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Ernie Pyle: Indiana farm to front-line reporter

By
LINDA G. CALECA

DANA, Ind. -- Ernie Pyle, the greatest front-line reporter of World War II, knew by the age of 5 he didn't want to be a farmer.

'He hated horses and snakes and wanted to get as far away as he could from the farm,' says Evelyn Hobson, 56, who runs the Ernie Pyle Museum in Dana, Pyle's rural hometown. 'He knew he wanted something else.'

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Pyle, born Ernest Taylor Pyle on Aug. 3, 1900, would have been 84 years old Friday. The fox-hole war reporter, who lived with and wrote about soldiers in the trenches in England, North Africa and the Pacific, was killed by a blast of Japanese machine gun fire on the tiny island of Ie Shima near Okinawa April 18, 1945.

The farmhouse near Dana where Pyle was born now serves as a memorial and museum. More than 4,000 visitors, many of them veterans, journeyed to the west-central Indiana home last year.

A birthday party in Pyle's honor Friday drew about 250 people, many of them out-of-state admirers.

The block party for Pyle was the first of its kind in Dana, but Mrs. Hobson said it was so successful, she is thinking of throwing one each year.

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Many of the guests took a tour through the Pyle home, which has been painstakingly reconstructed to reflect turn-of-the-century Indiana farm life. The home is located in Dana's one-block-long downtown.

'Ernie's parents, Will and Maria, always called him Ernest, but everyone else in the world called him Ernie,' Mrs. Hobson says as she leads a group through the museum.

Museum cases in the house hold the family Bible, Pyle's early report cards, his Latin book and letters home from Indiana University, including one in which Pyle bragged that he took a girl to a dance and then sold dances with her for a quarter each.

There is the canteen, duffle bag and Coleman gas stove he used during the war, the jacket with holes where the elbows were that he wore to have tea with Eleanor Roosevelt in 1943, the telegram telling his parents their son was dead and the flag that draped his casket.

There also is a World War II Jeep, towed to the museum from Media, Pa., by a Pyle fan, and the Purple Heart awarded posthumously to Pyle in April 1983.

Pyle attended Indiana University for 3 years, but dropped out just short of receiving his degree. Years later, on Nov. 13, 1944, Pyle received an honorary degree from the university, and the building that houses the journalism department on the Bloomington campus is called 'Ernie Pyle Hall.'

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The Ernie Pyle Lounge in the journalism building showcases the portable typewriter found near him after he was killed. The school also has the shovel, etched with the initials 'E.P.,' he used to dig his foxholes.

'We try to keep his memory alive here,' said Marjorie Blewett, the journalism department's placement director. 'We still use his articles as examples of fine writing in our journalism classes.'

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