Attendees pay respects to war journalist at memorial
Veterans, service members and public officials gathered April 14 on Ie Shima to remember Ernest Taylor Pyle, one of America’s most profound and beloved war journalists, who was killed on Ie Shima during World War II.
Pyle, known as Ernie Pyle by many, was a war correspondent who reported from Europe, Africa and the Pacific during World War II. Pyle reported on events using a unique writing style, from the perspective of service members he embedded with.
“Their life consisted wholly and solely of war, for they were and always had been frontline infantrymen. They survived because the fates were kind to them, certainly — but also because they had become hard and immensely wise in animal-like ways of self-preservation,” wrote Pyle.
“Ernie wanted his readers to know that there were men living, fighting and dying in unimaginable conditions and in places with names that were only just made known to the American people,” said Navy Capt. Richard Weathers, commanding officer, Commander Fleet Activities Okinawa.
To the men he served closely with, Pyle was known as a buddy and a service members’ writer, according to Weathers. He wanted to tell the unvarnished story of the U.S. service members serving around the world to the American public.
“Ernie did not write to his readers about grand strategy or the patriotic underpinnings of whatever conflict he was involved in,” said Weathers. “He was a storyteller who wanted to prove that America was ready to listen.”
It was Pyle’s intimate style of reporting, always from the perspective of the common soldier, that earned him the love of the troops he served with.
“The best way I can describe this vast armada and the frantic urgency of the traffic is to suggest that you visualize New York City on its busiest day of the year and then just enlarge that scene until it takes in all the ocean the human eye can reach clear around the horizon and over the horizon. There are dozens of times that many,” wrote Pyle, on the preparations to invade Normandy, France, during World War II.
In 1944, Pyle was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the war in Europe.
“It is good to remember that there was such a journalist,” said Brad Reeves, an Air Force veteran attending the event. “My father served in Europe during the war and often spoke of (Pyle’s) work.”
The ceremony was moving for many attendees, according to Sgt. Mohamed A. Sesay, the chief range warden with Headquarters Company, 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
“I found paying my respects to this man to be very inspiring,” said Sesay. “I felt very proud to be a part of this ceremony today.”
Pyle volunteered to join the Marines, soldiers and sailors serving in the Pacific even after he had gone back to the states after being in Europe. He was killed while reporting on Ie Shima in 1945, just four months before the end of the war.
“Every aspect of this battle needs to be remembered by today’s service members,” said Weathers. “There are few journalists like Pyle, whose reasons for serving are so perfectly aligned with the troops they are with and who possess the same kind of ideals of honor, courage and commitment that the Marines and soldiers did.”