by Ernie Pyle
Reprinted with the generous permission of the Scripps Howard Foundation
SAN FRANCISCO - I think it permissible to mention in this column the two big things that have grown out of the column, since so many people ask me about them. They are the book "Brave Men" and the movie, "Story of GI Joe."
First for the book. It was almost impossible for you to buy one in late December and early January. That was because of paper rationing. The publishers, Henry Holt & Co., simply couldn't beg, borrow or steal enough paper.
Holts finally succeeded in printing 239,000 in 1944, and they were sold before they were printed. In addition, the Book-of-the-Month Club printed 415,000, which I understand is their biggest first month's sale in history. (No harm in a little bragging, is there?).
On New Year Day the 1945 paper quota opened, and Holts began a new printing of a quarter of a million. They go out to bookstores over the country in monthly driblets of about 75,000, so you should be able to buy the book by the time this is printed. Provided, of course, that you still want it, and if you don't I'll send my hatchet man around to chop your head off.
Holts say the book will pass a million by late spring. The previous book, "Here Is Your War," is part a million and a quarter. Don't you wish you were a great big wonderful author like me?
I finally got around to reading "Brave Men" myself - something which I've not yet succeeded in doing to "Here Is Your War." I read it for the purpose of making typographical corrections, and bringing little incidents about the men in it up to date, for later printings.
And when I finished, I counted up and found that 15 of my friends in it had been killed just since I came back to America. That many I know of, because their families have written me. Doubtless there are many more that I haven't heard about.
While we're writing about the book, I want to use this device to thank all the reviewers who were so kind. I had intended writing each one of them a letter, but hell, there are lots of things you intend to do.
Old war-time acquaintances, such as Cy Sulzberger and Ira Wolfert and Quentin Reynolds, put a lump in my throat by the nice things they said. And others by people I've never known were touchingly beautiful. To every one of you who wrote so feelingly about this book, herewith is my deep gratitude.
As you know, the book, except for the last chapter, was simply a reprint of the columns I'd sent back to the papers from Sicily, Italy, England and France.
No changes were made in them. But in some instances they were reassembled in order to put similar subjects all in the same chapter. This work was done by a vivacious little creature who works for Holts, named Judy Underhill.
The other big hands in the publishing of the book were Holt's employes named Helen Taylor and Bill Sloane, both of whom have become good friends through our slight association in these two books. The title, "Brave Men," was given the book by my boss, Lee Miller, of Scripps-Howard Newspapers.
First proofs were flown to me in France in early August, and I made and cabled back what corrections I could. I wrote the last chapter in France in August, and cabled it back. By the time I got home the book was rolling off the presses.
The very first copy was autographed by all the Holt's people who work in the Trade Department, and sent to me in Albuquerque. I sent a few copies to friends overseas, gave a few hundred to friends in America and have since autographed about 1000 more around the country.
Once I autographed 175 books in 45 minutes. Along toward the end I'd have to stop and think how to spell my name. For years I haven't known where I am, and now I don't know who I am. Oh, goodness, oh, goodness me.