J-Students to Retrace Ernie Pyle’s Path


A group of Indiana University journalism students taking a course on World War II correspondent Ernie Pyle are visiting London and Normandy to see some of the spots where he wrote his battlefield dispatches.

Terre Haute native Beka Mech is among 30 IU journalism students who left Saturday on the European trek, which ends March 16. They?ll visit the places where Pyle covered the London blitz and the D-Day invasion in Normandy.

In the weeks before they left, the students watched movies and videos about Pyle?s experiences as part of the semester-long course on the war correspondent, which the IU School of Journalism is offering for the first time.

?Pyle?s abilities as an observer and reporter as well as a writer still bear emulation today,? said Owen V. Johnson, IU associate professor of journalism, who is teaching the course.

While in London, the students will visit the Imperial War Museum and Winston Churchill?s cabinet room and the Cabinet War Rooms, the underground complex where Churchill and his government met as bombs rained down on London.

In France, they?ll visit Omaha Beach ? one of the main landing points of the Allies? June 1944 invasion site of German-occupied France in the Normandy landings. They?ll also tour Mont-Saint-Michel, an island off the Normandy coast famed for its cathedral that draws hordes of tourists each year.

Mech, an IU junior, said visiting the places where Pyle wrote his famous columns will give her a new perspective as the course continues.

?He chose to focus on ordinary people and he was not afraid to get close to his stories,? even if it meant putting his own life in danger,? said Mech said, who has been a reporter and copy editor for the Indiana Daily Student.

When the students return, one of their assignments will be to take their notes from the trip and write three columns in Pyle?s writing style.

?Pyle is such a famous figure in the journalism world,? Johnson said. ?He still stands out as a symbol of excellence in the journalistic profession.?

Pyle studied journalism at IU before becoming a reporter for the LaPorte Herald and then the Washington Daily News. He loved to travel and succeeded in persuading Scripps Howard executives to allow him to become a roving reporter.

In 1940, with war raging in Europe, Pyle went to England to report on the Battle of Britain, and from 1942 to 1945, he covered the U.S. troops in the war.

During those years, as an early ?embedded journalist,? Pyle told the stories of soldiers fighting in North Africa, Italy, France and the Pacific.

He was shot by a Japanese sniper on April 18, 1945, on the Pacific island of Ie Shima.

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