Memorial Day, Ernie Pyle and Saying Good-bye
Some have heard of Ernie Pyle because of his Pulitzer Prize for dispatches from the front lines of WWII, written at a time when being an “imbedded” journalist was the exception rather than the rule. Others may have seen him portrayed by Burgess Meredith in the 1945 biopic “Story of G.I. Joe.” I’ve stood beside his grave at Punchbowl–the dramatic National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu–where he was re-interred following his death, in action, on an island north of Okinawa on April 18, 1945.
Several years ago, I came across one of his most famous columns, a brief but moving piece on the death of Captain Henry T. Waskow, a column which inspired a memorable scene in “G. I. Joe.” It has always stuck with me because it captures perfectly the emotionally charged, yet all-to-frequent post-battle experience of strong and stoic men having to say a final good-bye. Sadly, the scene was repeated a year later when soldiers of the 305th Infantry Regiment said good-bye to their beloved “Ernie” following his death at the hands of an enemy sniper.