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Exhibit on Pyle's aviation work opens at Lilly Library



Most people know about Ernie Pyle’s journalism work during World War II.

He wrote columns about his experiences in France, England and the Pacific. He was on the beaches of Normandy the day after the invasion.

He traveled to Japan and was shot at by soldiers.

But before he covered WWII and before he won a Pulitzer Prize, he was a young journalist.

Pyle’s early work as a young journalist is the focus of a student-curated exhibit opening today at the Lilly Library.

Ph.D. student Nathaniel Floyd has worked on the exhibit all semester, looking through the Pyle collection at the Lilly Library to assemble an exhibit focusing on the little-known era of Pyle’s work.

Pyle was the nation’s first aviation columnist for the Washington Daily News, in a time when aviation was just beginning.

“He penetrates this close-knit group of pilots and gains their trust,” Floyd said. “He tells their story to the outside world.”

Pyle was about 28 years old when he was working on his aviation work. He became close friends with the pilots and when they died in tragic accidents, he wrote heartfelt columns about their work in the ?aviation world.

Part of the exhibit includes letters from readers consoling him on these tragedies. It also includes Pyle’s own pilot permit when he was thinking about getting his pilot ?license.

Aviation insiders also wrote Pyle congratulating him on his promotions in the paper.

Floyd said a notable part of the exhibit is a watch given to Pyle by Amelia Earhart. When Pyle was killed in the Pacific in 1945, he was wearing the same watch.

Floyd created the exhibit as part of a class on ?manuscripts.

Each student in the class is required to complete an exhibit and Floyd chose Pyle as part of the excitement this week with the Pyle sculpture outside of Franklin Hall, which is being dedicated Friday afternoon.

“I think that when students only hear about his part in WWII, there’s this tendency to think he just rolled out of bed and won a Pulitzer Prize,” Floyd said. “By looking at this, you can see a kind of professional development that all journalists have to go through.”

By seeing that professional development, Floyd said Pyle becomes more relatable and more human.

Floyd’s exhibit will be on display throughout the week and during the ?weekend.

He said he hopes that journalism students will be able to see Pyle’s professional process and gain understanding of it from his exhibit.

“You’re not going to win a Pulitzer Prize your first year out,” he said. “It’s a process.”

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