David Randall, author of The Universal Journalist, presents 13 in-depth profiles of the best journalists who ever lived - nine Americans and four Britons, ten men and three women, whose lives were full of adventure, wit and the ingenuity to bring the story home.

Ernie Pyle
Reporter, Scripps Howard

Born in Indiana, he spent comparatively little time as a reporter when young and instead, became an editor. But, in his mid-thirties, he fell victim to the nervous strain of executive life, and was ordered to get a job out of doors. He became Scripps-Howard’s roving reporter, filing six columns a week as he criss-crossed America 35 times, writing about its quirks and characters.

So when, in 1940, he was sent to cover the war, he carried with him the memory of the tens of thousands of Americans he had met on his travels and he wrote for them. Never glamourising, or treating war like sport with the safety catch off, he struck a chord. In 1940, his reports were carried by 30 dailies. By 1944, nearly 400 carried his pieces.

On the Blitz:

“It was a night when London was ringed and stabbed with fire.…”

The return of men from the front lines in Tunisia:

“Their faces are black and unshaven. They are young men, but the grime and whiskers and exhaustion make them look middle-aged.”

D-Day landings:

“It was a lovely day for strolling along the seashore. Men were sleeping on the sand, some of them sleeping forever.”

And the waste of war:

“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.”

Pyle loathed war, but in 1945, despite five years of almost continuous reporting from the front lines, he felt compelled by a sense of duty, to undertake one last tour. A day after landing on the island of Ie Shima, he was killed by a Japanese sniper’s bullet. He was mourned from coast to coast. No reporter ever better captured what war meant to the men who fought it than Ernie Pyle.

All text and logos copyright David Randall

Book cover images copyright Pluto Press