to figure a less painful way of getting him out. There wasn’t any. He said: “I can’t raise my behind at all. If you could slide something under me to carry the weight.”

A soldier went running to the next field, looking for a board. We waited. In a few minutes he came back with a short, thick board.

The pilot reached up with his strong arms, made a1 face, and lifted himself a little from the ground, and the doctor slid the board underneath him. Then the doctor, still kneeling, lifted one end of the board.

Gradually the pilot came out. Twice he had to stop them while they rearranged his injured leg. He said it was twisted. But apparently it was largely the agony of suddenly straightening out a cramped knee that had lain bent for eight days.

At last, in a sort of final surge, he came clear of the plane. They crawled backwards with him, on hands and knees, struggling to hold his back off the ground. You could see that he was steeling himself fiercely.

“Quick! Slide that litter under him,” the doctor called. The pilot said, “My God, that air! That fresh air!” Three times in the next five minutes he mentioned the fresh air.

When they finally laid him tenderly onto the canvas litter and straightened his left leg, you could see the tendons relax and his facial muscles subside, and he gave a long half-groan, half-sigh of relief.

And that was the one single sound of normal human weakness uttered by that man of great courage in the hour of his liberation.

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The Pittsburgh Press (August 28, 1944)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

Paris, France – (by wireless, delayed)
I had thought that for me there could never again be any elation in war. But I had reckoned without the liberation of Paris – I had reckoned without remembering that I might be a part of this richly historic day.

We are in Paris – on the first day – one of the great days of all time. This is being written, as other correspondents are writing their pieces, under an emotional tension, a pent-up semi-delirium.

Our approach to Paris was hectic. We had waited for three days in a nearby town while hourly our reports on what was going on in Paris changed and contradicted themselves. Of a morning it would look as though we were about to break through the German ring around Paris and come to the aid of the brave French Forces of the Interior who were holding parts of the city.

By afternoon it would seem the enemy had reinforced until another Stalingrad was developing. We could not bear to think of the destruction of Paris, and yet at times it seemed desperately inevitable.

That was the situation this morning when we left Rambouillet and decided to feel our way timidly toward the very outskirts of Paris. And then, when we were within about eight miles, rumors began to circulate that the French 2nd Armored Division was in the city. We argued for half an hour at a crossroads with a French captain who was holding us up, and finally le freed us and waved us on.

For 15 minutes we drove through i flat gardenlike country under a magnificent bright sun and amidst greenery, with distant banks of smoke pillaring the horizon ahead and to our left. And then we came gradually into the suburbs, and soon into Paris itself and a pandemonium of surely the greatest mass joy that has ever happened.

Crowd almost hysterical

The streets were lined as by Fourth of July parade crowds at home, only this crowd was almost hysterical. The streets of Paris are very wide, and they were packed mi each side. The women were all brightly dressed in white or red blouses and colorful peasant skirts, with flowers in their hair and big flashy earrings. Everybody was growing flowers, and even serpentine.

As our jeep eased through the crowds, thousands of people crowded up, leaving only a narrow corridor, and frantic men, women and children grabbed us and kissed us and shook our hands and beat on our shoulders and slapped our backs and shouted their joy as we passed.

I was in a jeep with Henry Gorrell of the United Press, Capt. Carl Pergler of Washington, DC, and Cpl. Alexander Belon of Amherst, Massachusetts. We all got kissed until we were literally red in face, and I must say we enjoyed it.

Once when the jeep was simply swamped in human traffic and had to stop, we were swarmed over and hugged and kissed and torn at. Everybody, even beautiful girls, insisted on kissing you on both cheeks. Somehow, I got started kissing babies that were held up by their parents, and for a while, I looked like a baby-kissing politician going down the street. The fact that I hadn’t shaved for days, and was gray-bearded as well as baldheaded, made no difference. Once when we came to a stop some Frenchman told us there were still snipers shooting, so we put our steel helmets back on.

People well fed, well dressed

The people certainly looked well fed and well dressed. The streets were lined with green trees and modern buildings. All the stores were closed in holiday. Bicycles were so thick I have an idea there have been plenty accidents today, with tanks and jeeps overrunning the populace.

We entered Paris via Rue Aristide Briand and Rue d’Orleans. We were slightly apprehensive, but decided it was all right to keep going as long as there were crowds. But finally we were stymied by the people in the streets, and then above the din we heard some not-to-distant explosions – the Germans trying to destroy bridges across the Seine. And then the rattling of machine guns up the street, and that old battlefield whine of high-velocity shells just overhead. Some of us veterans ducked, but the Parisians just laughed and continued to carry on.

There came running over to our jeep a tall, thin, happy woman in a light brown dress, who spoke perfect American.

She was Mrs. Helen Cardon, who lived in Paris for 21 years and has not been home to America since 1935. Her husband is an officer in French Army headquarters and home now after two and a half years as a German prisoner. He was with her, in civilian clothes.

Mrs. Cardon has a sister, Mrs. George Swikart of 201 W 72nd Sts., New York, and I can say here to her relatives in America that she is well and happy. Incidentally, her two children, Edgar and Peter, are the only two American children, she says, who have been in Paris throughout the entire war.

We entered Paris from due south and the Germans were still battling in the heart of the city along the Seine when we arrived, but they were doomed. There was a full French armored division in the city, plus American troops entering constantly.

The farthest we got in our first hour in Paris was near the Senate building, where some Germans were holed up and firing desperately. So, we took a hotel room nearby and decided to write while the others fought. By the time you read this I’m sure Paris will once again be free for Frenchmen, and I’ll be out all over town getting my bald head kissed. Of all the days of national joy I’ve ever witnessed, this is the biggest.

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Wow, if one wants to be somewhere on any given day, this is the day to be in Paris. What a day!

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The Pittsburgh Press (August 29, 1944)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

Paris, France – (by wireless)
The other correspondents have written so thoroughly and so well about the fantastic eruption of mass joy when Paris was liberated that I shall not dwell on it much longer.

But there are some little things I have to get out of my system, so we’ll have at least this one more column on it.

Actually, the thing has floored most of us. I know that I have felt totally incapable of reporting it to you. It was so big I felt in adequate to touch it. I didn’t know where to start or what to say. The words you put down about it sound feeble to the point of asininity.

I’m not alone in this feeling, for I’ve heard a dozen other correspondents say the same thing. A good many of us feel we have failed in properly presenting the loveliest, brightest story of our time. It could be that this is because we have been so unused, for so long, to anything bright.

At any rate let’s go back to the demonstration. From 2 o’clock in the afternoon until darkness around 10:00, we few Americans in Paris on that first day were kissed and hauled and mauled by friendly mobs until we hardly knew where we were.

Waving arms finally give out

Everybody kissed you – little children, old women, grown-up men, beautiful girls. They jumped and squealed and pushed in a literal frenzy.

They pinned bright little flags and badges all over you. Amateur cameramen took pictures. They tossed flowers and friendly tomatoes into your jeep. One little girl even threw a bottle of cider into ours.

As you drove along, gigantic masses of waving and screaming humanity clapped their hands as though applauding a fine performance in a theater. We in the jeeps smiled back until we had set grins on our faces. We waved until our arms gave out, and then we just waggled our fingers. We shook hands until our hands were bruised and scratched. If the jeep stopped you were swamped instantly. Those who couldn’t reach you threw kisses at you, and we threw kisses back.

They sang songs. They sang wonderful French songs we had never heard. And they sang “Tipperary” and “Madelon” and “Over There” and the “Marseillaise.”

French policemen saluted formally but smilingly as we passed. The French tanks that went in ahead of us pulled over to the sidewalks and were immediately swarmed over.

And then some weird cell in the mystic human makeup caused people to start wanting autographs. It began the first evening and by the next day had grown to unbelievable proportions. Everybody wanted every soldier’s autograph.

They showed notebooks and papers at you to sign. It was just like Hollywood. One woman, on the second day, had a stack of neat little white slips, surely 300 of them, for people to sign.

Perfect day, perfect occasion

That first afternoon only the main streets into the city were open and used, and they were packed with humanity. The side streets were roped off and deserted, because the Germans had feeble fortifications and some snipers there.

The weather was marvelous for liberation day, and for the next day too. For two days previously it had been gloomy and raining. But on the big day the sky was pure blue, the sun was bright and warm – a perfect day for a perfect occasion.

Paris seems to have all the beautiful girls we have always heard it had. The women have an art of getting themselves up fascinatingly. Their hair is done crazily, their clothes are worn imaginatively. They dress in riotous colors in this lovely warm season, and when the flag-draped holiday streets are packed with Parisians the color makes everything else in the world seem gray.

As one soldier remarked, the biggest thrill in getting to Paris is to see people in bright summer clothes again.

Like any city, Paris has its quota of dirty and ugly people. But dirty and ugly people have emotions too, and Hank Gorrell got roundly kissed by one of the dirtiest and ugliest women I have ever seen. I must add that since he’s a handsome creature, he also got more than his share of embraces from the beautiful young things.

There was one funny little old woman, so short she couldn’t reach up to kiss men in military vehicles, who appeared on the second day carrying a stepladder. Whenever a car stopped, she would climb her stepladder and let the boys have it with hugs, laughs and kisses.

‘Thank you for coming’

The second day was a little different from the first. You could sense that during those first few hours of liberation the people were almost animal-like in their panic of joy and relief and gratitude. They were actually crying as they kissed you and screamed, “Thank you, oh thank you, for coming!”

But on the second day it was a deliberate holiday. It was a festival prepared for and gone into on purpose. You could tell that the women had prettied up especially. The old men had on their old medals, and the children were scrubbed and Sunday-dressed until they hurt.

And then everybody came downtown. By 2:00 in the afternoon the kissing and shouting and autographing and applauding were almost deafening. The pandemonium of a free and lovable Paris reigned again. It was wonderful to be here.

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The Pittsburgh Press (August 30, 1944)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

Paris, France – (by wireless)
As we drove toward Paris from the south, hundreds of Parisians – refugees and returning vacationists – rode homeward on bicycles amidst the tanks and big guns.

Some Frenchmen have the facility for making all of us Nervous Nellies look ridiculous. There should be a nonchalant Frenchman in every war movie. He would be a sort of French Charlie Chaplin. You would have tense soldiers crouching in ditches and firing from behind low walls. And in the middle of it you would have this Frenchman, in faded blue overalls and beret and with a nearly burned-up cigarette in his mouth, come striding down the middle of the road past the soldiers.

I’ve seen that very thing happen about four times since D-Day, and you never can see it without laughing.

Well, the crowds were out in Paris like that while the shooting was still going on. People on bicycles would stop with one foot on the pavement to watch the firing that was going on right in that block.

As the French 2nd Armored Division rolled into the city at dangerous speed, I noticed one tank commander, with goggles, smoking a cigar, and another soldier in a truck playing a flute for his own amusement. There were also a good many pet dogs riding into the battle on top of tanks and trucks.

Amidst this fantastic Paris-ward battle traffic were people pushing baby carriages full of belongings, walking with suitcases, and riding bicycles so heavily loaded with gear that if they were to lay them down, they had to have help to lift them upright.

And in the midst of it was a tandem bicycle ridden by a man and a beautiful woman, both in bright blue shorts, just as though they were holidaying – which undoubtedly they were.

Each tank sort of social center

You never saw so many bicycles in your life as in Paris. And they rig up the funniest contraptions on them, such as little two-wheeled carts which they tow behind. And we saw a wagon rigged up so it could be pulled by two bicyclists riding side by side, like a team of horses.

For 24 hours tanks were parked on the sidewalks all over downtown Paris. They were all manned by French soldiers, and each tank immediately became a sort of social center.

Kids were all over the tanks like flies. Women in white dresses climbed up to kiss men with grimy faces. And early the second morning we saw a girl climbing sleepily out of a tank turret.

French soldiers of the Armored Division were all in American uniforms and they had American equipment. Consequently, most people at first thought we few Americans were French. Then, puzzled, they would say, “English?” and we would say, “No, American.” And then we would get a little scream and a couple more kisses.

Every place you stopped, somebody in the crowd could speak English. They apologized for not inviting us to their homes for a drink, saying they didn’t have any. Time and again they would say, “We’ve waited so long for you!” It almost got to be a refrain.

One elderly gentleman said that although we were long in reaching France we had come swiftly since then. He said the people hadn’t expected us to be in Paris for six months after invasion day.

There are not many American soldiers in Paris. And it’s unlikely there will be, at least for some time, because they are out over France going on with the war.

Paris was not a military objective; its liberation so soon was more of a symbol. That’s the reason the French Armored Division was assigned to the job.

Hotel life strange to Ernie

The armies still fighting in the field were practically deserted for a few days by the correspondents, as we all wanted to get in on the liberation of Paris. There were so many correspondents it got to be a joke, even among us. I think at least 200 must have entered the city that first day. both before and after the surrender.

The Army had picked out a hotel for us ahead of time, and it was taken over as soon as the city surrendered. But though it was a big hotel it was full before dark the first day, so they have taken over another huge one across the street.

Hotel life seems strange after so long in the field. My own room is a big corner one, with easy chairs, a soft bed, a bathroom and maid and hall-porter service. There is no electricity in the daytime, no hot water anytime and no restaurant or bar, but outside of that the hotel is just about like peacetime.

Sitting here writing within safe walls, and looking out the window occasionally at the street thronged with happy people, it is already hard to believe there was a war; even harder to realize there still is a war.

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The Pittsburgh Press (August 31, 1944)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

Paris, France – (by wireless)
Eating has been skimpy in Paris through the four years of German occupation, but reports that people were on the verge of starvation apparently were untrue.

The country people of Normandy all seemed so healthy and well fed that we said all along: “Well, country people always fore best, but just wait till we get to Paris. We’ll see real suffering there.”

Of course, the people of Paris have suffered during these four years of darkness. But I don’t believe they have suffered as much physically as we had thought.

Certainly, they don’t look bedraggled and gaunt and pitiful, as the people of Italy did. In fact, they look to me just the way you would expect them to look in normal times.

However, the last three weeks before the liberation really were rough. For the Germans, sensing that their withdrawal was inevitable, began taking everything for themselves.

There is very little food in Paris right now. The restaurants either are closed or serve only the barest meals – coffee and sandwiches. And the “national coffee,” as they call it, is made from barley and is about the vilest stuff you ever tasted. France has had nothing else for four years.

If you were to take a poll on what the average Parisian most wants in the way of little things, you would probably find that he wants real coffee, soap, gasoline and cigarettes.

Eating problem for writers

Eating is the biggest problem right now for us correspondents. The Army hasn’t yet set up a mess. We can’t even get our rations cooked in our hotel kitchens, on account of the gas shortage.

So, we just eat cold K-rations and 10-in-l rations in our rooms. For two days most us were so busy we didn’t eat at all, and on the morning after the liberation of Paris some of the correspondents were actually so weak from not eating that they could hardly navigate.

But the food situation should be relieved within a few days. The Army is bringing in 3,000 tons of food right away for the Parisians. That is only about two pounds per person, but it will help.

In little towns only 10 miles from Paris you can get eggs and wonderful dinners of meat and noodles. Food does exist, and now that transportation is open again Paris should be eating soon.

Autos were almost nonexistent on the streets of Paris when we arrived. That first day we met an English girl who had been here throughout the war, and we drove her for some distance in our jeep. She was as excited as a child, and said that was her first ride in a motorcar in four years. We told her that it wasn’t a motorcar that it was a jeep, but she said it was a motorcar to her.

Outside of war vehicles, a few French civilian cars were running when we arrived but they were all in official use in the fighting. All of these had “FFI” (French Forces of the Interior) painted in rough white letters on the fenders, tops and sides.

Average guy didn’t fare too badly

Although it appears that the Germans did conduct themselves fairly properly up until the last few weeks, the French really detest them. One woman told me that for the first three weeks of the occupation the Germans were fine but that then they turned arrogant. The people of Paris simply tolerated them and nothing more.

The Germans did perpetrate medieval barbarities against leaders of the Resistance movement as their plight became more and more desperate. But what I’m driving at is that the bulk of the population of Paris – the average guy who just get along no matter who is here – didn’t really fare too badly from day to day. It was just the things they heard about and the fact of being under a bullheaded and arrogant thumb, that created the smoldering hatred for the Germans in the average Parisian’s heart.

You can get an idea how they feel from a little incident that occurred the first night we were here.

We put up at a little family sort of hotel in Montparnasse. The landlady took us up to show us our rooms. A cute little French maid came along with her.

As we were looking around the room the landlady opened a wardrobe door, and there on a shelf lay a German soldier’s cap that he had forgotten to take.

The landlady picked it up with the tips of her fingers, held it out at arm’s length, made a face, and dropped it on a chair.

Whereupon the little maid reached up with her pretty foot and gave it a huge kick that sent it sailing across the room.

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The Pittsburgh Press (September 2, 1944)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

In France – (by wireless)
We left Paris after a few days and went again with the armies in the field. In Paris we had slept in beds and walked on carpeted floors for the first time in three months.

It was a beautiful experience, and yet for some perverse reason a great inner feeling of calm and relief came over us when we once again set up our cots in a tent, with apple trees for our draperies and only the green grass for a rug.

Hank Gorrell of the United Press was with me, and he said, “This is ironic, that we should have to go back with the armies to get some peace.”

The gaiety and charm and big-cityness of Paris somehow had got a little on our nerves after so much of the opposite. I guess it indicate that all of us will have to make our return to normal life gradually and in small doses.

Paris prices inflated

Paris unquestionably is a lovely city. It seems to me to have been but little hurt by the war. You can still buy almost anything imaginable if you have money. Everybody is well-dressed. But prices are terrific, and already they have started zooming higher.

Those of us who expect to be coming home before long have made shopping tours and stocked up with gifts. And with the exception of perfume, which is dirt cheap, we pay about three times what we would at home for the same thing.

I’m sorry the restaurants could not open before we left. For although I’m not much of a gourmet I do value the sense of taste, and we’ve eaten enough meals in private homes and small-town restaurants over here to realize that it’s all true about the French culinary genius.

They simply have a knack for making any old thing taste wonderful, just as the British have a knack for making everything taste horrible.

The other night we were talking about the beautiful women of Paris – as who doesn’t?

One fellow said the women here were the most beautiful in the world.

They have that knowhow

But I said no, that wasn’t true. You see women in America and England who are just as beautiful as any in Paris. But it seems that here the percentage of good-looking women is higher than in other countries.

And another fellow said no, that wasn’t it either. He thought the ratio was approximately the same in America and England and France. But in Paris a bigger percentage have the gift of getting themselves up to look devastating.

And I guess that’s it.

We thought there were a lot of people on the streets those first two days. But you should have seen Paris a few days later, when the whole populace began to come out. By midafternoon it is almost impossible to drive in the streets because of the bicycles. They take up the entire street, as far as you can see. The sidewalks are packed. It’s like Christmas shopping tithe at home.

Within three days, Paris was transformed from a city crackling and roaring with brief warfare into a city entirely at peace. With in three days Paris was open for business as usual, and its attitude toward the war reminded me of Cairo after it threat of danger had gone.

As usual, those Americans most deserving of seeing Paris will be the last ones to see it, if they ever do. By that 1 mean the fighting soldiers.

Rear echelons get the kisses

Only one infantry regiment and one reconnaissance outfit of Americans actually came into Paris, and they passed on through the city quickly and went on with their war.

The first ones in the city to stay were such nonfighters as the psychological-warfare and Civil Affairs people, public-relations men and correspondents.

I heard more than one rear-echelon soldier say he felt a little ashamed to be getting all the grateful cheers and kisses for the liberation of Paris when the guys who broke the German Army and opened the way for Paris to be free were still out there fighting without benefit of kisses or applause.

But that’s the way things are in this world.

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The Pittsburgh Press (September 4, 1944)

Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

In France – (by wireless)
The last time I was with the frontline medics – a battalion detachment in the 4th Division – they showed me a piece in The Stars and Stripes about Congress passing the new $10-a-month pay increase for soldiers holding the Combat Infantrymen’s Badge.

This Combat Infantry Badge is a proud thing, a mark of great distinction, a sign on a man’s chest to show that he has been through the mill. The medical aidmen were feeling badly because the piece said they were not eligible for the badge.

Their captain asked me what I thought, and so did some of the enlisted aidmen. And I could tell them truthfully that my feelings agreed with theirs. They should have it. And I’m sure any combat infantryman would tell you the same thing.

Praise for the medics has been unanimous ever since this war started. And just as proof of what they go through, take this one detachment of battalion medics that I was with.

They were 31 men and two officers. And in one seven-week period of combat in Normandy this summer, they lost nine men killed and ten wounded. A total of 19 out of 33 men – a casualty ratio of nearly 60 percent in seven weeks!

Special badge suggested

As one aidman said, probably they have been excluded because they are technically noncombatants and don’t carry arms. But he suggested that if this was true, they could still be given a badge with some distinctive medical marking on it, to set them off from medical aidmen who don’t work right in the lines.

So, I would like to propose to Congress or the War Department or whoever handles such things that the ruling be altered to include medical aidmen in battalion detachments and on forward.

They are the ones who work under fire. Medics attached to regiments and to hospitals farther back do wonderful work too, of course, and are sometimes under shellfire. But they are seldom right out on the battlefield. So, I think it would be fair to include only the medics who work from battalion on forward.

I have an idea the original ruling was made merely through a misunderstanding, and that there would be no objection to correcting it.

You must hear about my new stove. You may remember that last winter in Italy we mentioned how practical and wonderful the little Coleman gasoline stove was for soldiers in the field. Well, that remark had repercussions.

It seems the employees of the Coleman Stove Company, in Wichita, Kansas, were very pleased. It made them feel that they were doing something worthwhile for the war So, in appreciation, they decided to make up a special stove as a gift for me.

Engraved like a loving cup

We kept hearing about it over here for weeks, and waited for it the way children wait for Christmas. The other correspondents were as excited about it as I was.

At last, it came. Boy, you should see it. It is an exact duplicate of the regular stove, except that this one is all hand-made and chromium-plated and has my name engraved on it, like a loving cup.

One of the correspondents said, “You can’t light that, it’s too pretty.”

An Army colonel said, “They should have sent a fireplace and a mantel along for you to exhibit it on.”

For days there was a line of soldiers and correspondents at my tent wanting to see the stove. Twice we got ready to light it while photographers took pictures, but at the last minute we couldn’t bear to, and put it away. The boys all kidded me and said they bet I never would light it.

Necessity finally drove me to it. That was in Paris. I had given my old stove to a friend, thinking I wouldn’t need one any more. But the eating situation in Paris was drastic at first, and we had only the rations we brought with us individually.

So, at last I had to break down and light my stove in a hotel room in Paris. Some of the boys had joked and said it was so beautiful it probably wouldn’t work. But it did. It practically melted the hotel walls down.

So, to all of you who had a hand in the stove, my thanks and gratitude. But if this keeps up, I’ll have to be careful about admiring in print any Baldwin locomotives or steam-shovels.

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The Pittsburgh Press (September 5, 1944)

British pilot Pyle found recovering in RAF hospital

Washington –
The courageous British pilot, found by Ernie Pyle and a group of American soldiers in Normandy after he had been lying, wounded and trapped, in his plane for eight days without food or water, is recovering from his terrible ordeal.

After treatment in an American hospital, he was transferred to an RAF hospital, where he “is resting comfortably and progressing satisfactorily,” the British Information Service here said.

The pilot, Lt. Robert Gordon Lee, is expected to be in the hospital three months, he suffered a compound fracture of the left leg and numerous bullet wounds when his plane was shot down.

Lt. Lee had tried to land his plane in a field and it flipped upside down, trapping him. He wrapped his handkerchief around a wound in his hand and then thrust his hand through a small hole in the side of the pane and waved it to attract attention.

On the eighth day, American soldiers, riding by in a jeep, noticed the movement of the handkerchief, investigated, and in a few hours the pilot was rescued.

Ernie Pyle called Lt. Lee’s calm fortitude during that long period of suffering “one of the really great demonstrations of courage in this war.”

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Ernie Pyle V Norman

Roving Reporter

By Ernie Pyle

Paris, France – (by wireless)
This is the last of these columns from Europe. By the time you read this, the old man will be on his way back to America. After that will come a long, long rest. And after the rest – well, you never can tell.

Undoubtedly this seems to you to be a funny time for a fellow to be quitting the war. It is a funny time. But I’m not leaving because of a whim, or even especially because I’m homesick.

I’m leaving for one reason only – because I have just got to stop. “I’ve had it,” as they say in the Army. I have had all I can take for a while.

I’ve been 29 months overseas since this war started; have written around 700,000 words about it; have totaled nearly a year in the frontlines.

I do hate terribly to leave right now, but I have given out. I’ve been immersed in it too long. My spirit is wobbly and my mind is confused. The hurt has finally become too great.

All of a sudden it seemed to me that if I heard one more shot or saw one more dead man, I would go off my nut. And if I had to write one more column I’d collapse. So, I’m on my way.

It may be that a few months of peace will restore some vim to my spirit, and I can go war-horsing off to the Pacific. We’ll see what a little New Mexico sunshine does along that line.

Couldn’t get around to all the branches

Even after two and a half years of war writing, there still is a lot I would like to tell. I wish right now that I could tell you about our gigantic and staggering supply system that keeps these great armies moving.

I’m sorry I haven’t been able to get around to many branches of service that so often are neglected. I would like to have written about the Transportation Corps and the airport engineers and the wire stringers and the chemical mortars and the port battalions. To all of those that I have missed, my apologies. But the Army over here is just too big to cover it all.

I know the first question everyone will ask when I get home is: “When will the war be over?”

So, I’ll answer even before you ask me, and the answer is: “I don’t know.”

We all hope and most of us think it won’t be long now. And yet there’s a possibility of it going on and on, even after we are deep in Germany. The Germans are desperate and their leaders have nothing to quit for.

Every day the war continues is another hideous blackmark against the German nation. They are beaten and yet they haven’t quit. Every life lost from here on is a life lost to no purpose.

If Germany does deliberately drag their war on and on, she will so infuriate the world by her inhuman bullheadedness that she is apt to be committing national suicide.

Germans show their real cruelty

In our other campaigns we felt we were fighting, on the whole, a pretty good people. But we don’t feel that way now. A change has occurred. On the Western Front, the Germans have shown their real cruelty of mind. We didn’t used to hate them, but we do now.

The outstanding figure on this Western Front is Lt. Gen. Omar Nelson Bradley. He is so modest and sincere that he probably will not get his proper credit, except in military textbooks.

But he has proved himself a great general in every sense of the word. And as a human being, he is just as great. Having him in command has been a blessed good fortune for America.

I cannot help but feel bad about leaving. Even hating the whole business as much as I do, you come to be a part of it. And you leave some of yourself here when you depart. Being with the American soldier has been a rich experience.

To the thousands of them that I know personally and the other hundreds of thousands for who I have had the humble privilege of being a sort of mouthpiece, this then is to say goodbye – and good luck.

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Ernie has experienced far more war compared to the many units he was embedded within. He has provided a needed role to inform American and world citizens with a realistic view of war that no one could imagine. Everyone wishes him well as he rests and recuperates. Ernie, well done and thank you for your service to us.

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The Pittsburgh Press (September 9, 1944)

Senator praises Ernie Pyle’s work

Washington (UP) –
Senator Carl A. Hatch (D-NM) yesterday praised the work of Scripps-Howard correspondent Ernie Pyle as “performed magnificently and bravely.”

Senator Hatch read to the Senate the last dispatch filed by Mr. Pyle from France, in which he said he hated “terribly to leave right now, but if I had to write on more column, I’d collapse.”

Senator Hatch said:

Personally, I regret his leaving the war just on the eve of victory, but as one of his admirers I am glad he’s returning to our state of New Mexico where the sunshine will fully heal war’s cruel hurt.

Senator Hatch predicted that after Mr. Pyle rests a while, he “will go war-horsing to some far distant island to describe the conditions under which our sons fight and die that the sons of all men may be free.”

“I take this opportunity to express my own appreciation of his great work,” Senator Hatch said.

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The Pittsburgh Press (October 26, 1944)

Ernie Pyle gets doctor’s degree

Albuquerque, New Mexico (UP) –
The servicemen’s “representative to the folks back home” – war correspondent Ernie Pyle – was awarded an honorary degree of doctor of letters at the University of New Mexico’s fall commencement exercises yesterday.

Pyle, recently returned from Europe, was presented for the degree by Dean George Hammond of the university’s graduate school, who said:

Peoples of the United States – in fact, the whole world – have come to know Ernie Pyle as a roving reporter during the present World War, writer of keen observation, tireless energy and a faithful and sympathetic nature.

He followed the soldiers around, wherever they were and, in his writings, became their representative to the folks back home.

The veteran Scripps-Howard correspondent received the degree with his usual modesty. He had said in advance of the ceremony that he didn’t think he deserved to be awarded the honorary degree.

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The Pittsburgh Press (October 27, 1944)

B. Meredith to play role

Prize role set for noted actor

The question uppermost in the minds of Ernie Pyle’s army of devoted admirers – “Who’ll play him on the screen?” – was settled definitely today by film producer Lester Cowan in a long distance telephone call to The Pittsburgh Press.

“The Pyle role goes to Capt. Burgess Meredith, assigned to inactive duty by the Army,” announced Mr. Cowan, who is producing G.I. Joe, based on Ernie’s book, Here Is Your War.

Mr. Cowan continued:

Buzz [Meredith] is the same height as Ernie, has his general build and is within 10 pounds of Ernie’s weight. After many months of consideration – for we have to please about 20 million people, including the thousands of doughboys who know Ernie – we have finally decided on Meredith.

Meredith is a fine actor and sensitive enough to create a life-like portrayal of Ernie on the screen.

Will study Ernie

Mr. Cowan said that the choice has Ernie’s approval and that Meredith will go to New Mexico immediately to stay with the famous war correspondent in order to study Ernie at close range.

The actor became famous on Broadway before going to Hollywood, appearing in such notable plays as Maxwell Anderson’s Winterset, High Tor and Star Wagon. He appeared at the local Nixon in two of these plays.

Four other big-name stars were under consideration – James Gleason, Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan and Fred Astaire. In addition, at least 500 unknowns were candidates. Of the latter Pittsburgh’s Rosey Roswell was the outstanding.

Rosey nearly ‘in’

Rosey, about two months ago, sped by plane to Hollywood on Mr. Cowan’s request. There the radio announcer took a screen test and the results were encouraging – so much so that for a while it seemed Rosey would win the coveted assignment. However, a switch in directors caused Cowan to reconsider and it was decided to cast a famous actor.

William A. Wellman, an Academy Award winner, is directing the production. Mr. Wellman’s first choice was Fred Astaire – but he was “voted down” by popular opinion which held “Ernie’s no dancer, and a famous dancer in the role would ruin the illusion.”

In 1942, Meredith became a private in the Army. A series of promotions elevated him to a captain’s rank. He was assigned to Allied headquarters in Europe, where he wrote, produced and acted in two training films.