GUAM, April, 18--Ernie Pyle died today on Ie Island, just west of Okinawa, like so many of the doughboys he had written about. The nationally known war correspondent was killed instantly by Japanese machine-gun fire.
The slight, graying newspaper man, chronicler of the average American soldier's daily round, in and out of foxholes in many war theatres, had gone forward early this morning to observe the advance of a well-known division of the Twenty-fourth Army Corps.
He joined headquarters troops in the outskirts of the island's chief town, Tegusugu. Our men had seemingly ironed out minor opposition at this point, and Mr. Pyle went over to talk to a regimental commanding officer. Suddenly enemy machine gunners opened fire at about 10:15 A.M. (9:15 P.M., Tuesday, Eastern war time). The war correspondent fell in the first burst.
The commanding general of the troops on the island reported the death to headquarters as follows:
"I regret to report that War Correspondent Ernie Pyle, who made such a great contribution to the morale of our foot soldier, was killed in the battle of Ie Shima today."
AT A COMMAND POST, Ie Island, Ryukyus, April 18 (AP)--Ernie Pyle, the famed columnist who had reported the wars from Africa to Okinawa, met his death about a mile forward of the command post.
Mr. Pyle had just talked with a general commanding Army troops and Lieut. Col. James E. Landrum, executive officer of an infantry regiment, before "jeeping" to a forward command post with Lieut. Col. Joseph B. Coolidge of Helena, Ark., commanding officer of the regiment, to watch front-line action.
Colonel Coolidge was alongside Mr. Pyle when he was killed. "We were moving down the road in our jeep," related Colonel Coolidge. "Ernie was going with me to my new command post. At 10 o'clock we were fired on by a Jap machine gun on a ridge above us. We all jumped out of the jeep and dived into a roadside ditch.
May Be Buried Where He Fell
"A little later Pyle and I raised up to look around. Another burst hit the road over our heads and I fell back into the ditch. I looked at Ernie and saw he had been hit.
"He was killed almost instantly, the bullet entering his left temple just under his helmet.
"I crawled back to report the tragedy, leaving a man to watch the body. Ernie's body will be brought back to Army grave registration officers. He will be buried here on Ie Jima unless we are notified otherwise.
"I was so impressed with Pyle's coolness, calmness and his deep interest in enlisted men. They have lost their best friend."
Colonel Coolidge was visibly shaken as he told the facts of the columnist's death. Almost tearfully, he described the tragedy. He said he knew the news would spread swiftly over the island.
The general also was visibly upset as he read a message about Mr. Pyle's death. He said:
"I am terribly sorry to hear this news. Just before Ernie went up this road [pointing toward the front lines] he talked with me and Colonel Landrum at this command post, and Ernie made arrangements to meet me back here at 3 o'clock. I told him if he was not here on time I couldn't wait for him, as I had to be back on my flagship."
While the general was talking soldiers standing near by were grieved to hear of Mr. Pyle's death. A short distance ahead enemy machine guns and our own guns and artillery were rattling and roaring. Soldiers exhibited "short-snorter" bills that the writer had signed for them less than an hour before.
Mrs. Pyle Grief-Stricken
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., April 18 (UP)--Mrs. Geraldine Pyle, "That Girl" in Ernie Pyle's stories, was grief-stricken today at her husband's death.
Mrs. Pyle said she had been notified of his death before it was announced in Washington.
Mrs. Pyle answered the telephone in a calm but very low voice. She said she had received no details of his death.
Neighbor Informs Pyle's Father
DANA, Ind., April 18 (UP)--William C. Pyle, father of the war correspondent, and the writer's "Aunt Mary"--Mrs. Mary Bales--were stunned today by word of Ernie's death.
Mrs. Ella Goforth, a neighbor, said the aging relatives of the newspaper man had received the news from another neighbor, who had heard the news on the radio.
Mrs. Goforth said:
"They're not taking the news very well."
Feared Being Disliked
Ernie Pyle was haunted all his life by an obsession. He said over and over again, "I suffer agony in anticipation of meeting people for fear they won't like me."
No man could have been less justified in such a fear. Word of Pyle's death started tears in the eyes of millions, from the White House to the poorest dwellings in the country.
President Truman and Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt followed his writings as avidly as any farmer's wife or city tenement mother with sons in service.
Mrs. Roosevelt once wrote in her column "I have read everything he has sent from overseas," and recommended his writings to all Americans.
For three years these writings had entered some 14,000,000 homes almost as personal letters from the front. Soldiers' kin prayed for Ernie Pyle as they prayed for their own sons.
In the Eighth Avenue subway yesterday a gray-haired woman looked up, wet-eyed, from the headline "Ernie Pyle Killed in Action" and murmured "May God rest his soul" and other women, and men, around her took up the words. This was typical.
It was rather curious that a nation should have worked up such affection for a timid little man whose greatest fear was "Maybe they won't like me."
Yet this fear had started in childhood. Ernie Pyle was born on Aug. 3, 1900, in a little white farmhouse near Dana, Ind., the only child of William and Maria Taylor Pyle.
They were simple people, content to spend their lives in the little white house on the dusty Indiana country road, as William Pyle's parents had spent their lives.
Ernest--they always called him that, and never "Ernie"--seemed destined to plod along in much the same way, except that he was restless, and his thoughts strayed from the family acres to far horizons.
He was shy in the country school house, apt to sit apart from classmates during games, and later, in high school and in Indiana University, went off for lonely walks.
He worked on The Indiana Daily Student in the one-story brick building where the paper was put together, and sometimes he strayed down to the Book Nook, the Greek candy kitchen on the campus, but not often.
When Stuart Gorrell, who gets out the Chase National Bank house organ here now, and Paige Cavanaugh, other journalism students, crowded around the Book Nook's broken-down piano to hear Hoagy Carmichael, another classmate, play his "Stardust," Ernie was likely to be off in a corner, smiling and affable, but silent.
He took journalism, incidentally, not because he had any burning desire for a career in it, but because it was rated then as "a breeze." He had no flaming ambition for anything.
He quit college in 1923, a few months before graduation, to work as a cub on The La Porte (Ind.) Herald-Argus and moved on a few months later to a desk job on The Washington (D. C.) News.
If any one thing inspired him, during this period, it was Kirke Simpson's news story on the burial of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery. Simpson was an Associated Press reporter.
"I cried over that," Pyle told friends later, "and I can quote the lead or almost any part of the piece."
He stayed on at The Washington News as copy editor from 1923 to 1926, had a year in New York on The Evening World and on The Evening Post and did aviation for the Scripps-Howard papers from 1928 to 1932.
He was managing editor of The Washington News from 1932 to 1935, when he wearied of desk work and started a roving assignment, writing pieces as he went.
With him went his wife. She had been Geraldine Siebolds of Stillwater, Minn., when he met her in Washington and in their tours she was always "That Girl."
Millions of readers came to know and love them, then. The Pyle writings of that period, as in the war years, were nothing more or less than simple letters home.
He traveled to Canada and wrote of the Dionnes. He visited Flemington, N. J., and recalled the Hauptmann trial there; toured through drought-throttled Montana and the Dakotas, and pictured all he saw.
In 1937 he was in Alaska, writing of simple folk and of their labors, their hopes, their desires. He went 1,000 miles down the Yukon, sailed Arctic seas with the Coast Guard.
Each day's experience was material for a column--a letter home to farm-bound or pavement-bound poor people and invalids who could never hope to make such journeys.
He wrote simple, gripping pieces about five days spent with the lepers at Molokai, and put his feeling on paper: "I felt unrighteous at being whole and clean," he told his readers when he came away.
He wrote of Devil's Island, of all South America, which he toured by plane. He covered some 150,000 miles of Western Hemisphere wearing out three cars, three typewriters; crossed the United States thirty-five times.
Magnet Pulls Him to London
In the fall of 1940 he started for unhappy London. "A small voice came in the night and said go" was the way he put it, and his writings on London under Nazi bombings tore at his readers' hearts.
He lived with Yank troops in Ireland and his descriptions of their day-by-day living brought wider reception. When he went into action with the Yanks in Africa, the Pyle legend burst into flower.
His columns, done in foxholes, brought home all the hurt, horror, loneliness and homesickness that every soldier felt. They were the perfect supplement to the soldiers' own letters.
Though he wrote of his own feelings and his own emotions as he watched men wounded, and saw the wounded die, he was merely interpreting the scene for the soldier.
He got people at home to understand that life at the front "works itself into an emotional tapestry of one dull dead pattern--yesterday is tomorrow and Troiano is Randozzo and, O God, I'm so tired."
He never made war look glamorous. He hated it and feared it. Blown out of press headquarters at Anzio, almost killed by our own planes at St. Lo, he told of the death, the heartache and the agony about him and always he named names of the kids around him, and got in their home town addresses.
By September, 1944, he was a thin, sad-eyed little man gone gray at the temples, his face seamed, his reddish hair thinned. "I don't think I could go on and keep sane," he confided to his millions of readers.
He started home, with abject apologies. The doughfoots had come to love him. Hundreds of thousands of combat troops, from star-sprinkled generals to lowly infantrymen, knew him by sight, called "H'ya, Ernie?" when he passed.
He wrote, "I am leaving for just one reason . . . because I have just got to stop. I have had all I can take for a while." Yet the doughfoots understood. They wrote him sincere farewells and wished him luck.
Pacific Foxholes Called
His books "Here Is Your War" and "Brave Men," made up from his columns, hit the high spots on best-seller lists, made Hollywood. He was acclaimed wherever he dared show himself in public.
He loafed a while in his humble white clapboard cottage in Albuquerque, N. M. He would sit there with "That Girl" and stare for hours across the lonely mesa, but the front still haunted him. He had to go back.
He journeyed to Hollywood to watch Burgess Meredith impersonate him in the film version of his books and last January he left for San Francisco, bound for the wars again--the Pacific this time.
He had frequent premonitions of death. He said: "You begin to feel that you can't go on forever without being hit. I feel that I've used up all my chances, and I hate it. I don't want to be killed."
Fortune had come to Ernie Pyle--something well over a half-million dollars the past two years--and his name was a household word. He might have rested with that.
"But I can't," he wrote. "I'm going simply because there's a war on and I'm part of it, and I've known all the time I was going back. I'm going simply because I've got to--and I hate it."
So he went, and in the endless hours over the Pacific, in great service planes, he wrote with a soft touch of glorious Pacific dawns and sunsets at sea, of green islands and tremendous expanses of blue water.
Shared GI's Post-War Hopes
He journeyed to Iwo on a small carrier and wrote about the carrier crew. Then he moved on to Okinawa and went in with the marines, and there were homely pieces about that.
He had post-war plans. He thought he would take to the white clean roads again with "That Girl" and write beside still ponds in the wilderness, on blue mountains, in country lanes, in a world returned to peace and quiet. And these were the dreams of the doughfoot in the foxhole as much as they were his own.
But he knew that death would reach for him. In his last letter to George A. Carlin, head of the United Feature Syndicate which employed him, he wrote:
"I was completely amazed to find that I'm as well known out here as I was in the European Theatre. The men are depending on me, so I'll have to try and stick it out for a long time.
"I expect to be out a year on this trip, if I don't bog down inside again, and if I don't get sick or hurt. If I could be fortunate enough to hang on until the spring of 1946, I think I'll come home for the last time. I don't believe I have the strength ever to leave home and go back to war again."
But yesterday Ernie Pyle came to the end of the road on tiny Ie, some 10,000 miles from his own white cottage and from "That Girl."
In one of his first columns from Africa he had told how he'd sought shelter in a ditch with a frightened Yank when a Stuka dived and strafed, and how he tapped the soldier's shoulder when the Stuka had gone and said, "Whew, that was close, eh?" and the soldier did not answer. He was dead.
So yesterday on Ie a doughfoot, white and tense, looked up from a thin-faced, gray-haired figure prone beside him. Ernie Pyle had written his last letter home.
Truman Pays Homage
U.S. Civil and Military Leaders Mourn 'Foxhole Correspondent'
WASHINGTON, April 18 (AP)--Ernie Pyle's death was announced by Navy Secretary James V. Forrestal, and President Truman issued a statement of condolence.
"The nation is quickly saddened again, by the death of Ernie Pyle," Mr. Truman said.
"No man in this war has so well told the story of the American fighting man as American fighting men wanted it told. He deserves the gratitude of all his countrymen."
Mr. Forrestal's statement said:
"With deep regret, the Navy announces the death on Ie Shima (Island) of Ernie Pyle, whose reporting of this war endeared him to the men of the armed forces throughout the world and to their families at home.
"He was killed instantly by Japanese machine-gun fire while standing beside the regimental commanding officer of Headquarters Troop, Seventy-seventh Division, United States Army. At the time of his death he was with the foot soldiers, the men for whom he had the greatest admiration.
"Mr. Pyle will live in the hearts of all service men who revered him as a comrade and spokesman. More than anyone else, he helped America to understand the heroism and sacrifices of her fighting men. For that achievement, the nation owes him its unending gratitude."
President Praises Service
In his tribute to the 44-year-old reporter for Scripps-Howard newspapers, who covered the war in Europe before going to the Pacific early this year, President Truman said:
"More than any other man, he became the spokesman of the ordinary American in arms doing so many extraordinary things. It was his genius that the mass and power of our military and naval forces never obscured the men who made them.
"He wrote about a people in arms as people still, but a people moving in a determination which did not need pretensions as a part of power.
"Nobody knows how many individuals in our forces and at home he helped with his writings. But all Americans understand now how wisely, how warm heartedly, how honestly he served his country and his profession. He deserves the gratitude of all his countrymen."
Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson said today that soldiers have "lost a champion" in the death of Mr. Pyle.
"The understanding of Americans in battle which ran through all of Ernie Pyle's dispatches was drawn from hours spent with them under fire, sharing dangers they endure," Mr. Stimson said.
Marshall Expresses Sorrow
Gen. George C. Marshall, Army Chief of Staff said: Ernie Pyle belonged to the millions of soldiers he had made his friends. His dispatches reached down into the ranks to draw out the stories of individual soldiers. He did not glorify war, but he did glorify the nobility, the simplicity and heroism of the American fighting man. The Army deeply mourns his death."
Eisenhower Pays Tribute
Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower paid tribute to Ernie Pyle Wednesday night, saying: "The GI's in Europe--and that means all of us here--have lost one of our best and most understanding friends," a Blue network correspondent, Herbert Clark, reported in a broadcast from Paris, according to The Associated Press.
Dewey Sees Loss to Nation
ALBANY, April 18 (UP)--Governor Thomas E. Dewey said today that the death of Mr. Pyle "is a great personal loss to this country and to American journalism."
"Ernie Pyle was a great reporter," Mr. Dewey said. "His warm, human stories of our fighting men-- Ernie's beloved GI's--had become an integral part of our American life. Every day millions of American newspaper readers eagerly read his column, which was a daily link between us here on the home front and our men fighting on the battlefronts of the world."
New Mexico Mourns "Son"
ALBUQUERQUE, N. M., April 18 (AP)--Albuquerque and the State of New Mexico were stunned today by the news that Ernie Pyle had been killed.
Only recently the seventeenth Legislature of New Mexico, by resolution, declared Aug. 3, the columnist's birthday, as "Ernie Pyle Day."
"Ernie Pyle was Albuquerque's adopted son, and all of us sorely grieve his passing," said former Governor Clyde Tingley, Mayor of Albuquerque.
General Clark Salutes Writer
FIFTEENTH ARMY GROUP HEADQUARTERS, Italy, April 18 (UP)--General Mark W. Clark paid tribute today to Ernie Pyle in the following message:
"A great soldier correspondent is dead, perhaps the greatest of this war. I refer to Ernie Pyle, who marched with my troops through Italy, took their part and championed their cause both here and at home.
"His reporting was always constructive. He was "Ernie" to privates and generals alike. He spoke the GI's language and made it a part of the everlasting lore of our country. He was a humble man and in his humility lay his greatness.
"He will be missed by all of us fighting with the Fifteenth Army Group. There could have been only one Ernie Pyle. May God bless his memory. He helped our soldiers to victory."