in the hometown of history's greatest war correspondent

Retracing the Steps of Ernie Pyle by David Chrisinger

The year 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably thinking a lot about how much the world has changed since VJ Day and where we as a country are headed next.

To help make sense of this critical moment in time, I’m spending the next year retracing the steps of famed war correspondent Ernie Pyle for a book being published by Penguin Press. I believe the realities of war Pyle documented and the sometimes uncomfortable truths he brought to the “folks back home” need to be reexamined with a 21st-century lens if we are ever to understand the stories we tell ourselves about war and trauma.

Back in December I completed the first of four research trips–this one to Tunisia, Sicily, and Italy. Here’s me at the top of Djebel Hamra, outside Sidi Bou Zid, Tunisia, where Pyle watched the American forces take on–and get clobbered by–two German Panzer Divisions in the days leading up to the infamous 1943 Battle of Kasserine Pass.

Next month I will spend two weeks in France, and this summer I’ll be visiting the Pacific, where Pyle was killed, as well as London, where Pyle’s career as a war correspondent began. In addition to engaging with the mythology that has settled over him and his writing, in each locale I visit I will also explore what Pyle’s columns can tell us about the lasting effects of war on the people who are forced to endure it.

Above all else, it’s my goal to paint a thoughtful portrait of a man who found himself caught in the maelstrom of war, who tried mightily to make the unimaginable aspects of what he saw imaginable to the reader back home, and who struggled just as much to make sense of the gaps that existed between what he witnessed and what he could report.

And I’d like to bring you along for the ride.

If you’re interested in learning more about the stories we tell ourselves about war, please visit my new and improved website — https://www.davidchrisinger.com/ — and sign up for my newsletter at the bottom of the page.

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