Thursday, May 19, 2022

Books re WWII: Ernie Pyle's War

Ernie Pyle's War: America's Eyewitness to World War II

by James Tobin, University Press of Kansas, 1997


This book I highly recommend. It is not about a Canadian or a sailor in RCNVR. It is not about Combined Operations or Canadian members of Combined Ops training on ALCs or LCMs. It is not focussed on operations in which my father was employed re training or participation, e.g., from Dieppe to Operation TORCH, HUSKY, BAYTOWN and more. But I encourage you to check out used-book stores or AbeBooks, spend ten bucks like I did and enjoy reading the very good writing by a fearful war correspondent who - after many months overseas during WWII, writing about the weariness and woes and triumphs and glories of the common American soldier - set the standard for many other war correspondents.

[Another of Pyle's books is reviewed and promoted here. HERE IS YOUR WAR, Parts 1 - 3]

We will not learn more about Canadians in Combined Ops - the focus of this blog/archive of materials - but we will learn more about the events and characteristics of war and the men they rubbed shoulders with. Ernie's prose is from a skilled pen, I say.

Table of Contents follow:

Pyle learned the reporting trade and developed his writing style during four years
as the Washington Daily News' aviation correspondent, flying 100,000 miles and
writing more than 1.5 million words. Photo - Ernie Pyle State Historic Site

The book contains many excerpts from Pyle's writings but is more about other things: How he became a writer, how he developed as a writer, what he was essentially really like, what his relationships with others were like (including his wife Jerry), what the impact of his writing was like and how far it extended... in miles and in years.

On page four we read:

The war had been a harsh mistress to Ernie. First it had offered him the means of escaping personal despair. Then, while his star rose to public heights he had never imagined, the war had slowly driven him downward again into "flat black depression." But he kept this mostly to himself. Instead he had offered readers a way of seeing the war that skirted despair and stopped short of horror. His published version of World War II had become the nation's version.

And if Ernie Pyle himself had not won the war, America's mental picture of the soldiers who had won ti was largely Pyle's creation. He and his grimy G.I.'s, frightened but enduring, had become the heroic symbols of what the soldiers and their children would remember as "the Good War."

Many informative photographs appear in the book (a few samples follow, page 120):

Excerpts follow from a column entitled A Buoyant Tenseness:

In Tunisia, April 1943 - 

The war correspondents over here seldom write about themselves, so it may be interesting if I try to tell you how we live.

There are more than 75 American and British correspondents and photographers in North Africa... The correspondents in the city (Algiers) live a life that is pretty close to normal. They live in hotels or apartments, eat at restaurants or officers' messes, work regular hours, get laundry done... Since their lives are closely akin to the lives of newspapermen at home, we'll deal here with the correspondents as they live at the front.

Some of us spent as much as two months in Tunisia without ever returning to the city. When we do it is a great thrill to come back to civilization - for the first day. 

But then a reaction sets in, and almost invariably we get the heebie-jeebies and find ourselves nervous and impatient with all the confusion and regimentation of city life, and wish ourselves back at the front again.

The outstanding thing abut life at the front is its magnificent simplicity. It is a life consisting only of the essentials - food, sleep, transportation, and what little warmth and safety you can manage to wangle out of it by personal ingenuity...

It is a life that gives you a new sense of accomplishment. In normal life, all the little things are done for us... But not up here. You do everything yourself. You are suddenly conscious again that you CAN do things. The fact that another guy can write a better piece than I can is counterbalanced by the fact that I can roll a better bedroll than he can.

And last, and probably most important of all, is that you have a feeling of vitality. You are in the heart of everything, and you are a part of it. You don't feel like an onlooker; you feel that you're a member of the team.

Pages 254 - 255

Soon to follow will be a few more poignant excerpts from this book, which readers will be able to find by linking to "passages from WW2 books." See 'click on HEADINGS' in right hand margin.  

Please click here to learn about another book related to Combined Operations or World War II - "No Price Too High," by Terry Copp

Questions or comments can be added below or addressed to Gord H. at

Unattributed Photos GH 

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