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Philip "Phil" R. Scheier
323 Bomb Group, 456th Bomb Squadron

Dear Prof. Johnson:

Just received from B26.com, our own unofficial central meeting site for all things relating to the B26 Martin Marauder operations in WWII, the query on my European meeting with Ernie Pyle in May, 1943.

I think your project on Ernie Pyle, and your affiliation with his home university in Indiana, is a tremendous move.

Even as I write this email, I am looking at a photo of Ernie Pyle on my office wall, taken at my base at Earl's Colne in England, some three or four weeks prior to D-Day, in early May, 1943. Ernie is in the center of the photo. I am on the left talking with him, and another combat crew members, the late John F. Siebert of Charlestown, MA, is on the right.

First, must reiterate that Ernie Pyle was positively the bravest guy in the ETO. He shared all the risks of the fighting men on the ground, and flew with my squadron on several missions. His folding wooden cot was placed alongside my own more luxurious two-deck metal bunk. It was my responsibility, as his request, to make sure I awakened him when we were up very early for a mission. If u wish, I recall one day where I couldn't find him in his bunk one early morning to prepare for a mission, ran to he latrine to see if he was OK, and up. No Ernie. Then back to his cot, bending down closely, this time. Barely extending above the drawn-up blanket, was the top of his GI knitted hat. Ernie was so slight, he virtually disappeared. So I shook him, warning it was getting on. We still had to eat, go to the briefing, get dressed in flying gear, and get transported out to our planes, all in the dark.

I was also a newspaper writer prior to service, continuing with some writing of humorous terse verse while I was flying. Much of this terse verse appeared in the daily Stars & Stripes, and the weekly Yank. So Ernie and I hit it off immediately. Once off the daily loading list for missions, a bunch of us would head into town for some primitive pub crawling.

Several years ago visiting in Hawaii, my wife and I stood before Ernie's grave in homage to certainly one of the bravest men I ever met. Earlier, while driving from my then home in Greater Boston, where I was editor of three small-city daily newspapers, I took a side trip to his hometown, and to try and find his old home.

For the record: Ernie kindly included me in his best-seller, Brave Men.

One day in early May, 1943, which also marked my full year in overseas combat, while Ernie was on the base, the loudspeakers blared out for Sgt. Scheier to immediately report to headquarters. When I got there, I found Ernie waiting outside. He said he wanted to formally say farewell. He had just received a call from the Eisenhower HQ., to report there at once. He paused, and gave me a knowing look. I half nodded at him, understanding the long anticipated D-Day, was getting very close. He nodded, and shrugged, with a half smile, and held out his hand in farewell. He knew I was then living in New York City.

We made tentative plans to meet there after the war was over. Ernie worked for the Scripps-Howard newspaper syndicate. So no problem in finding him. We shook hands again, he turned and walked away, with one last wave of his hand.

Sadly after Ernie safely survived the European invasion, he felt he owed it to the GIs in the Pacific, to report on them back to the American public. As you know, he was on the little island of Ie Jima, as I recall, with the Americans under attack. He raised his head to look around, and took a sniper's bullet between the eyes.

If I can be of any help on this timely Ernie Pyle book, or if you wish more details etc., or photos, please don't hesitate. Would also appreciate getting news when this will appear in print. Many thanks.

Oh yes. There are a number of other surviving 456th Squadron members still fairly active, and online, who are also included in the book, Brave Men.

Phil Scheier

 

 

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