Last week, the nation marked the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, which launched the United States into World War II. A young man reared in Vermilion County served on the front lines in both the European and Pacific theaters of war, armed with a typewriter. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ernie Pyle told stories of G.I.s, sharing personal insight on a conflict from a half world away.
Around INdiana reporter Mary-Rachel Redman tells us how Pyle’s hometown of Dana is working to preserve his legacy.
“He told the stories that the soldiers were not sending back often enough to tell their families about he was the letter back home,” said Phil Hess, who serves on the ‘Friends of Ernie Pyle’ board.
The town of Dana is making sure its favorite son’s contribution to history is never forgotten through the Ernie Pyle World War II Museum.
The museum is laid out in a way to help illustrate Pyle’s articles from the war front. The organization goes to great extremes to find authentic items from the era. One section of the museum replicates the beach head where Allied troops set ashore in Normandy. The D-Day diorama is strewn with helmets, food rations, even cigarette packages.
“Ernie mentioned in the column that there were 1000s of packs of cigarettes on the beach. So, we had to find them, and it was tough to find the proper Lucky Strikes (cigarette brand). That’s the kind of detail we were looking for,” said Hess.
Pyle submitted a column to Scripps-Howard newspapers to document the landing in France and what he saw in its aftermath.
“Men were sleeping on the sand, some of them sleeping forever. Men were floating in the water, but they didn’t know they were in the water, for they were dead.”
“In the water floated empty life rafts and soldiers’ packs and ration boxes, and mysterious oranges. On the beach lay snarled rolls of telephone wire and big rolls of steel matting and stacks of broken, rusting rifles.”
Last month, the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs awarded the museum more than $26,000 for exterior restoration of Pyle’s boyhood home, which was moved to the museum site.
Editor’s Note: The Indiana University School of Journalism houses the writings of Ernie Pyle. Click here to learn more.