It was 75 years ago last April, as the end of World War II was drawing near, that famed war correspondent Ernie Pyle died on the tiny island of Ie Shima in the Pacific Ocean. He was touring the island, which is located near Okinawa, with military officers while Marine forces were searching for outposts of Japanese fighters.

The group came under enemy fire, and Pyle was struck in the head by a machine gunner’s bullet. He died instantly.

At a time when there was so much sadness as the human toll of the world war was being grasped, Pyle’s death was mourned at a national level. That’s because his name was known across the land as a journalist who told the stories of those who fought, and often died, to rid the world of imperialism, Nazism and fascism.

Pyle’s dispatches had become staple consumption for readers in as many as 500 American newspapers. Most of his time had been spent in Europe and Africa earlier in the war with Army troops. He had reluctantly decided to make a final tour in the South Pacific with the Navy and Marines to give those troops an opportunity to have their stories told as well.

While it turned out to be Pyle’s final assignment, his voice would not be silenced. His collection of work would live on and is still studied and celebrated today. Monday is the third annual national Ernie Pyle Day, which is set aside to remember and honor the Pultizer Prize-winning journalist’s life and work. Aug. 3 is also his birthday.

Pyle’s significance and impact is recalled with special fervor in his hometown of Dana in west-central Indiana.

After high school, he studied journalism at Indiana University and started his reporting career in northwest Indiana.

He had a budding career as a columnist for Scripps Howard News Service first as a travel writer then as an aviation writer. But it was his work as a World War II correspondent that launched his fame. The congressional resolution that created Ernie Pyle Day was introduced by Indiana Sens. Joe Donnelly and Todd Young “Ernie Pyle’s renowned career reporting throughout Indiana and World War II demonstrates the work ethic of Hoosiers and the dedication of Americans in commemorating our soldiers,” Young said. “By designating National Ernie Pyle Day, his important contributions to our state and nation will be honored.”

Sen. Donnelly recognized Pyle’s contribution to journalism: “Ernie Pyle — a Hoosier native from Dana, Indiana — forever influenced American journalism. His reporting from the battlefield in World War II captured the daily sacrifice and heroism of our service members fighting in the war.”

Ernie Pyle deserves his special day on Monday, and we urge Hoosiers, and all Americans, to take a moment to remember his extraordinary journalistic impact on his country during a time of great distress.
© 2020 Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.