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By 1944, Ernest Taylor Pyle (in Normandy, France) had won millions of loyal readers and a Pulitzer. (The Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana)

On the Wing and On the Ground

Ernie Pyle's aviation and war dispatches.

January 25, 1936

Death writes the by-laws of this close corporation, the grief-linked coterie of wives of the men who fly.

They are a strange corporation of loneliness and close kinship—the women of aviation who sit at home and hear that their husbands are dead.

Death comes to other women’s husbands too. But nothing in this world is so closely clasped together as the people of aviation, and it is the long and very real shadow of death that clasps them.

When one woman’s husband dies violently, the wives of the living shudder a little for themselves, but not much; and the wives of the already dead come quickly with their sympathy and their memories.

I have tried to analyze the psychology toward death among aviators. I have even tried to analyze my own, for it became in time the same as theirs. Vaguely I feel it is something like this—the pilot knows something might happen, but oh well, he’s escaped so far, so probably he will this time too.

But the wives have a greater faith; a conviction of their husbands’ superiority. I have never known an aviation wife who didn’t consider her husband the greatest pilot in the world. It’s too bad when other pilots are killed, she thinks, but that won’t happen to my man; he can handle any emergency.

Those who have picked up the receiver and heard the awful news, know better than that. For among them have been women whose husbands actually were the greatest pilots in the world.

The other night my phone rang, and a hurried voice said, “What do you know about Howard?”

I started to make a funny answer to the effect that “I know a lot about him,” but something in the voice stopped me. I said, “What do you mean?”

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