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February 05, 2008

Silentium Victoriam Accelerat

Kind of a different topic from the primary head-buttin. In this morning's co-blogger staffwriter's assignment and deep tissue massage meeting, Laura pointed me to a (possibly) never before published photograph of war correspondent Ernie Pyle shortly after he was killed by a Japanese soldier on the island of Ie Shima on April 18, 1945, just a few months before the end of the war.

I added "possibly" since the AP writer said same; a search showed a few copies in existence and no trace of the original negative.

Laura said she thought it was odd that we were spared this image when we've seen so many other horrors of war. I had a different take on it, possibly because I'm hungover and travel-weary.

I mentioned to her during World War II Roosevelt established two agencies to control and in many cases suppress war news and information, the Office of Censorship, which censored communications between the US and other countries and prevented news organizations from publishing information which would be of interest to the enemy, and later the Office of War Information which controlled communications between government agencies and the release of war news. In the early years of the war, they imposed a complete ban on photographs of American dead. It was partially lifted in 1943, mostly to help promote support for the war.

She said "that's very interesting and all but, oh hang on the phone's ringing".

Kinda left me hanging after that. Not sure what happened. I waited around for a while though.

I don't know for a fact this photo was never made public, but I have done a little moron research in the past on Ernie, and I've never seen this. I can understand why it would have been surpressed (if in fact it was). It's hard to describe just how much Americans at home and soldiers abroad loved and respected Ernie. His loss was a terrible blow, and this haunting image of his body would have been even harder. The news of his death was not censored, but to accompany it with this photograph, well, I think they made the right decision.

If you've never read any of Ernie's dispatches, I recommend this one, The Death of Captain Waskow. It is one of his most compelling articles, and uses simple imagery and words to tell the story of the combat death of a young captain in Italy. It says a lot about Ernie, a lot more than I can anyway.

UPDATE: Link corrected, thanks Paul.

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posted by Dave In Texas at 04:20 PM

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