Thursday marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the day commemorating the Allied Invasion of Normandy in World War II.
The Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association has made it possible for member news organizations to reprint three columns written by famous war correspondent Ernie Pyle immediately after the Normandy invasion.
The columns, which will appear on The Era’s Comment & Opinion page — A-7 — over the next several days, are offered by the Ernie Pyle World War II Museum in Dana, Ind., and Scripps Howard Foundation.
The museum offered a brief biography of Pyle.
“The son of tenant farming parents in west-central Indiana, Ernie Pyle became history’s greatest war correspondent.
“When Pyle was killed by a Japanese machine gun bullet on the tiny Pacific island of Ie Shima in 1945, his columns were being delivered to more than 14 million homes, according to his New York Times obituary.
“During the war, Pyle wrote about the hardships and bravery of the common soldier, not grand strategy. His description of the G.I.’s life was more important to families on the home front than battlefront tactics of Gens. Dwight Eisenhower, Douglas MacArthur, George Patton or Omar Bradley.”
The biography continued, explaining Pyle’s impact on Americans.
“Prior to the United States’ entry into World War II, Pyle traveled to England and wrote about the Nazi’s continual bombing of London. His columns helped move the mood of America from isolationism to sympathy for the stubborn refusal of Great Britain to succumb to the will of Adolf Hitler.”
Pyle has a connection to this area that is marked at the Zippo Museum as well.
Pyle was in the habit of giving Zippo lighters to every G.I. he interviewed. He wrote a letter to Zippo founder George G. Blaisdell to report that soldiers were very confident in having a reliable lighter. Blaisdell sent him Zippo lighters to distribute to soldiers.
“Getting hold of a Zippo is liking getting hold of a hunk of gold,” Pyle wrote to Blaisdell.
In a subsequent letter, he wrote, “If I tried to tell you how much these Zippos are coveted at the front and the gratitude and delight with which the boys receive them, You would probably accuse me of exaggeration. There is truly nothing the average soldier would rather have.”
When Pyle died, Blaisdell sent specially engraved Zippo lighters to the U.S.S. Cabot, the last ship on which Pyle had worked. They were engraved “In memory Ernie Pyle 1945.”
The captain of the ship penned a thank-you note for the gift.
Pyle’s story is in the Zippo Museum, and with Pyle’s fondness for the Bradford-made lighters, there’s likely a mention of Zippo in the Ernie Pyle World War II Museum in the correspondent’s hometown as well.
“The Ernie Pyle World War II Museum features the famous journalist’s birthplace and a museum dedicated to Pyle’s life and writings as a war correspondent. It is owned by the Friends of Ernie Pyle, who are dedicated to preserving and expanding the legacy of the writer whose columns linked the soldiers on the front line to worried families on the home front.”
To learn more about the Ernie Pyle World War II Museum located in Dana, Ind., or make a donation to assist the efforts of the Friends of Ernie Pyle to honor him and that generation, go to www.erniepyle.org.