Sixty years ago, with victory over Japan in sight, Ernie Pyle, America’s greatest World War II correspondent, was killed by a sniper while covering the war in the Pacific. For a nation still reeling from President Roosevelt’s death, the loss of Pyle six days later came as a terrible shock.
In this year of tributes to the aging vets of the Second World War and disputes over the war in Iraq, it is important to remember Pyle, not only for what he meant to the nation in dark times but for the perspective he sheds on today’s war reportage, with its embedded correspondents and its muckraking coverage of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.
What F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novels were for the 1920s and John Steinbeck’s for the 1930s, Ernie Pyle’s reportage was for the 1940s: a generational mirror. At its peak Pyle’s column appeared in more than two hundred daily newspapers and four hundred weeklies. Two collections of his columns, Here Is Your War and Brave Men, were best-s...
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