Two Fine, Humble Men

After the Allied campaign in Sicily, Ernie Pyle flew to Algiers to await transportation back to the US. He dropped in on General Eisenhower, who congratulated him on the columns that had appeared in Stars and Stripes, the Army newspaper.

“John Steinbeck, whom Ernie had long admired but had never met, was at Aletti,” writes friend and biographer Lee Miller, “and Ernie decided to pay a call.

“As often happened with him, on the way to the hotel he began getting nervous. Perhaps Steinbeck would be busy. Probably he had never heard of Pyle. But he went on. Quentin Reynolds was there with Steinbeck, which made the introductions easy, and for Ernie and John it turned into a historic session of the mutual admiration society.”

Reynolds writes, “We sat there on the stone terrace of the villa, talking, almost until dawn… I dropped off to sleep about six a.m. and Ernie and John were still talking, exchanging ideas and finding out that they agreed with each other on everything from bourbon to ranch life in the Southwest. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship between two fine, humble men.”

Steinbeck later wrote: “There are really two wars and they haven’t much to do with each other. There is the war of maps and logistics, of campaigns, of ballistics, armies, divisions, and regiments — and that is General [George] Marshall’s war.

“Then there is the war of homesick, weary, funny, violent, common men, who wash their socks in their helmets, complain about the food, whistle at Arab girls, or any girls for that matter, and lug themselves through as dirty a business as the world has ever seen and do it with humor and dignity and courage — and that is Ernie Pyle’s war. He knows it as well as anyone and writes about it better than anyone.”