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Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Soldier's Friend: A Life of Ernie Pyle by Ray E. Boomhower

A strong, short biography of the corresppondent who gave us the GI's "worm's eye view" of WW II

Ernie Pyle with Marines bound for Okinawa
Ernie Pyle (1900-1945) was a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist who wrote for Washington, D.C. and New York City newspapers before the war. But, he became a beloved figure due to his Pulitzer Prize-winning work during World War II, especially in the European Theater. As one of the soldiers quoted in this biography said, "He was...our spokesman. It was not that his column told us things we did not know or feel, but the fact that we knew you folks at home could read it, and get to know and understand."

The Soldier's Friend: A Life of Ernie Pyle is published by the Indiana Historical Society Press because Pyle was originally from the small town of Dana, Indiana, near Terre Haute. The Indiana Historical Society has access to literally millions of Indiana-related historical photographs and that library of pictures is put to good use in this biography. Most of the photos aren't just the standard posed shots, but they show Pyle interacting with his favorite soldiers - the G.I. (Infantry). You can see his relaxed style and his curiousity about everything - including looking down the business end of a 155 mm gun, cooking on a Coleman stove in France, walking among the rubble of the hotel that he was in when a German shell hit it, talking with nurses, officers, and even washing his feet in his own helmet.

The book is actually intended to be a biography for advanced middle school students or high school students to read, but it is excellent for any student of World War II history, no matter his or her age. At the end of the text, 3 of his complete, unedited columns are re-printed, including the sparse and moving "The Death of Captain Waskow".

Strongly recommended.

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5.

Reviewed on March 9, 2008.

1 comment:

  1. Ernie seemed to be devoted to reporting the war and the soldiers as just people in an impossible situation and somehow cope. No political motives, now most reporters have an agenda, some personal belief they have and try to use reporting to further their beliefs. Nobody just reports for the sake of informing others of the experience of others but convince others their political motives are correct

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