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Saturday, June 06, 2009

Pyle At Normandy, June 6, 1944

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We have discussed the invasion of Normandy here before. D-Day, as it was called, was a monumental logistical effort put forth by the Allies in the hope they could grab a foothold in France and, thus, begin the liberation of Northwest Europe. The liberation of the Europe continent as a whole had begun with the invasion of Italy in September, 1943, but Operation Overlord, as the Normandy invasion was called, was to be the beginning of one of the stabs towards the heart of Germany, the other being the Soviet offensive coming from the east.

Instead of talking about raw numbers and the events of that longest of days, I have decided to let someone else tell the story of D-Day from his perspective. That someone is Ernie Pyle, an American journalist who told the story of the Second World War as he saw it, up close and personal. His style is in some ways very personal, as if he is telling his story to a friend. His roots as the son of Indiana tenant farmers show through in his writing, making it so popular that the editor-in-chief of the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain ended up publishing his columns in over 300 newspapers. By the time of the United States’ entry into the Second World War, Pyle was already well-known in many communities.

What I am about to read are two columns Pyle submitted in the days immediately after the Normandy invasion.

Ernie Pyle eventually left the European Theatre of war and traveled to the Pacific, where he covered the invasion of Okinawa. While riding in a jeep, a Japanese machine gun opened up on him and the driver. They jumped into a ditch, where Pyle asked the driver if he was OK. As he did so, a bullet entered the side of his helmet, killing him almost instantly. Originally buried on Okinawa, he is now buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii.

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