Bayou Renaissance Man: Lest the nation forget: Ernie Pyle (1900-1945)
This one came to me courtesy of Michael Yon. I had never heard of Ernie Pyle before today, but the excerpts from his World War II wartime correspondence were alternately hilarious and sad. Here’s one example:
When our Sahara salvage expedition finally found the wrecked airplanes far out on the endless desert, the mechanics went to work taking off usable parts, and four others of us appointed ourselves the official ditchdiggers of the day.
We were all afraid of being strafed if the Germans came over and saw men working around the planes, and we wanted a nice ditch handy for diving into. The way to have a nice ditch is to dig one. We wasted no time.
One sweating soldier said: “Five years ago you couldn’t a got me to dig a ditch for five dollars an hour. Now look at me.
“You can’t stop me digging ditches. I don’t even want pay for it; I just dig for love. And I sure do hope this digging today is all wasted effort; I never wanted to do useless work so bad in my life.
“Any time I get fifty feet from my home ditch you’ll find me digging a new ditch, and brother I ain’t joking. I love to dig ditches.”
Digging out here in the soft desert sand was paradise compared with the claylike digging back at our base. The ditch went forward like a prairie fire. We measured it with our eyes to see if it would hold everybody.
“Throw up some more right here,” one of the boys said, indicating a low spot in the bank on either side. “Do you think we’ve got it deep enough?”
“It don’t have to be so deep,” another one said. “A bullet won’t go through more than three inches of sand. Sand is the best thing there is for stopping bullets.”
A growth of sagebrush hung over the ditch on one side. “Let’s leave it right there,” one of the boys said. “It’s good for the imagination. Makes you think you’re covered up even when you ain’t.”
That’s the new outlook, the new type of conversation, among thousands of American boys today. It’s hard for you to realize, but there are certain moments when a plain old ditch can be dearer to you than any possession on earth. For all bombs, no matter where they may land eventually, do all their falling right straight at your head. Only those of you who know about that can ever know all about ditches.
Please follow the link and read some more of his writing for yourself. The story is about the fact that his home – which is being preserved as a historical landmark – is in danger of being closed down. I’m not going to ask anyone to donate money. I just want you to experience the writing of a true American hero who – without a doubt – would have been in Iraq and Afghanistan with our men and women today if he had lived during our time.