On the Wing and On the Ground

Ernie Pyle’s aviation and war dispatches.

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

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One girl I knew was hysterical and pounded her head against the wall. Her grief never really left her. She was gone in less than a year. The doctors would say something else, but I know she died because she didn’t want to live.

Another night, I sat in the operations office with a woman whose husband had just been burned to death. She sat instead of going home, because at that point sitting or going home or anything else was equally unimportant to her. She did not cry.

To this day I am proud of myself for having the courage and common sense to ask her if she didn’t want a drink of whiskey. She wasn’t a woman who drank, but at that moment a drink of whiskey was exactly what she did want. And we got it for her.

Most always, the women who are left go back to where their lives entered aviation. They take their children and their loneliness back to the home town, and you don’t hear from them again until another woman of the clan knocks for admission to their desolate corporation, and they vote her in, and pray for her.

—Ernie Pyle

Italy, December 1943 to April 1944

Scripps-Howard Newspaper Alliance

Dive Bombers

Every time I went to an airdrome it seemed as if I always slept on the cot of the last pilot who had been shot down. It was quite natural, since there were usually just enough cots to go around, and I slept on whichever one was empty. I didn’t mind it, because I’m not superstitious. But it did impress me after it happened several times in a row.

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