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Inaugural Ernie Pyle Day: what it means and how to celebrate



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A statue of alumnus and World War II correspondent Ernie Pyle typing on his typewriter was installed in front of Franklin Hall in 2014.  According to "Indiana University Bloomington: America’s Legacy Campus," the statue is meant to “convey how Pyle worked alongside foot soldiers at the front during WW2.”  IDS file photo Buy Photos

Thanks to a joint resolution by senators Todd Young, R-Indiana, and Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, a new national holiday is set to make its first appearance this year on Aug. 3: National Ernie Pyle Day.

Pyle was a Pulitzer Prize-winning World War II correspondent who wrote about the troops fighting in Europe and in the Pacific before he was killed by Japanese troops April 18, 1945, on the island of Ie Shima.

After Pyle's death, President Harry Truman said he “told the story of the American fighting man as the American fighting men wanted it told.” 

Not only was he a Pulitzer Prize winner, he was also an IU student, Indiana native and the first person to receive an honorary doctorate from IU.

IU has honored Pyle for years, first with the building which housed the former IU School of Journalism, and now with an iconic statue outside Franklin Hall. 

The new national holiday will expand that appreciation beyond the state of Indiana. 

Here are a few things to do come Aug. 3.

Join the IU celebration in Franklin Hall

The Ernie Pyle Legacy Foundation and the Media School will have a celebration from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 3 in Franklin Hall. The celebration includes a keynote address from war correspondent Joseph Galloway, comments from sculptor Tuck Langland about how he created the Ernie Pyle statue on campus and a performance by Ronald May in character as Ernie Pyle.

A proclamation will also be issued by Mayor John Hamilton, and Young will be a guest speaker at the event.

A pre-recorded video from Donnelly will also play during the event.

Gerald "Jerry" Maschino is the president of the Ernie Pyle Legacy Foundation, the group which organized the creation of the holiday and the events going along with it.

"The Ernie Pyle Legacy Foundation was created about four or five years ago to continue and ensure the legacy of Ernie Pyle," Maschino said. "If you look at that as our vision and our mission, then you have to find out how you’re going to do it. It’s easy to talk about it, but you have to take action."

Maschino said the group began with an event in 2015 in Hawaii, where Pyle is buried, and publicity and support for the group followed.

"We came back and said ‘well, what are we going to do next,’ and we said we need to something to get our hands around," Maschino said. "For example, on April 18. April 18 is the date he was killed, so that is a date and a time period that we can build around and that’s what you have to do. Then, we said let’s create National Ernie Pyle Day and we then announced it last year in Albuquerque because that was Ernie’s second home. This gave us another opportunity, August 3 is his birthday, so now we got two bench marks — the day he was killed and his birthday. So, we build around those things so you can get people involved and all kinds of media attention. You can do everything that ensures that legacy."

Events like the one taking place Aug. 3 are a way for younger people to learn about Pyle and continue his legacy, Maschino said. 

"This event is just part of a big picture," Maschino said. "This is just the total picture of what our foundation is all about. We are the vehicle that is going to continue his legacy because it won’t happen unless somebody does something. Each speaker is going to attach certain aspects of Ernie Pyle so when people leave, they’ll say ‘my gosh, now I know more about Ernie,' two, 'yes, we should continue the legacy' and three, 'maybe we can help.’" 

Maschino also said the dean of the Media School, James Shanahan, has been "very supportive" during the process.

"It is clear that we still need examples of how journalists have informed the country, especially in times of crisis," Shanahan wrote in an email to the Indiana Daily Student. "Pyle’s example shows that truthful reporting and clear writing are essential to communicating about complicated events. We need to be reminded of that more than ever."


A statue of alumnus and World War II correspondent Ernie Pyle typing on his typewriter was installed in front of Franklin Hall on Oct. 9. The Media School, IU Bloomington's newest school combining telecommunications, journalism and communication and culture, will be inuagurated at Franklin Hall Friday. IDS file photo Buy Photos


Say hello to the Ernie Pyle sculpture

In 2014, the former IU School of Journalism joined forces with the former Department of Telecommunications and Department of Communication and Culture to create the IU Media School.

The new school is housed in a renovated Franklin Hall, but the move would not have been complete without something near the Media School to honor Pyle. The addition of a sculpture depicting Pyle at his typewriter made sure future students would stop by and maybe grab their picture with the famous journalist.


Read 'At Home with Ernie Pyle'

In "At Home with Ernie Pyle," IU journalism professor emeritus Owen V. Johnson edited a collection of Pyle's columns on the state of Indiana and its people.

"My book focused on what Ernie Pyle wrote about Hoosiers wherever he could find them," Johnson said. "Whether in Indiana or around the country and even the globe, he seemed to have an affinity to connect with Hoosiers wherever they were at the time. I think that’s important and I don’t think I realized it so much when I started the book. He understood his readers, he connected with his readers because he came from a small town in a state that we now call the flyover area and was able to tell them stories that they would appreciate." 

You can also read Pyle's account of learning that his mother had passed away in Dana, Indiana, while he was thousands of miles away in London.

"My priority goal is that they get to know who Ernie Pyle was," Johnson said. "He was not only an outstanding war reporter. At one time, he was an aviation reporter, the best in the country. He traveled all across the United States as well as Canada and Latin America, telling stories of ordinary people in the 1930’s. I hope they recognize what a major contribution someone like Ernie Pyle made to helping the country get to know itself better."


Check out the renovations to Ernie Pyle Hall 

Renovations to Ernie Pyle Hall are largely finished and the building is home to the new IU Visitor Center. 

To honor the building's namesake, IU is gathering artifacts to be on display in Ernie Pyle Hall. There will also be a short video documentary that is meant to teach visitors to the building about the legacy of Ernie Pyle. 

Drop-in tours of Ernie Pyle Hall will be available from 2 to 4 p.m. Aug. 3. 


Sens. Todd Young, R-Indiana, and Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, announced a resolution to designate Aug. 3, 2018, National Ernie Pyle Day. Ernie Pyle was a journalism student at IU and was a war correspondent during World War II. IU Archives Buy Photos


Read Ernie Pyle's letters at Lilly Library

The IU Lilly Library has some of the rarest books, writings and items from around the world, including a Gutenberg Bible and a lock of Edgar Allan Poe's hair. They also have clippings and carbon dispatches from Ernie Pyle's reporting during World War II.

Head over to the library and take a look at some of the letters Pyle wrote to his wife, friends and family, as well as his newspaper publisher Scripps Howard.

The collection includes 99 letters written to his wife, Geraldine Pyle, and 108 letters to former IU classmate Paige Cavanaugh. 

Pyle uses 97 pseudonyms in signing his letters to Cavanaugh.

Those interested in reading the letters can use the Lilly Library request system to put the collection on hold in the Lilly Library reading room.


Annual celebration in Pyle's hometown Aug. 9-11.

If those interested cannot make it to the IU celebration Aug. 3, Ernie Pyle's hometown of Dana will have its annual Ernie Pyle Fireman's Festival Aug. 9-11.

The event will include readings to commemorate Pyle as well as a parade, softball and bingo.

State Sen. Phil Boots and Rep. Alan Morrison will also read Gov. Eric Holcomb's proclamation approving Ernie Pyle Day in Indiana.



More information can be found online at erniepyle.org.

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