Civil Discourse Now

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A brilliant Hoosier writer, Ernie Pyle was a war correspondent; 80 years ago, he wrote about D-Day. In part: “It was a lovely day for strolling along the seashore. Men were sleeping on the sand, some of them sleeping forever. Men were floating in the water, but they didn’t know they 1/8

were in the water, for they were dead. [] The wreckage was vast and startling. The awful waste & destruction of war, even aside fr the loss of human life has always been one of its outstanding features to those who are in it. Anything & everything is expendable. And we did expend on 2/8

on our beachhead in Normandy.[] And yet we could afford it. behind us there were such enormous replacements for this wreckage on the beach that you could hardly conceive of their sum total. Men & equipment were flowing in such a gigantic stream [] it made the waste 3/8

on the beachhead seem like nothing at all” [FN1] “But there is another & more human litter. It extends in a thin little line, just like a high-water mark, for miles along the beach. This the strewn personal gear [] that will never be needed again, of those who fought & died to give us our 4/8

entrance into Europe. Here in a jumbled row for mile on mile are soldiers’ packs ... socks & shoe polish, sewing kits, diaries, Bibles & hand grenades [&] the latest letters fr home, w/the address on each one neatly razored out. toothbrushes & razors & snapshots of families [] staring up 5/8

fr the sand [] pocketbooks, metal mirrors, extra trousers & bloody abandoned shoes. I picked up a pocket Bible w/a soldier’s name in it & put it in my jacket [] carried it 1/2 a mile or so & put it back down on the beach. I don’t know why I picked it up, or why I put it back down.” [FN2] 6/8

This is D-Day’s 80th anniversary. Years ago I overheard a comment as WW2 vets talked about a recently-released film. “How’d they get the sounds of the bullets?” A few days later, at the end of that film, “Saving Private Ryan,” I sat down outside the theater and wept. 7/8

FN1. Ernie Pyle, “The Horrible Waste of War,” published 6/16/44.
FN2. Ernie Pyle, “A Long Thin Line of Personal Anguish,” published 6/17/44. 8/8

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