A Promise to Ernie Pyle
On May 8 I'm going over to Birch Hill up the road and pay a visit to 89 year old Ace Parker. We'll chat a bit about his experiences as a gunner on B17's and maybe we'll likely have a cigar together. Before I leave, I'll be sure to thank Ace for all that he did during WW2. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Back almost 61 years ago on May 7, l945, Germany surrendered. On May 8, V-E day (for Victory in Europe) was declared. Winston Churchill broadcast to the British Empire and to the entire world that "The evil doers are now prostrate before us. Our gratitude to our splendid allies goes forth from all our hearts in this island and throughout the British Empire". The news of the German surrender spread like wildfire, and the world erupted in celebrations, dancing, singing, parties in the streets, toasts and just plain wildness. Europe went crazy with joy.
Massive celebrations took place, notably in London, where over a million people celebrated. Times Square and Piccadilly Circus in London were mob scenes. President Harry Truman dedicated the victory to the memory of his predecessor, Franklin D.
Roosevelt, because FDR had been so committed to ending the war. Roosevelt had died less than a month earlier. While the celebrations in the US were not as wild as those 90 days later when the Japanese surrendered, they were still pretty uninhibited.
However, the War in the Pacific had been more personal, its outcome had not yet been resolved and fear still lingered.On April 25, the German Army had been decimated as American and Soviet forces met at the Elbe River. Five days later, Adolf Hitler committed suicide in his bunker in Berlin.
His successor, Admiral Karl Doenitz, sent General Alfred Jodl to the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces detachment in Rheims to seek terms for an end to the war. At 2:41 a.m. On May 7, general Jodl signed the unconditional surrender of German forces on all fronts, which was to take effect on May 8 at 11:01 p.
m. After six years of unmitigated horror and countless millions of lives lost, the war in Europe was over.But eight months earlier, on September 5, 1944, beloved Stars & Stripes columnist Ernie Pyle, who had been such an inspirational and moving force with his reports from the front, wrote his final column in Europe.
What made him so special was that he wrote about people rather than war. He returned to the U.S. For health reasons, but shortly afterward, went back to the Pacific where a Japanese sniper killed him on the island of Shima on April 18 at the age of 44.
He had just been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for journalism. In his pocket was the draft of a column he intended to publish in anticipation of the war's end in Europe. It reads as follows: (from Ernie's War: The Best of Ernie Pyle's World War II Dispatches, edited by David Nichols, PP.
418-19)."On Victory in Europe."And so it is over. The catastrophe on one side of the world has run its course. The day that it had so long seemed would never come has come at last.
I suppose emotions here in the Pacific are the same as they were among the Allies all over the world. First a shouting of the good news with such joyous surprise that you would think the shouter himself had brought it about. And then an unspoken sense of gigantic relief ? and then a hope that the collapse in Europe would hasten the end in the Pacific.
It has been seven months since I heard my last shot in the European war. Now I am as far away from it as it is possible to get on this globe."This is written on a little ship laying off the coast of the Island of Okinawa, just south of Japan, on the other side of the world from Ardennes.
But my heart is still in Europe, and that's why I am writing this column. It is to the boys who were my friends for so long. My one regret of the war is that I was not with them when it ended.
For the companionship of two-and-a-half years of death and misery is a spouse that tolerates no divorce. Such companionship finally becomes a part of one's soul, and it cannot be obliterated. True, I am with American boys in the other war not yet ended, but I am old-fashioned and my sentiment runs to old things. To me the European war is old, and the Pacific war is new.
"Last summer I wrote that I hoped the end of the war could be a gigantic relief, but not an elation. In the joyousness of high spirits it is easy for us to forget the dead. Those who are gone would not wish themselves to be a millstone of gloom around our necks.
But there are many of the living who have had burned into their brains forever the unnatural sight of cold dead men scattered over the hillsides and in the ditches along the high rows of hedge throughout the world. Dead men by mass production ? in one country after another ? month after month and year after year. Dead men in winter and dead men in summer.
Dead men in such familiar promiscuity that they become monotonous. Dead men in such monstrous infinity that you come almost to hate them."These are the things that you at home need not even try to understand. To you at home they are columns of figures, or he is a near one who went away and just didn't come back. You didn't see him lying so grotesque and pasty beside the gravel road in France.
"We saw him, saw him by the multiple thousands. That's the difference .".V-E Day followed Ernie's death by just three weeks.
Some 90 days later, victory over Japan was announced and World War II came to an end at long last.This May 8 again marks the formal celebration of the Allies' victory in Europe during World War II. It is a day when we can thank those valiant warriors who fought for our freedoms. It is a day for us to think about those who have now passed.
For me, it is always a day of somber and solemn reflection.In his draft, Ernie Pyle wrote, ".In The Joyousness of high spirits it is easy for us to forget the dead. Those who are gone would not wish themselves to be a millstone of gloom around our necks." As an offspring of that wonderful generation, I promise Ernie Pyle that we will shall never forget the dead nor will they have to worry about being a millstone around our neck. We will never, ever let that happen.
Nor will we forget to thank those surviving veterans who served so valiantly. So please, if you know someone like Ace Parker, visit him or her on May 8 and thank them."I've been immersed in it too long. My spirit is wobbly and my mind is confused. The hurt has become too great" Ernie Pyle..
Ted Sares, PhD, is a private investor who lives and writes in the secluded White Mountain area of Northern New Hampshire with his wife Holly and Min Pin Jackdog. He writes a bi-weekly column for a local newspaper and many of his other pieces are widely published.
By: Theodore Sares
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