Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Whistle Blows

"....The Army said they would try to give us twenty-four hours' notice of departure. Actually the call came at nine o'clock one morning and we were ordered to be at a certain place with full field kit at 10:30 A.M. We threw our stuff together. Some of us went away and left hotel rooms still running up bills. Many had dates that night but did not dare to telephone and call them off.

As we arrived one by one at the appointed place we looked both knowingly and sheepishly at each other. The Army continued to tell us that it was just another exercise, but we knew inside ourselves that this was it.

Bill Stoneman, who had been wounded once, never showed the slightest concern. Whether he felt any concern or not I could not tell. Bill had a humorous, sardonic manner. While we were waiting for the departure into the unknown, he took out a pencil and notebook as though starting to interview me. "Tell me, Mr. Pyle, how does it feel to be an assault correspondent?"

Being a man of few words, I said, "It feels awful."

When everybody was ready our luggage went into a truck and we went into jeeps. The first night we spent together at an assembly area, an Army tent camp. There we drew our final battle kit--such things as clothing impregnated against gas attack, a shovel to dig foxholes, seasickness capsules, a carton of cigarettes, a medical kit, and rations. We also drew three blankets just for the night, since our bedrolls had gone on ahead.

The weather was cold and three blankets were not enough. I hardly slept at all. When we awakened early the next morning, Jack Thompson said, "That's the coldest night I have ever spent."

Don Whitehead said, "It's just as miserable as it always was."

You see, we had all been living comfortably in hotels or apartments for the last few weeks. We had got a little soft, and there we were starting back to the old horrible life we had known for so long--sleeping on the ground, only cold water, rations, foxholes, and dirt. We were off to war again......

That was when the most incongruous--to us-- part of the invasion came. There we were in a front-row seat at a great military epic. Shells from battleships were whamming over our heads, and occasionally a dead man floated face downward past us. Hundreds and hundreds of ships laden with death milled around us. We could stand at the rail and see both our shells and German shells exploding on the beaches, where struggling men were leaping ashore, desperately hauling guns and equipment through the water.

We were in the very vortex of the war--and yet, as we sat there waiting, Lieutenant Chuck Conick and I played gin rummy in the wardroom and Bing Crosby sang "Sweet Leilani" over the ship's phonograph.

Angry shells hitting near us would make heavy thuds as the concussion carried through the water and struck the hull of our ship. But in our wardroom men in gas-impregnated uniforms and wearing life belts sat reading Life and listening to the BBC telling us how the war before our eyes was going.

But it wasn't like that ashore. No, it wasn't like that ashore."

Excerpts from: The Whistle Blows, Brave Men, by Ernie Pyle; Scripps-Howard Newspaper Alliance


Borepatch said...

Man, he was a great reporter.

Merle Morrison said...

Today it's good to remember.....