Oroville Mercury Register
April 28, 1945
Pyle’s Final Column Tribute To Dead Friend
Editors Note: This is Ernie Pyle’s last column.
It is a beautiful tribute to Fred Painton, war correspondent who
died of natural causes on Guam a few weeks ago. Ernie was on Okinawa
when he was informed of Mr. Painton’s death. Ernie took time out
from covering the war to write this touching story about a friend.
Only a few days later Ernie was killed.
Okinawa—(By Navy Radio)—This is a column about
Fred Painton, the war correspondent who dropped dead on Guam a short
time ago. Fred wrote war articles for Reader’s Digest and many other
magazines. He even gambled his future once writing a piece for the
Saturday Evening Post about me. Fred was one of the little group
of real old timers in the European war. He was past 49 and an overseas
veteran of the last war. His son is grown and in the army. Fred
has seen a great deal of war for a man his age. He was just about
to start back to America when he died. He had grown pretty weary
of war. He was anxious to get home to have some time with his family.
But I’m sure he had no inkling of death, for he told me in Guam
of his postwar plans to take his family and start on an ideal and
easy life of six months in Europe, six in America. He had reached
the point where life was nice. Fred Painton was one of the modest
people; I mean real down-deep modest. He had no side whatever, no
ax to grind, no coy ambition. He loved to talk and his words bore
the authority of sound common sense. He had no intellectualisms.
His philosophy was the practical kind. He was too old and experienced
and too wise in the ways of human nature to belittle his fellow
man for the failures that go with trying hard. Fred didn’t pretend
to literary genius, but he did pride himself on a facility for production.
He could get a thousand dollars apiece for his articles and he wrote
a score of them a year. And his pieces, like himself, were always
honest. I’ve known him to decline to do an assignment when he felt
the subject prohibited his doing it with complete honesty. Fred’s
balding head and crooked nose, his loud and friendly nasal voice,
his British army trousers and short leggings were familiar in every
campaign in Europe. He took rough life as it came and complained
about nothing, except for an occasional bout with the censors. And
even there he made no enemies for he was always sincere. There were
a lot of people Fred didn’t like, and being no introvert everybody
within earshot know whom he didn’t like and why. And I have never
known him to dislike anyone who wasn’t a phony. Fred and I have
traveled through lots of war together. We did those bitter cold
days, early in Tunisia and we were the last stragglers out of Sicily.
We both came home for short furloughs after Sicily, The Army provided
me with a powerful No. 2 air priority while Fred had only the routine
No. 3. We left the airport at Algiers within four hours of each
other on the same morning. I promised Fred I would call is wife
and tell her he would be home within a week. When I got to New York
I called the Painton home at Westport, Conn. Fred answered
the phone himself. He beat me home by three days on his measly little
priority! He never got over kidding me about that.
(to be continued)
Stu’s notes: Ernie Pyle was a true hero of
America, he went above and beyond to get the stories of his “boys”.
He went to the front lines with them, slept in their fox holes,
from North Africa to the Pacific.
It was the warmest Pearl Harbor Day I remember
in a long time. I’ve been going to the Gridley ceremony for 10 years
or more, this was as usual a very somber but also a very good day
to be among those heroes of long ago, this year I was called on
to carry the flag out to the small memorial in the middle of the
fairgrounds, quite an honor for me to hand it to the survivor in
charge of the flag pole Fred Smith who was a Navy Corpsmen stationed
at the Navy hospital on that day. I talked to Art Rodda and he told
a story of the many horrors he witnessed in the coming days. Seems
there were two men in one burn ward and one who was badly
burned said he wanted to die the other man who was burned twice
as bad said over and over that he wanted to live. He lived and the
other man died. Fred saw this quite a lot and that the will to live
must be a person’s attitude as it helps tremendously. Art served
on the USS Nevada BB36 then became a Seabee and serve among other
places in the Philippines. Next I talked to Vere Gardner who served
on the U.S. Salt Lake he was in 38 engagements in the war and earned
9 battle stars. Loyd Scott served on the USS Monahan 354 at Pearl
Harbor the Monahan possibly sunk that 5th
midget submarine that many think got into Pearl Harbor.
The USS Monahan later went down in the area of the South China Sea
with the loss of all but 6 hands. By then Loyd was on the USS Radford
354 both of the above ships were destroyers.
Art Wells, I’ve written
before about Art, a marine whose duty post on the USS Pennsylvania
was a 5 “gun not set up for Airplanes so he helped on the 5.2 Anti-Aircraft
guns. On that day his ship lost 6 marines and 18 Sailors 36 men
were wounded including Art. Art went on to fight on several more
Islands in the Pacific using Marine Duwks, a very unique landing
craft that could maneuver in rough seas. One was used up at the
Dam. I think someone in this area has one. The Pennsylvania survived
the war and was sunk by us after the Atomic test at Bikini, it was
to radioactive to keep.
Bob Wolfersberger, my friend who lives
in Oroville now, came to represent a battle just 8 hours after Pearl
Harbor, Corregidor, that fight went on for 4 months. I just
wrote about Bob’s experience the Brave Battlin’ Busters’ of Bataan.
I truly believe by their fighting in unbelievable conditions, it
kept the Japanese so occupied up North, that they could not send
those forces south to take Australia and maybe the whole South Pacific,