April 18, 2015, is the 70th anniversary of Ernie Pyle’s death, the celebrated war correspondent whose stories highlighted the plight of the common “G.I. Joe” infantrymen in World War II. He reported from both the European and Pacific theaters and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1944. He was killed in combat in 1945 during the Battle of Okinawa, and is one of the few American civilians to be awarded a Purple Heart. He is interred at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii.
The late war correspondent’s tales depicting the average infantrymen were the source for The Story of G.I. Joe. The 1945 film was nominated for four Academy Awards and paid tribute to the American infantryman during World War II. Pyle’s columns written while embedded with C Company, 18th Infantry in Tunisia and Italy, were used to develop the dialogue and narration for the film.
Pyle told the personal stories of the ordinary, American infantrymen he embedded with, through their eyes, showcasing these men as anything but ordinary. He not only published a regular column but also published collections of his writings. Through his time embedded with these men, he developed a special place for the infantry, once writing “I love the infantry because they are the underdogs. They are the mud-rain-frost-and-wind boys. They have no comforts, and they even learn to live without the necessities. And in the end they are the guys that war can’t be won without.”
The film was made with Pyle’s cooperation but premiered two months after he was killed in action. Prior to his death, Pyle commented on the title and is quoted as saying “They are still calling it The Story of G.I. Joe. I never did like the title, but nobody could think of a better one, and I was too lazy to try.”