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Friday, 24 February 2017

The Press as Public Enemy No 1? Tell that to the Ghost of Ernie Pyle

I have no idea what Ian Farmer is up to these days. He would be 18 or 19 by now. But at age 12, in November 2010, he could have taught a future President of the United States more about the real value of the Fourth Estate, as a force devoted to the public's right to know the truth, and to freedom of expression, than Donald Trump will ever know. Without the Press, Trump might not be speaking a language that passes for English today.
Trump was born almost 14 months to the day after war correspondent Ernie Pyle died on Iejima in Okinawa. But he cannot be forgiven for not grasping what Pyle and war correspondents like him did in the service of the free world. Ian Farmer was a Denver School of the Arts student when his one-boy performance of Pyle won the US Marine Corps History Award. Farmer's interest began when he saw Saving Private Ryan in 2008, and he started seeking out other movies and books about the war. Then he came across a 1945 copy of Here Is Your War, a collection of Pyle’s articles about the Allied campaign in North Africa, Italy, Sicily and France. Farmer was especially taken with “The Death of Captain Waskow”. Farmer created a solo performance centred on that essay and did so well at the Colorado History Day competition he was chosen to compete in the national contest in Bethesda, Maryland. There, judges from the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation found his presentation so moving they awarded Farmer the Marine Corps History prize. He received the award in a ceremony in Arlington, Virginia.
Above, members of the 77th Infantry Division erect a memorial to Pyle at Okinawa on the spot where Pyle was killed by machine gun fire in April 1945. Below, Pyle, at his makeshift desk in Europe.
Australian Alan Wood , considered one of the gutsiest war correspondents ever, types his despatch on September 18, 1944, at Arnhem in Holland. Wood was parachuted in behind enemy lines with the 1st British Airborne Division. He's lying in a ditch astride the Utrechtseweg near Oosterbeek.
TIME correspondent Bill Walton at his typewriter during the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944Walton parachuted into Normandy with the 82nd Airborne Division.
A correspondent covers the Desert War in North Africa in 1942.
Above, Marguerite Higgins of the New York Herald Tribune and the News Chronicle on the Korean front lines, July 1950. Below, Higgins writing her copy in slightly safer surrounds.
Correspondents report from the front lines in the Korean War, 1950.
 War correspondents on the Korean Press train.
When the all-out Allied air bombardment of Cherbourg opened on D-Day, Lee Carson Reeves of the International News Service flew over the beleaguered port with the bombers. She was the first Allied war correspondent to enter Paris after its liberation. Attached to the 4th Army, she rode in on a Jeep, and reported on the Parisian Hepcats and civilians who had resisted occupation. She later joined the 1st Army with fellow war correspondent Iris Carpenter and crossed the Seigfried Line at Aachen. Carpenter and Carson reported on the Battle of the Bulge and witnessed the first GIs meeting Russian troops. On April 15, 1945, assigned to the task force which liberated the Castle, Carson entered Colditz and took the only photo of the "cock" glider, built by inmates and hidden in an attic. A week later Carson was present at the liberation of the Erla work camp at Leipzig, where she was horrified at the suffering of the inmates.
In the music room of Goebbels' house, Allied war correspondents write their stories.
Russ Monro was the Canadian Press's lead war correspondent in Europe in World War II. He covered a Canadian raid in Spitsbergen, the 1942 raid on Dieppe, the Allied landings in Sicily, the Italian campaign, D-Day and the campaign in North-western Europe. His memoirs of the campaigns, published as From Gauntlet to Overlord, won the Governor General's Award for English-language non-fiction in 1945. Monro later covered the Korean War.
CBS News journalist Quentin Reynolds spews out the copy on Anzac Day 1944. Reynolds was associate editor at Collier's Weekly from 1933-45 and published 25 books, including The Wounded Don't Cry. But after World War II he was accused of being "yellow" and an "absentee war correspondent" by right-wing Hearst columnist Westbrook Pegler. Reynolds won $175,001 in damages. But in 1953 he was found guilty of publishing fake news. At least back then the liars got found out.
Helen Hiett Waller was the "most bombed US woman" - and that might go for men too. She was a war correspondent for NBC. She covered the attack on Gibraltar, the collapse of France and was under fire in Holland. She also covered the war in Italy, Germany and Austria, as well as the Ethiopian and Spanish wars, being the first outsider to broadcast from the latterIn 1937 she lived in a girls' labour camp in Germany, studying Nazi indoctrination methods. She published No Matter Where in 1944.
Above, Floyd Gibbons, who lost an eye in World War I, types his story at the Denver Post, and below in a hotel room in Washington DC. Covering the Battle of Belleau Wood in France, Gibbons was hit by German gunfire while attempting to rescue an American soldier. He was given France's greatest honour, the Croix de Guerre with Palm, for his valour on the field of battle.
A Vietnam War correspondent carries his Olympia De Luxe Traveller portable in Saigon on April 29, 1975, as Communist troops circle the city.


Nick Bodemer said...

I also see a Tippa (?) case in the 1975 photo as well as a Lettera 32 case

Rolf Boone said...

Just finished a biography on Pyle, so it was great to see photos of him and his peers. Amazing how popular Pyle had become with U.S. newspaper readers. Prior to D-Day, he was receiving up to 200 letters a week in London. And when he had time off stateside, he was practically mobbed.

Bill M said...

I wonder how many of today's reporters even know about or learn about the old reporters. Those men and women reported the news. Today, especially TV news, like to make the news, sensationalize it, tell only one side of a story.

On the bright side, it's great to read about the old reporters, especially those who covered the war, and see their typewriters.

Anonymous said...

The first time Donald Trump attacked "The Press" as the "Enemy of the American People", I was reminded of "Liberty Valance" attacking a newspaper editor who'd written a critical essay about his lawlessness. That scene is linked here: And they say Westerns are outdated.

Nick Merritt said...

I think you give this president too much credit -- he would have wangled some sort of deferment or 4F status (as he did in real life) to avoid ever leaving New York, much less be hiding in the rear echelons.

Joe V said...

Great post once again, Robert. Pyle's home in Albuquerque is now a public library, with a small collection of ephemera. I'll have to get over there soon and make some snaps and post them to my blog. I'll be certain to link your article herein.

Richard P said...

An inspiring set of reminders. It's particularly great to see journalists working to tell the truth, as best they could, in the very home of Goebbels, Hitler's arch-propagandist.

TonysVision said...

Also remember William Shirer -