Volunteer now to help with The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall June 9-11

This summer, the Friends of Ernie Pyle are bringing The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall to Vermillion County. The Wall will be on exhibit June 9-11 at the International Paper Family Park, 4840 S County Rd 360 E in Hillsdale. There are many opportunities to volunteer and assist with this important event.


For more information on The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall’s visit to Vermillion County, click here.

For more information on sponsorship opportunities, contact Becky Holbert at 812-249-5780. Sponsorship form here.

For more information on the wall, visit travelingwall.us. Photo by Maureen Welsh.


Friends of Ernie Pyle to host The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall

The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall is a 3/5 scale of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC. it stands six feet tall at the center and covers almost 300 feet. The wall will be in Vermillion County June 9-11, 2023. Photo by Maureen Welsh.

Schedule of events

Sign up now to volunteer

Sponsorship opportunities available

The Friends of Ernie Pyle have the privilege of hosting The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall in Vermillion County on June 9-11. The wall will be on exhibit at the International Paper Family Park, 4840 S County Rd 360 E in Hillsdale.

The Wall is a 3/5 scale of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., it stands six feet tall at the center and covers almost 300 feet from end to end. The Wall contains the more than 58,300 American military members who died during the conflict. It stands as a reminder of the great sacrifices made during the Vietnam War. It was made for the purpose of helping heal and rekindle friendships and to allow people the opportunity to visit loved ones in their hometown who otherwise may not be able to make the trip to Washington, D.C.

The Wall will be open to the public 24 hours a day from 9 a.m. Friday, June 9 through 9 p.m. Sunday, June 11.

“Ernie Pyle was the voice of the soldiers in World War II,” said Friends of Ernie Pyle president Steve Key. “It was he who successfully lobbied for combat pay for the Armed Forces. We think it’s only appropriate to bring this tribute to those who paid the last full measure for our country during the Vietnam War to west central Indiana.

The Friends of Ernie Pyle operate the Ernie Pyle World War II Museum in Dana and are dedicated to preserving the legacy of the most famous World War II correspondent and the generation of Americans that he wrote about before and during the war.

The Friends want the traveling wall visit to be an event that all those in the area can enjoy and take ownership.

There are opportunities for businesses, organizations, and individuals to display their support for not only those who died for the United States during the Vietnam War, but for the West Central Indiana community by helping this prestigious event to occur.

The Friends of Ernie Pyle are seeking sponsors to help defray the cost of bringing The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall to our part of the state and volunteers to help with the preparation of the display grounds.

Sponsors’ monetary donations will be recognized on banners, advertising and in press releases concerning The Vietnam Memorial Wall’s stay in Vermillion County. Organizations will also receive recognition for their help either with volunteers or materials needed for this patriotic and reverent display.

Key asks interested businesses, organizations, and individuals to consider how they can best assist the Friends of Ernie Pyle in making The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall visit a memorable one for West Central Indiana. Email president@erniepyle.org for more information on how you can be a part of this memorable occasion.

For more information on sponsorship opportunities, contact Becky Holbert at 812-249-5780. Sponsorship form here.

For more information on the wall, visit travelingwall.us. Photo by Maureen Welsh.

FEP receives $15,000 grant to fund accessible restrooms for museum

       The Vermillion County Community Foundation is awarding a $15,000 grant for a project to add permanent restrooms that will be accessible to those with disabilities to the Ernie Pyle World War II Museum.

       The award is through the Creative Placemaking Grantmaking Initiative 2.0.

       The foundation presented a check to the FEP on Tuesday, March 21, at the Vermillion County Public Library in Newport, Indiana during a ceremony honoring other grant recipients. 

      “The Friends of Ernie Pyle are grateful for this generous grant from the Vermillion County Community Foundation,” said Steve Key, FEP president. 

“We are excited about the prospect of creating a restroom building that will not only enhance the museum visitor experience, but create an asset that can be used by the community.”

Museum hiring 2023 tour guides. Application deadline April 15.

Interested in history? Like talking with people? Work with us at the Ernie Pyle World War II Museum. We are hiring tour guides to assist with museum operations during the 2023 season — May through November. Guides work 32-40 hours per month.

Duties include escorting guests through the facilities, answering questions and assisting with upkeep and maintenance. Click here for a detailed job description. Fill out the application here and email to president@erniepyle.org.

Questions? Email president@erniepyle.org. Application deadline is April 15.

‘As good as new’: OCRA grant, donations fund renovation of Ernie Pyle’s childhood home

By Ruth Witmer

       Visitors to the Ernie Pyle World War II Museum will see that the famed correspondent’s birthplace has more than a new coat of paint. This year, the outside has had substantial renovations to repair and restore the exterior of the historic home.

     “It looks as good as new,” FEP Vice President Phil Hess said. “I suspect the house looks better than it did even in the 1850s.”

     The Elder-Pyle House receives its name from the original owners, the Elder family who built it in 1851. Pyle was born there in 1900. In the 1970s, the structure was moved a few miles to the southern edge of Dana next to the museum. Here, as part of the museum, visitors can tour the home and learn about not only Pyle but the life of Hoosiers in the early 1900s.

“The work being done on the exterior is a physical manifestation of the dedication that the Friends of Ernie Pyle have to preserve the legacy of Ernie Pyle.” — Steve Key, FEP president

Any 170-year-old structure is going to need attention and the Elder-Pyle house was no exception. Among other issues, the damaged wood siding needed to be replaced and the south porch repaired.    

      The Friends of Ernie Pyle have been saving contributions for years to afford the much-needed work. They were greatly helped by a $39,000-plus donation from the Indiana Department of the American Legion, when then-State Commander Rodney Strong made the museum his personal project in office.

     Last year FEP applied for funds from the Historic Renovation Grant Program through the Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA). Eleven historic Indiana properties, including the Elder-Pyle house, received funds.

     The museum was awarded  $26,400 from OCRA for exterior restoration. And with that, FEP had raised enough for the restoration and repair.

      Architect Judith Kleine initially did an assessment in 2020 and produced drawings to help with the application. She periodically checked on progress and will do a final report for the state.

     “I love doing the historicals because I love to save the buildings,” Kleine said.

     Kleine said the Elder-Pyle house is a classic style from Indiana and Iowa called an I-house — a tall, skinny, two-story structure.

     “It’s just a beautiful example of how people lived 100 years ago,” Kleine said.

     A two-person team from Manion Contracting finished the work in October on the house which FEP also successfully worked to have put on the National Register of Historic Places.

     FEP President Steve Key said there are many examples of people working hard to preserve Pyle’s legacy including the guides who take people through the home and museum, the podcasts done by Doug and Drew Hess, the upgraded website and future projects like educational units.

     “The work being done on the house’s exterior is a physical manifestation of the dedication that the Friends of Ernie Pyle have to preserve the legacy of Ernie Pyle,” Key said.


New podcast spotlights Ernie Pyle

Check out the Ernie Pyle Museum Podcast. Doug and Drew Hess (father and son) team up to share with you pieces of Ernie Pyle’s life from his humble beginning on an Indiana farm to becoming a Pulitzer Prize–winning American journalist and war correspondent who is best known for his stories about ordinary American soldiers during World War II.See available episodes and subscribe at  https://www.spreaker.com/show/ernie-pyle-wwii-museum-podcast.

Owen Johnson, renowned Ernie Pyle scholar & author, dies at 76

It is with sadness that the Friends of Ernie Pyle Development Fund and the Ernie Pyle WWII Museum posts the passing of Board of Directors member Owen Johnson on August 6, 2022. He was 76 years old.

An associate professor emeritus from the Indiana University Media School in Bloomington, Johnson is well-known for his expertise and dedication to the study of Ernie Pyle. Johnson spent years compiling Pyle’s earliest writings on all manner of topics, his interest in the evolving field of aviation and of course the Pyle stories and columns published widely during World War II.

Johnson was born in Madison, Wisconsin and grew up in Pullman, Washington., where he fostered a lifelong interest in journalism as editor of his high school newspaper and sports editor for the Pullman Herald. He worked at KWSC Radio and TV while attending Washington State University, where he earned a B.A. in history. He subsequently received an M.A. and a Ph.D. in history from the University of Michigan with a certificate in Russian and East European Studies. After teaching for a year at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, he joined the School of Journalism at IU in 1980.

He taught a variety of journalism and history courses at IU and was a favorite professor of many. Engaging with his students as fellow learners, Johnson delighted in supporting them and celebrating their accomplishments when they left his classroom. For many years Johnson taught a travel experiential course titled In the Footsteps of Ernie Pyle, that chronicled Pyle’s years and reporting during the war in England and France and provided students on the trip with a revealing on-the-ground exposure to Pyle’s experiences.

Elected to leadership positions in several academic organizations, Johnson also held administrative positions at IU and had visiting professor appointments to several foreign universities. When he retired from IU in 2014 and was granted emeritus status, he continued to research, write, and made many public and scholarly presentations. In 2016 Johnson published the book, At Home with Ernie Pyle, which focused on Pyle’s life as a Hoosier and his many connections to the state, including his time as a student at IU.

Johnson wrote prolifically on a variety of topics, including the book, Slovakia 1918-1938, that explored the national formation of the country with an emphasis on secondary and higher education during the interwar period. More than 37 scholarly publications in North America and Europe have published his work, and he created dozens of articles, letters, and programs for more general audiences such as National Public Radio, the New York Times, and local public radio. He appeared in one episode of the PBS History Detectives series about Ernie Pyle and managed a Facebook page for the Friends of Ernie Pyle on which he posted daily quotes written by the author.

He enjoyed collegiate athletics and professional baseball and attended countless games. He served as an announcer for IU Swimming & Diving competition and was deeply invested in that community. He shared his love of sports with his daughters, and together they visited as many Major and Minor League Baseball stadiums as they could.

He is survived by his two daughters, Eva Johnson and Hana Johnson Elliott (Layne); grandsons Connor and Colin; a brother Kyle Jansson; and thousands of worldwide supporters and practitioners of free and independent journalism.

Inspired by Ernie Pyle:The story of Ernie Pike & his creators

By Owen V. Johnson

Ernie Pyle’s influence appears in the most unexpected places.

In 1957 Héctor Germán Oesterheld (1919-1977?), an Argentine writer, and Hugo Pratt, an Italian comics artist, created a fictional war correspondent named Ernie Pike as a World War II character in their historietas (comics). The stories were first published in Hora Cera, an Argentine magazine, part of the publishing house Editorial Frontera that Oesterheld established. Pike became part of the Argentine popular imagination. Oesterheld was responsible for much of the success of Frontera by his excellent writing and the interesting adventure stories he spun.

Oesterheld assembled a topflight team of artists including the Italian Pratt, who illustrated the first Ernie Pike stories. Pratt, related to the actor Boris Karloff, was the son of an Italian soldier who was captured in North Africa and died in 1942 as a prisoner of war. His son and wife were also interned in a prison camp for a time. After the war young Pratt organized entertainment for Allied troops in Venice, where he had grown up. He was responsible for the first sketches of the person of Ernie Pike. His model was Oesterheld, although that was not what Oesterheld planned. Pratt returned to Europe in the early 1960s, where he published the Ernie Pike stories under his own name. He died in 1995. A succession of illustrators took over the Ernie Pike stories back in Argentina.

Pike makes handwritten entries in his notebook (something Pyle didn’t do), including both a general assessment of the situation, as well as personal impressions from the position of a civilian observer who knows war. As Pyle was in his writings, Pike is mostly an observer, but he differs from Pyle in that he is clearly a pacifist, something Oesterheld’s readers came to expect. He focuses on tragic events where things have gone wrong. Far more important for Oesterheld was the concept of the collective hero, in this case, the soldiers about which Pike was writing.

Initially Oesterheld placed Pike in World War II. Those stories place Pike in North Africa, the European Theatre and the Pacific, all places that Pyle wrote about, but Pike also can be found in the steppes of Russia. There are no descriptions of battles, only personal stories. As international communication specialist John Lent wrote, “All of [the characters] shared real, believable feelings and emotions, and a deep dislike for the situation they were stuck in.” Oesterheld, at the time a humanist, did not make judgments about the countries that were fighting, but only about personal morality. There is no clear good and evil. Germans were the good guys just as often as American G.I.s. In this regard, we should remember that even Ernie Pyle empathized with ordinary German soldiers captured in the final stages of the North African fighting in 1943.

Oesterheld, influenced by Stephen Crane, Erich Maria Remarque and Leo Tolstoy, among others, grew increasingly anti-war. He had Pike tell stories about the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Pike was an active character in these new stories and critical of US participation in Vietnam. Oesterheld was slowly becoming a political radical. He eventually affiliated with Montoneros, a left-wing terrorist group. He even wrote a strip about the Cuban guerilla fighter Ché Guevara.

Oesterheld was captured, imprisoned and tortured by the Argentine government in 1977 and apparently killed no later than early 1978. His family believed he was among the estimated 30,000 people to have disappeared and been killed by the government of the generals. In 1977 Oesterheld’s three daughters and their husbands also disappeared. One grandson, Martín, was born in captivity. Oesterheld’s widow, Elsa Sánchez, learned about the boy and recovered and raised him. A second grandson was raised by his paternal grandparents.

Pike outlived Oesterheld. In the follow-up to the attempted Argentine effort to seize the Falkland Islands from Great Britain in 1982, Pike reappears in a story written by Ricardo Barreiro. On one occasion, Pike asks an Argentine journalist whatever happened to a friend name Héctor Oesterheld, saying that he hadn’t been able to find him in Buenos Aires. The journalist tells him what happened and warns him not to mention Oesterheld’s name in public.

Collections of the Ernie Pike comics have been published not only in Spanish but also in French, Dutch and Italian. None of the Ernie Pike stories have ever been published in English, probably because of Oesterheld’s more complicated approach to war, his later radicalism and Pyle’s reputation as part of the so-called Good War. What Oesterheld succeeded in capturing in Ernie Pike was Ernie Pyle’s description of the pain and tragedy of war and how it changes people, and his ambivalent attitude toward war in general. That’s one of the themes of his writing that has received less attention over the years but that his World War II readers would have recognized.

— Owen Johnson is a historian, associate professor emeritus at Indiana University and author of  “At Home with Ernie Pyle.”