April 16, 2004
Oroville Mercury Register April 16, 1945
ERNIE PYLE TO BE BURIED IN AN ARMY CEMETERY IN THE RYUKYUS
by Mac R. Johnson
OKINAWA—(U.P.)- Ernie Pyle will be buried among the soldiers
he immortalized. The beloved little war correspondent killed by
a Japanese machine-gunner yesterday probably will be laid to rest
in an army cemetery here in the Ryukyus where he covered his last
campaign. The soldiers he loved brought him back from the battlefield.
They lifted his pint-sized frame from the ditch where he fell, victim
of a sneak Japanese machine-gun ambush. One of his hands still clutched
his green fatigue cap. They put him on a litter, and crossed his
arms, and then carried him back to the rear. Kept away 5 hours.
It wasn’t easy. That Japanese Machine-gunner seemed jealous
of his prized victim. It was five hours after Ernie had been killed
before anybody could get to his body. Corp. Alexander Roberts, army
photographer, tried to get in. He said every time anybody would
try to enter the clearing where Ernie had been killed, the gunner
would open up. First, three tanks were sent in to remove the body.
But the fire was too hot for them. Then planes tried to locate the
machine gun nest. Finally Roberts crawled into the clearing on his
belly. “Ernie’s face was not twisted in pain or agony,” he said.
“He looked pleasant and peaceful.” How it happened. The hidden machine-gunner
ambushed a jeep in which Ernie was going to the front with Lt. Col.
Joseph B. Coolidge. Both men leaped into a roadside ditch. The dirt
along the ditch told how desperately the gunner had tried to kill
both of them. “The bullets had chewed out the earth a foot deep
trying to get the men in hiding,” Roberts said. Both men peered
over the top of the ditch during a lull in the firing. The machine-gun
chattered again. Three slugs ripped through Ernie’s green and yellow
camouflaged helmet. When Coolidge, who had ducked, turned toward
him, Ernie was dead. He had been killed instantly. Ernie saw it
coming. Ernie always said he would get it, that he had used up his
chances. He said it again just before he landed with the assault
troops on Okinawa. He told a public relations officer that he had
a premonition about the campaign. But he went on--as he had gone
on from Ireland to North Africa, to Sicily, Italy, France, and the
Pacific- to get more stories about his beloved G. I. s. He wanted
to write about the marines. Ernie was an old dough from the word
go. He sweated and suffered with the doughfeet, shared their hopes,
fears, and thrills-their lives. Today he shared death with them
and it was believed he would be put to rest with them, in a G. I.
army cemetery. Ernie would have preferred that.
Stu’s Notes: A Hero Ernie Pyle. Although he probably
never heard of Oroville, I bet there are a few old GI’s or Marines
in Oroville who have fond memories of him. I myself have known of
him since I was a kid. Reading this story really brought it home
as to who he was. Your eyes might be dry but they don't want to
be. One year ago the statue of Saddam Hussein was pulled down. One
of those involved was a former Oroville boy. Navy Corpsman Justin
Rose, I knew his mother, Ellen, his aunts and his grandparents.
They owned Rose Brothers Market now Collins and Denny Market at
4th and Plumas. His Aunt Jan Bales has done a lot of
research for me on our Veterans Memorial. I hope to get a story
from Justin someday. Sgt. Debbie Shaner should be
out of Iraq by the time you read this.