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Ernie Pyle World War II Museum
Ernie Pyle was born in a small farmhouse outside of Dana. Dana is a small town in west-central Indiana, just a few miles from the Illinois border. The house was rescued from demolition in the mid-1970s and relocated in the town of Dana. Ernie was born in 1900 and only lived in this house until he was 18 months old. Today the house is part of the Ernie Pyle World War II Museum.
Ernie's Early Years
Ernie helped his father on the farm as he grew up, but he never really liked farming. When the U.S. entered World War I, he wanted to go to Europe, but his parents made him finish high school. After graduation, Ernie joined the Navy Reserves, but the war ended before his training did. Pyle attended Indiana University, but initially did not know what to major in. Another freshman, Paige Cavanaugh, thought they should try journalism. Ernie apparently enjoyed his time at IU, and worked on the staff of the Indiana Daily Student. In one of his letters on display at the historic site, he tells how he went to the library because he had to write a paper on fatalism. Unfortunately, there were only two books on the subject. One was checked out, and the other was in French, so he wrote to his folks instead.
Ernie's Pre-war Journalism
Six months before graduation, Ernie left college to accept a job as a reporter for the Laporte Herald. Three months later he landed a job with the Washington Daily News. After four years he was promoted to managing editor, a job which did not suit him. He eventually worked out a deal with management whereby he would write six columns a week, about whatever he wanted. Ernie then traveled the country, writing human-interest stories. His "Hoosier Vagabond" columns became popular and were included in most Scripps-Howard newspapers.
World War II
Ernie's greatest fame came from his writings during World War II. He always wrote about the ordinary soldier, and explained how they thought, what they talked about, and what they went through. Ernie stated that in combat, all the infantryman was concerned about was the hundred yards on either side of him. While other reporters interviewed the generals about the grand strategy, "The pins on the map", Pyle wrote about those two hundred yards. His writing style is similar to Will Rogers. In a description of American soldiers training in England, he wrote: "They have been here long enough to form an opinion about English weather, but you can't print that in a nice newspaper like this." He later compared them to soldiers on the battlefield: "The only difference is they are anxious to 'Get a crack at the Jerries'. After a couple months in the field, they'll be happy to let someone else have a crack at them." Ernie wrote about the war in North Africa, Italy, and France. In 1945 he went to the Pacific, and was killed on the small island of Ie Shima during the invasion of Okinawa. A simple plaque states: "At This Spot, the 77th Infantry Division Lost a Buddy, Ernie Pyle, 18 April, 1945". President Truman insisted on announcing Ernie's death to the nation: "No man in this war has so well told the story of the American fighting man as the American fighting man wanted it told. He deserves the gratitude of all his countrymen."
The Ernie Pyle Birthplace was a state historical site from 1976 until 2009. Low visitor turnout and state budget cuts forced the state to close it. It is now operated by a private group called Friends of Ernie Pyle. Be sure to contact them before visiting.