The first ever National Ernie Pyle Day celebration will kick off Thursday, Pyle’s birthday, at the New Mexico Veterans’ Memorial, 1100 Louisiana SE, starting at 9:30 a.m.
Pyle was born on Aug. 3, 1900, in Indiana. Years later, after becoming a nationally known newspaper columnist, he and his wife made their home in Albuquerque. He subsequently gained an international reputation as a correspondent covering World War II.
On April 18, 1945, Pyle was killed by a Japanese machine gunner as American forces pushed to capture the island of Okinawa.
His home at 900 Girard SE is now a public branch library and the Ernie Pyle Middle School in the South Valley is named for him.
Several years ago, the family of Ernie Pyle established the Ernie Pyle Legacy Foundation to keep the public memory of the Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent alive. The foundation has been spearheading the drive to establish the National Ernie Pyle Day.
The Thursday program includes a full day of activities with special guests and dignitaries. Veterans groups will be honored, especially veterans of World War II, said Gerald Maschino, a foundation member whose wife, Wynne, is Pyle’s first cousin once removed. A hot dog lunch will be served to all who are present.
The day’s events include a color guard, patriotic music, National Ernie Pyle Day proclamations from the Office of the Governor and from the Albuquerque Mayor, the awarding of the Ernie Pyle Legacy Foundation Scholarship for a journalism student at the University of New Mexico, the presentation of “Ernie Pyle, A One Man Show” by New Mexico historian Baldwin Burr, and the keynote address by Joe Galloway, a Vietnam War correspondent and author of the best-selling 1992 book “We Were Soldiers Once … And Young,” later made into a Hollywood movie.