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‘Life in the Trenches’: Documentary tracks ‘entire career, personal life’ of war correspondent Ernie Pyle

Todd Gould sits inside the Indiana State Museum.

He’s spent all day blowing off dust from books and papers.

It’s something he dearly enjoys and a loving part of his job as a filmmaker.

Research is key to his projects, and he often spends months or even years deep diving into a subject.

His film, “Ernie Pyle: Life in the Trenches,” will be broadcast on New Mexico PBS at 10 p.m. Sunday, May 9, on Channel 5.1.

“Ernie is pretty fascinating,” Gould says. “He wanted to tell personal stories of his subjects and became famous for that.”

More than 75 years after his death, famed World War II correspondent Pyle remains one of the most accomplished and beloved journalists in American history.

“Ernie Pyle: Life in the Trenches” examines the external and internal battles of Pyle’s life, from his coverage of soldiers fighting on the European and Pacific fronts of World War II to his struggles with alcoholism, depression and a troubled marriage.

The film follows Pyle from his beginnings as a cub reporter in northern Indiana to his travels across the U.S. covering the Great Depression, and finally, to his firsthand reports from the foxholes alongside American troops during World War II.

At the height of his popularity during World War II, 40 million people read Pyle’s dispatches from the front lines of the war, often told from the perspective of the common U.S. soldier.

The documentary reveals that through some of the darkest chapters in America’s history, the Great Depression and World War II, the voice of Ernie Pyle became the voice of the American people – a voice of promise, grit, and determination. It also steps on the life he built in Albuquerque.

Dan Rather

The film is narrated by Emmy award-winning journalist and former CBS News anchor Dan Rather.

Jonathan Banks

Actor Jonathan Banks – from TV series “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” – gives voice to Pyle and his most acclaimed writings and personal correspondence to his closest friends and family.

“Ernie didn’t really stick in one place for too long,” Gould says.

Pyle grew up in a small town in Indiana, and he couldn’t stand the thought of becoming a farmer.

He headed to Indiana University, although he left before graduating.

“Within a couple years of leaving college, he’s telling stories of every day Americans doing extraordinary things,” Gould says. “It was something people could relate to. When he went off to war, he was telling the stories of the privates that were up on the front lines. That was his beat.”

Gould says a lot of people know Pyle for his war correspondent work because it was effective and powerful.

He wanted the documentary to show all facets of Pyle’s life.

“My challenge was to try and track his entire career,” Gould says. “As I got to know more about his personal life, I found his personal demons, and he was trying to negotiate that as well as he could. He had depression and was a heavy drinker and smoker. His wife had some mental health issues, and he was trying to cope with that. People didn’t see that challenge.”

Gould says Pyle worked to balance the back-and-forth between war zones – both professionally and personally.

“His life was filled with anxiety and pain,” he says. “But he was such a prolific writer, readers couldn’t really tell.”

Gould says that although Pyle was also a vagabond, he found solace in New Mexico, specifically Albuquerque.

“I think it says something about Albuquerque that there is this man who went to every state in the U.S. and all over the world,” he says. “He chose the one place to have an actual home to ‘settle down,’ and it was Albuquerque. That says a lot about the landscape and the people. He fell in love with New Mexico.”

Pyle’s house at 900 Girard SE became the Ernie Pyle Library and is a National Historic Landmark.

There is also an elementary school that bears his name in Albuquerque.

On April 29, the film picked up four Lower Great Lakes Chapter regional Emmy nominations.

“It’s been a lot of years of work,” Gould says. “These nominations are the cherry on top of what has been an amazing project.”

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