Ernie Pyle's War: America's Eyewitness to World War II

Ernie Pyle's War: America's Eyewitness to World War II

by James Tobin
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Ernie Pyle's War: America's Eyewitness to World War II by James Tobin

When a machine-gun bullet ended the life of war correspondent Ernie Pyle in the final days of World War II, Americans mourned him in the same breath as they mourned Franklin Roosevelt. To millions, the loss of this American folk hero seemed nearly as great as the loss of the wartime president.

If the hidden horrors and valor of combat persist at all in the public mind, it is because of those writers who watched it and recorded it in the faith that war is too important to be confined to the private memories of the warriors. Above all these writers, Ernie Pyle towered as a giant. Through his words and his compassion, Americans everywhere gleaned their understanding of what they came to call “The Good War.”

Pyle walked a troubled path to fame. Though insecure and anxious, he created a carefree and kindly public image in his popular prewar column—all the while struggling with inner demons and a tortured marriage. War, in fact, offered Pyle an escape hatch from his own personal hell.

It also offered him a subject precisely suited to his talent—a shrewd understanding of human nature, an unmatched eye for detail, a profound capacity to identify with the suffering soldiers whom he adopted as his own, and a plain yet poetic style reminiscent of Mark Twain and Will Rogers. These he brought to bear on the Battle of Britain and all the great American campaigns of the war—North Africa, Sicily, Italy, D-Day and Normandy, the liberation of Paris, and finally Okinawa, where he felt compelled to go because of his enormous public stature despite premonitions of death.

In this immensely engrossing biography, affectionate yet critical, journalist and historian James Tobin does an Ernie Pyle job on Ernie Pyle, evoking perfectly the life and labors of this strange, frail, bald little man whose love/hate relationship to war mirrors our own. Based on dozens of interviews and copious research in little-known archives, Ernie Pyle's War is a self-effacing tour de force. To read it is to know Ernie Pyle, and most of all, to know his war.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780743284769
Publisher: Free Press
Publication date: 05/30/2006
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 511,549
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.43(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

James Tobin won the National Book Critics Circle Award in biography for Ernie Pyle’s War and the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award for To Conquer the Air: The Wright Brothers and the Great Race for Flight. Educated at the University of Michigan, where he earned a PhD in history, he teaches narrative nonfiction in the Department of Media, Journalism, and Film at Miami University in Oxford, OH.

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Ernie Pyle's War: America's Eyewitness to World War II 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
BRICOR More than 1 year ago
A very well written biography of an important man who brought WWII home to Americans the world over. He made us understand and respect the American warrior like no other has. Ernie Pyle should be idolized for the true American icon that he was.
HomeSchoolBookReview More than 1 year ago
When I was in high school, back in the days when we actually studied history rather than “social studies,” I remember learning about Ernie Pyle, one of the foremost American newspaper correspondents during World War II. Therefore, while driving through west central Indiana last year and seeing a sign for the Ernie Pyle State Historic Site at Dana, IN, we decided to stop. I purchased this book from their gift shop to serve as a memento of our visit and to learn more about Pyle, who was born Ernest Taylor Pyle on a tenant farm outside of Dana, IN, in 1900, and attended but didn’t graduate from Indiana University. Instead, he accepted a job at a paper in LaPorte, IN, where he worked for three months before moving to Washington, D.C. to be a reporter for a tabloid newspaper, The Washington Daily News. While in Washington, Pyle met Geraldine "Jerry" Siebolds and married her in 1925. In 1928, he started the country's first aviation column, which he wrote for four years. After serving as managing editor of the Daily News for a couple of years, he returned to writing with a series of national columns for the Scripps-Howard Alliance group about the unusual places he saw and people he met in his travels. His articles were written in a folksy style, much like a personal letter to a friend, and enjoyed a following in some 300 newspapers. With America’s entry into World War II, he became a special war correspondent, covering actions in North Africa, the invasion of Sicily, and D-Day, writing from the perspective of the common soldier, an approach that won him the Pulitzer Prize in 1944. Pyle decided to cover events in the Pacific, and on April 18, 1945, was struck in the left temple by Japanese machine-gun fire on Ie Shima, an island off Okinawa, and died instantly. James Tobin’s account of Pyle’s life and work, emphasizing his efforts during the war, won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1998. One of the disadvantages of a biography is that one often has to read about “warts and all.” Pyle’s wife Jerry, who called herself an atheist, suffered from intermittent bouts of mental illness and alcoholism. Pyle himself dealt with severe emotional insecurities and was a heavy drinker. Jerry just wanted them to live together, but Pyle at least insisted on marriage because “he could not shame his parents by living in sin.” The only time Jerry got pregnant, she chose to have an abortion, and she tried to commit suicide a couple of times. Because of the problems they divorced in 1942, and there are references in the book to several affairs that Pyle had during this time, but they remarried by proxy a year later. Also, Pyle and many of his co-workers, and apparently the author too, were very profane and vulgar men. Their language is liberally sprinkled with cursing (especially the “d” and “h” words), a lot of taking the Lord’s name in vain (including various forms of “go**am”), and even some actual obscenities (such as the “f” and “s” words among others). The book ends with an Appendix that contains a potpourri of Pyle's articles. For very mature, older teens and adults making an in-depth study of World War II, the book contains some important information, but it is definitely not for children. This book is not to be confused with Ernie’s War, a collection of Pyle’s World War II dispatches edited by David Nichols.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
James Toban has written a stunning book in ¿Ernie Pyle's War: America's Eyewitness to World War II¿. Toban has succeeded in giving readers the rare opportunity to see the human frailties concealed within one of America¿s greatest and most valuable World War II correspondents. James Toban present a picture of the complex Ernie Pyle; a man that entered the World War II carrying only a broken Remington typewriter and a deep desire to describe the life and hardships of the horrific world of the infantrymen to the American public. The reader will learn of the contradictory Ernie Pyle. The Ernie Pyle who despised war, but who could not stay away from the physical and emotional anguish of battle. The Ernie Pyle who loved his wife, but who continually left her behind to travel to the front lines. Ernie Pyle, the seemingly frail and terrified journalist who demonstrated his bravery by traveling to the front lines to be with and write about ¿his boys¿. Ernie Pyle, a genius for writing about the common soldier, but who needed constant reminding that he was the best at what he did. His articles became legendary and the hope and news link for Americans with loved ones in the front lines. James Toban¿s ¿Ernie Pyle's War: America's Eyewitness to World War II ¿ is a must read for World War II readers and all readers who wish to know about the human spirit and about a plain old fashion brave American.