By Christopher Miskimon
On December 16, 1943, journalist Ernie Pyle climbed Mount Sammucro, near the Italian town of San Pietro Infine. Horrible fighting had left the valley below the mountain wrecked. Dead American soldiers lay where they died; the Graves Registration units had not arrived yet. The dead lay mixed with shell holes, abandoned weapons, cartridge cases and blood-soaked bandages. Ernie’s guide was a Pfc from East St. Louis, Illinois, named Fred Ford. The soldier was tall and had two weeks of stubble on his face. “He looked sort of ferocious but turned out to be pleasant and friendly,” Pyle wrote. On their way back down, German shells fell around them, causing them to run for their lives “…going so fast the rocks we kicked loose couldn’t even keep up with us.” He noted men went up and down that mountain sometimes several times a day, carrying water to their comrades posted at the top or to reinforce during a German attack. It was only the start of Pyle’s experiences at San Pietro.
Ernie Pyle was America’s most famous and beloved frontline correspondent during World War II. The author retraces Ernie Pyle’s wartime steps, going where the famed writer did, relating what he saw with what Pyle wrote about. The book is interesting and has a smooth narrative, making it easy to read and engaging.
The Soldier’s Truth: Ernie Pyle and the Story of World War II (David Chrisinger, Penguin Press, New York, 2023, 368 pp., photographs, notes, bibliography, index, $30, hardcover)