Ceremony commemorates legendary war reporter

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Chandler Baker
  • Kirtland Public Affairs

August 3 has been declared “Ernie Pyle day” in Albuquerque and the state of New Mexico, with a congressional campaign to get it nationally recognized. At the New Mexico Veterans Memorial, the first Ernie Pyle day ceremony took place.

The New Mexico Veterans Memorial honors all vets,” said Bernie Lamb, President of the memorial. “It’s really special when you get to honor a hometown hero, even if this is his adopted hometown.”

Veterans, journalists, and members from Kirtland Air Force Base gathered to celebrate the life of Pyle, on what would’ve been his 117th birthday. Guest speakers included Joseph Galloway, a war correspondent whose story was part of the book, We Were Soldiers Once and Young, later made into the film We Were Soldiers.

“Ernie Pyle is a symbol of what great war corresponding really is,” Galloway said. “You don’t want to go to war without us. We need to come along because we’re the eyes and ears of the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, and friends of those who put on the uniform and go into harm’s way under our flag and on behalf of our country.”

Pyle, who was born in Dana, Indiana in 1900, Pyle joined the Naval Reserves at age 17. Pyle served on active duty for three months, to the end of World War I. After serving as the managing editor at The Washington Daily News, Pyle got his chance to be a war correspondent in Europe during World War II. His work on the battlefields earned him the Pulitzer Prize for journalism. His famous column “The Death of Captain Waskow” is his most widely read and reproduced work.

On the size of the D-Day invasion, Pyle wrote “The best way I can describe this vast armada and the frantic urgency of the traffic is to suggest that you visualize New York city on its busiest day of the year and then just enlarge that scene until it takes in all the ocean the human eye can reach clear around the horizon and over the horizon. There are dozens of times that many.”

When Pyle was injured in Europe, he returned to Albuquerque to recover. He wrote an apology column to his readers, saying, “Another two weeks of coverage in Europe would have seen him hospitalized with war neurosis.”

Pyle eventually got to the pacific theater to provide additional coverage on the war. On April 17, 1945, Pyle was killed by enemy fire on a small island near Okinawa. A monument stands where he was shot, which was put up by members of the 77th Infantry Division after the war.

The ceremony in New Mexico is the first annual Ernie Pyle day ceremony. Buildings in Albuquerque bearing his name include the Ernie Pyle Middle School, and the Ernie Pyle Library, which was made out of his original home.