Sunday, February 03, 2008
Ernie Pyle Death Photo Found
"COMMAND POST, IE SHIMA, April 18 (AP) — Ernie Pyle, war correspondent beloved by his co-workers, GIs and generals alike, was killed by a Japanese machine-gun bullet through his left temple this morning ..."
Only six days after the nation was stunned by the death of President Franklin Roosevelt, it was shocked again with news that America's most beloved World War II correspondent had been killed. The War Department and the Associated Press thought it best not to release the photo of Pyle's corpse to the public.
Ernie Pyle arrived in the Pacific theater of war in April 1945 after covering the European war in North Africa, Italy, and France for four years. The Army's 77th Infantry Division landed on the small island of Ie Shima on April 16. They were to capture an airfield located there while the primary battle was fought on Okinawa not far away. Though not the main battle, it was "warfare in its worst form ... Not one Japanese soldier surrendered, he killed until he was killed," Army photographer Alexander Roberts wrote later.
Three days into the battle, Pyle and three officers were riding in a Jeep in the early morning when they were attacked by a concealed Japanese machine gun nest. The four men leapt for cover in the roadside ditch. When Pyle raised his head to take a look around, he was struck in the head by a .30 caliber bullet, instantly killing him.
Photographer Roberts was just 300 yards away with other reporters and went to the scene as soon as he was aware that Pyle had been killed. Through continuos enemy fire, Roberts crawled forward to snap the photo with his Army issue Speed Graphic camera and crawled back. His action earned him a Bronze Star for valor under fire.
The photo he made that day was not released to the public and only a few copies have been known to exist. The photo was not seen by the public "out of deference" to Pyle's widow, Jerry. The AP of WWII was very sympathetic to the war effort and cooperated with the then named War Department and actually had a conscience, unlike today's AP which even Bugs Bunny called the Disassocited Press.
The life of Indigo Red is full of adventure. Tune in next time for the Further Adventures of Indigo Red.