Class Notes

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Finished watching the “Reporting America at War” documentary.


  • Four Months after Pearl Harbor, Ernie Pile wanted to join the forces- rejected for being too short
    • Wanted to join army, then decided to simply report it instead
    • Homespun, often humorous stories were popular
    • at age 41 he wanted to do something for the war
    • Got a six-month trip overseas
    • Pile wrote about the GI’s & their experiences
    • “Folks are more interested in reading about daily life than heavy strategic stuff”
    • November, he went to North Africa & lived with the 80,000 GI’s in the combat zone – could tell their stories
    • Life at the front is simple “you don’t have appointments to keep, nobody cares how you look, you don’t even wash your hands before you eat”
    • “It would be a small heaven for boys with dirty ears”
    • His writing sounds a little bit like Hemingway, but he has his own distinct style
    • May 1993 – for 4 days he studied GI’s; was under fire almost constantly with only short wheat for cover
    • Ernie wrote about people dealing with difficult circumstances – believes they were the heroes
    • Able to transmit something of the experience of soldiers to their relatives and friends back home. Soldiers also know that family understands what they’re going through
  • War correspondent can say “I’m not gonna do this one” but the soldiers don’t have a choice
    • some correspondents didn’t feel that they weren’t going all out
    • a lot of people that they got to know
    • Andy Rooney-“they’re was a certain feeling of guilt that most of the reporters had”
    • Correspondents (1 from each organizations – the writing 69th)
      • Walter Kronkite, Andy Rooney, and others
      • First reporters ever to ride shotgun on a bombing raid
      • “Why am I doing this, i’m scared to death” – Andy Rooney
      • Andy Rooney’s story was the best because his plane was hit – got an oxygen mask for the pilot & they all lived
      • Robert Post was killed on this mission
      • U.S. Airfare, fearing bad publicity, grounded the Writing 69th for good
        • they all felt that they still wanted to go up, but knew it was the right thing to have done it at least once
    • Extremely scary to get the footage
    • By the end of 1993, tens of thousands of American soldiers were dead
      • Little sense of the horror ever made it back to the homeland b/c everything was reviewed before it was printed
      • Thought it would lower morale
      • Was a long time before pictures of dead soldiers
        • Reporters censored themselves, too; most people wanted to hear about successes and heroes
        • All were Americans, and wanted our side to win, so we didn’t wanna damage our chance of success
        • Still have a responsibility to tell people back home what was happening
        • Instead, gave progress reports
    • During the long winter of the Italian Campaign, Ernie Pile wrote about the horror
      • Ernie Felt it was better in a literary sense to write about those things by implication
      • “I was at the foot of the mule trail when they brought the captain’s body down”
      • “Dead men have been coming down the mountain all evening.”
      • “You don’t ask silly questions.”
      • Ernie had the ability to write about a simple scene with great detail like this
      • People saw into the war better than they would have without Ernie Pile
      • “love between the homefront and fighting the war overseas
  • Kappa was selected as an assault correspondent
    • His work would be
    • There for an invasion of Europe
    • No real incentive to take major risks, was a matter of honor
    • “If he was going to capture men risking their lives, he should risk his own as well.”
    • Coast of Normandy – invasion
    • Kappa rushed into the water, the wounded and daed were bobbing in the water around him, made it to shore, photographed the men – had his back to the german
    • “if your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough” – Kappa
    • It was like covering a disaster – Richard Hottlete
    • Every reporter saw soldiers getting shot through the head
    • Knew too much about it
    • Had no idea what was really happening
    • “I remember being irritated by what headquarters said that it was a success.” It was, but if you saw the boys being killed, it ruined the success idea
  • Ernie Pile, Andy Rooney, and others were in Paris after the Germans were driven out
    • “Why, any GI who doesn’t get laid today is a sissy” – Ernie Pile
    • “The city was like a champagne dream”
    • Celebration was bittersweet
      • The fighting in Normandy had been very savage
      • 111 GI’s, and wounding 500 more
      • “I don’t believe that I could go through that again, and keep my sanity.” – Ernie
        • Decided to be done after Paris was liberated
    • Then, April 1945, they got to Berlin
      • Andy Rooney had been a pacifist
        • Nothing like seeing the jews in Berkenwahl
        • The first reports about the gas chambers reached America 2 years before, but because of WW1 propaganda, it was basically ignored
        • Holocaust stories were small, few, and underplayed
          • No thought of shielding Americans from reality
          • These stories were unfortunately true
          • When the concentration camps were discovered, the press had a crucial role to play – didn’t need briefings or background, the gates to the camp needed to be open & the journalist needed to go in and take pictures and get stories
          • – stories spoke for themselves
          • “There can never be peace if there is this kind of cruelty in the world.”
    • Ernie Pyle was in the pacific where the Americans were on their way to Japan.
        • A sense of obligation had driven Pyle to the pacific. He wanted to cover everything. He’d had more than enough of war, though
        • “i’d like so much to be home, and not personally see any more war. Ever.” – Ernie Pyle
        • April 17, Pyle went on shore at Iwoshima – ended up getting shot in the temple & died; was buried there
        • Was the best interpreter of the war that America had
        • People could share in the war through the power of the written word
        • Someone found the handwritten draft of the “so it is over” & it was not actually published, if i caught that right
  • “In the end i think we’re the last romantics, because we keep fighting even after we find out how dark human beings are.”
  • The great war reporter makes a narrative out of a thing that can’t be told.
  • Edward Murrow still saw conflict ahead; “the triumph of allied arms will not bring peace, but revolutions.”
  • Americans had predicted war as a noble sacrifice and gallivant adventure, but soon the bitter struggles of the cold war would be more disturbing
    • Altered the role of the war correspondent forever



  • foreign country is exotic
    • War correspondents are some of the sickest people you’ll meet
    • They are amazing animals; war breaks out & they wanna be there
  • “Every shot soldier is a story.”
  • “Journalism is most important during war, because most is at stake during war.”


Cold war offered new problems, because of atomic bombs

  • Embedded media people – good way to explain it
  • Military in the media

New York City

  • June 30, 1950 Americans got word that the Cold War was “heating up”
  • Korea attacks – soon families across the country would be looking to hear about their boys
  • Homer Bigart: had a remarkable reporting attack; Homer drove people crazy – was persistent and kept asking questions (used his stutter as an advantage & got good info)
    • William prochnau talked about him having a stutter
    • Was awarded the Pulitzer prize after WW2
    • July 1, 1950 Homer Bigart was sent to Korea for 6 months (would be spending his time as close to the frontline as possible)
      • War effort was a struggle. They were short on equipment & necessities
      • No official press policy was enacted
      • Simply followed their own guidlines
        • had no censors, so people were told exactly what was happening
        • Homer Bigart
      • Americans were losing war – this put a division between press
      • Press had to be more careful
      • December, after thousands of chinese troops suddenly joined Koreans, Americans had to retreat
        • “This is not a place where the west can achieve victory”
        • Korean war went on for 2 1/2 years
        • Radio networks kept correspondents
        • North Korea still belonged to communists



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