An encounter with Ernie Pyle
The 708th Amphibian Tank Battalion was preparing to invade Ie Shima, an island in the same island chain, the Ryukyus, as Okinawa.
The unit was loading up getting ready to ship out and a man came over to Paul Hannold and shook his hand.
“I’m going to try to get your landing on camera as you come in,” the man told Hannold. “I never knew if he did or not.”
The man’s name?
Famous war correspondent Ernie Pyle.
“He got our landing,” Hannold said. “We got in on the beach.”
But it would be years before he would see the pictures.
Having traveled with his brother Keith to the Dayton Air Show, weather kept most of the planes grounded. So they spent the day in the Dayton Museum.
“Way off in the far right hand corner I see these signs hanging up,” he explained. The signs had locations throughout the South Pacific on them, many of which Hannold was at during the war.
What they found were large tablet-type photo books. “You could open them (like) pages in a book.”
All the pictures were taken by Ernie Pyle.
“I think I hit the jackpot,” Hannold said. “I kept looking at the pictures. Ernie took good pictures of us.”
Flipping through the pages, Hannold saw something he probably didn’t expect to see.
“Holy cow, there’s my tank,” he said. “I just couldn’t believe it. I never knew what Ernie did.
Pyle had been through North Africa and all throughout Europe, moving to the Pacific once the war in Europe ended.
“I saw him and shook hands with him,” Hannold said fondly. “I’ll never forget that. When he was shaking hands with us, he didn’t have anything (photography equipment). He come walking down. I told him, ‘Ernie Pyle, what a wonderful thing to shake your hand.'”
Having met the man, Hannold was shocked when he was informed Pyle was killed on Ie Shima, just two days after the invasion commenced.
“I never dreamed that Ernie would get killed. I knew when I heard it I cried,” he said.