by Ernie Pyle
Reprinted with the generous permission of the Scripps Howard Foundation
Feb. 4, 1944
Dear Lee -
Stars & Stripes this morning carried a two-column piece about Ray Clapper being killed. I'm just floored by it. Somehow it had never occurred to me that anything would ever happen to him. What a waste of intelligence and character - as the whole war is. It gives me the creeps.
The whole thing is getting pretty badly under my skin, Lee. I've got so I brood about it, about the whole thing, I mean, and I have a personal reluctance to die that is always in my mind, like a weight. Instead of growing stronger and hard as good veterans do, I've become weaker and more frightened. I'm allright when I'm actually at the front, but it's when I pull back and start thinking and visualizing that it almost overwhelms me. I've even got so I don't sleep well, and have half-awake hideous dreams about the war.
I've really been sick with this cold, but I think I might have kept the columns going anyhow except I was just so low in spirit, I didn't have the will to struggle against them when my deadline was so close and I felt so lousy. I'm writing again now, with much difficulty, and will start sending them again in a day or two.
I've almost reached the point where "I've had it," as soldiers and fliers say when they can't take it any longer. I'd quit it and come home for good except I don't suppose I could live with myself if I did, and would gradually go nuts. If I can just see the European war out I think I might feel justified in quitting the war. It was only by a miracle that some correspondents on the beachhead landing weren't killed.
That front-page play The News gave the Capt. Waskow piece was the damndest thing I ever saw. I'm enclosing an original copy of the piece, in case you should ever be reprinting it, as there were a few words garbled in transmission.
It looks now as though I might not leave for England up to as late as March 10. I'd counted on more or less wasting two weeks getting there, but it looks now as if I could probably get through in four or five days, which will allow me to stay here that much longer. Figure I might as well stay here as long as I can, for the weather should soon turn nice here, and there'll be more action here until the invasion actually starts. I'm more or less committed to do a couple of weeks with the heavy bombers here, although I find the Air Corps colorless and anti-climactic after the infantry.
....Guess that's all there is just now. Probably I'll be feeling more chipper in a few days.
Italy - March 30
Dear Papa & Auntie -
I'm afraid I've let quite a bit of time slip by this time without writing. But I had thought I'd be in England before now, and kept putting off writing until after the trip. But I can't ever seem to get finished with certain pieces of writing I've planned, so have just delayed going from day to day. The way it looks now, I'll probably leave in four or five days, as I still have about that much work to do here.
I'm back from the beachhead now. As you've doubtless read, I had some pretty narrow escapes up there, and I hope it didn't worry you too much when you saw it in the paper. Our worst one was when they bombed our house. We got two 500-pounders right alongside the house. I was sleeping in a room alone, and it blew two of my walls in. I had just jumped up to look out the window, and had been out of bed about two seconds when the whole wall blew in and covered my bed with about a thousand pounds of brick and stone. I was very lucky.
A couple of other times I had "88" artillery shells hit within a few feet of me, but fortunately the ground was muddy and the mud absorbed the fragments. When I went to the beachhead I had only planned to stay about five days, but I found it so interesting (despite the danger) that I wound up by staying three and a half weeks.
My anemia is much better. The Army continued giving me shots while I was at the beachhead, and they ran a blood count up there, and found it almost back up to normal. And I've been feeling much better too.
I haven't heard from you for quite a while, since I expect you are sending the letters to England now....
Had a long letter today from Lester Cowan, who is making the movie of my book. He says they have already started shooting on the outdoor scenes. They won't have the script completely written till about May 15. Then he wants Lee Miller and Lowell Mellett to come out to Hollywood and go over it with him. Also he will fly a copy to me in England, so I can approve or change it. I don't expect the picture will be ready for release until fall. I understand Jimmy Gleason is to play my part.
Lee writes that they have already sold 225,000 copies of the book, and the column is running in about 270 papers now. I get quite a lot of mail from readers - it has been running about 100 letters a week, I guess. Of course I can't take the time to answer them, but it's nice to get them anyway.
Guess that's about all there is to write. Are you still using your walker, Papa? I'm glad that spring will soon be with you. I'll write again just as soon as I get to England....