Ernie Pyle Comes Home From the Wars

By Charles F. Kiley

Stars and Stripes U.S. Bureau

NEW YORK, Sept. 24.—Like any man in uniform who has been in the war business for 2 ½ years, Ernie Pyle came home very tired. And it was typical of the “GI’s war correspondent” that he passed up a speedier, probably more comfortable Atlantic crossing by plane to make the trip with a boatload of wounded soldiers.

Pyle came home after keeping pace with youngsters half his age during the war, reporting the London blitz, Africa, Sicily, Italy and France but “the skinny, dried-up little guy,” as one soldier reader characterized him in a letter, decided in Paris a few weeks ago that he couldn’t go any longer without a rest. So after a few days here, Ernie is going to Washington for a week. Thence home to New Mexico, stopping in Indiana for a brief visit with his father.


Ernie Pyle in Italy

Has Eye on Pacific

Pyle isn’t finished with the war, though. He figures a couple of months of sunshine and home cooking will fix him up for a voluntary assignment to the Pacific.

When we visited him here, Pyle didn’t look any different outwardly than he did in London last spring when he came up from Italy to get in on the invasion of France, or when he was working out of the First Army press camp in Normandy.

“It’s sort of hard to explain to anyone here who hasn’t been through it,” Pyle said. “After the breakthrough at St. Lo in July, I think I knew it was coming. Except for a slight cold I was all right physically. But inside I felt awful. In Paris it really got me. The Germans came over one day and pasted hell out of us. I’d been through thousands of bombings, but that one did it. I knew then I’d have to get some rest.”

But Ernie wasn’t through yet. On the boat coming back, the wounded who could get around asked him to go below and talk to the bedridden. Typically, Pyle went down and talked with hundreds of them. They had read his farewell column in The Stars and Stripes, he said, and they wanted to tell him they understood.


“There I was, standing over those kids with arms, legs and eyes gone, all battered to hell, and they told me they understood,” he said. “But they knew what the score was, and that helped. They were amazing. Always cheerful and kidding. One kid with his eyes gone would push a boy without legs in a wheel chair, the legless one guiding him.

“They were all together and they were going home. But a year from now they’ll be separated and a lot of them will be forgotten. There’s a great tragedy. You live with those kids a while and you get to know what this war is about.”

Soldiers often talk about the first things they’re going to do when they get home. Well, here’s the first thing Pyle did.

There was a kid from Nebraska aboard who had lost a leg. His folks only had notification he was “slightly wounded,” following the War Departments classification of wounded as “slightly and “seriously.” He didn’t know how to tell them and thought Ernie could do it for him.

When the boat docked, that was the first thing Pyle did. “Your son is healthy, happy… don’t feel too badly about him.” That was typical Pyle.

We delivered a letter to Pyle from S/Sgt. N.A. Friedman, as printed in The Stars and Stripes of Aug. 13. When he finished reading it he didn’t say anything for a minute.

“I…I would like to have this, if I may,” he stammered. “I’d like to put it in my scrapbook.”

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