Posted on September 1st, 2017 by:

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By Evans Wylie Sp1c

YANK Staff Correspondent

OKINAWA, RYUKYUS–Ernie Pyle covered the Okinawa D-Day with the Marines. Many did not recognize him at first and stared curiously at the small, oldish-looking man with stubby white whiskers and a frayed woolen cap. When the did, they said, “Hi, Ernie, what do you think of the war here in the Pacific?” And Pyle smiled and said a little wearily, “Oh, it’s the same old stuff all over again. I am awful tired of it.”

Men watched him climb out of the boat, his thin body bent under the weight of a huge pack and draped in fatigue clothes that seemed to big for him, and they said, “That guy is getting too old for this kind of stuff. He ought to go home.”

Ie Shima where Ernie Pyle died is a small, obscure island off the western coast of Okinawa. The operation was on such a small scale that many correspondents didn’t bother to go along. Pyle had been in the ship’s sick bay for a week with one of his famous colds.

ernie pyle

Before his death, Ernie Pyle stopped n Hollywood en route to the Pacific to give a few pointers to actor Burgess Meredith who plays the late correspondent in the new movie “GI Joe.”

Pyle was ashore on D plus 1. The weather was perfect, balmy air and bright sunshine. He stretched out on a sunny slope with Milton Chase, WLW radio correspondent, soaking up the sun and gazing at the picturesque landscape and gently rolling fields dotted with sagebrush-like bushes and clumps of low pine trees. The country, he said, was the way Italy must be like in summer time. That was only a guess, he added, because he was in Italy in the middle of winter. Most of all, however, it reminded him of Albuquerque. “Lots of people don’t like the country around Albuquerque,” he said, “but it suits me fine. As soon as I finish this damned assignment I’m going back there and settle down for a long time.”

Chase asked Pyle what his reaction to the Jap dead was. Pyle said dead men were all alike to him and it made him feel sick to look at one. A wounded soldier with a bloody bandage on his arm came up the slope and asked Pyle for his autograph. “I don’t usually collect these things,” he told Pyle sheepishly, “but I wanted yours. Thanks a lot.”

He was with the foot troops when he died, standing hear a regimental commander. The Jap machine-gun fire that got him took the group by surprise. Pyle was proceeding to the front in a jeep with the regimental CO. As they reached a crossroads still some distance from the front-lines a Jap machine gun hidden in a patch of woods suddenly opened up on them. The gun was a sleeper. our troops had been moving up and down the road all morning and most of the day before. This was the first time it had revealed itself. Pyle and the others jumped from the jeep and took cover in a ditch beside the road.

The machine gun fired a long burst and Pyle was dead. The rest withdrew.

Several groups attempted to recover the body, once with the support of tanks, but each time were driven back. At 1500 hours that afternoon, a chaplain, N.N. Saucier of Coffeyville, Miss., received permission to attempt to recover it with litter bearers. T-5 Robert Toaz of Huntington, N.Y., Cpl. Paul Shapiro of Passaic, N.J.; Pfc. Minter Moore of Elkins, W.Va., volunteered to go with him. The crossroads lay in open country, offering no cover. The men crawled up the ditch, dragging the litter behind them. An Army signal Corps photographer, Cpl. Alexander Roberts of New York City, preceded them and was the first man to reach the body. Pyle lay on his back in a normal resting position. his unmarked face ha the look of a man sleeping peacefully. He had died instantly from a bullet which had penetrated the left side of his helmet and entered the left temple. His hands were folded across his chest and still clutched his battered fatigue hat, said to be the same one he had worn through previous campaign. The litter bearers placed the body on a stretcher and worked their way slowly along the ditch under sniper fire.

The battle for Ie Shima still remains to be won but it will probably be remembered only as the place where America’s most famous war correspondent met the death he had been expecting for so long.

Ernie Pyle ie shima 77th infantry division

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