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A beautiful reckoning with the life and work of the legendary journalist Ernie Pyle, who gave World War II a human face for millions of Americans even as he wrestled with his own demons
At the height of his fame and influence during World War II, Ernie Pyle’s nationally syndicated dispatches from combat zones shaped America’s understanding of what the war felt like to ordinary soldiers, as no writer’s work had before or has since. From North Africa to Sicily, from the beaches of Anzio to the beaches of Normandy, and on to the war in the Pacific, where he would meet his end, Ernie Pyle had a genius for connecting with his beloved dogfaced grunts. A humble man, himself plagued by melancholy and tortured by marriage to a partner whose mental health struggles were much more acute than his own, Pyle was in touch with suffering in a way that left an indelible mark on his readers. While never defeatist, his stories left no doubt as to the heavy weight of the burden soldiers carried. He wrote about post-traumatic stress long before that was a diagnosis.
In The Soldier's Truth, acclaimed writer David Chrisinger brings Pyle’s journey to vivid life in all its heroism and pathos. Drawing on access to all of Pyle’s personal correspondence, his book captures every dramatic turn of Pyle’s war with sensory immediacy and a powerful feel for both the outer and the inner landscape. With a background in helping veterans and other survivors of trauma come to terms with their experiences through storytelling, Chrisinger brings enormous reservoirs of empathy and insight to bear on Pyle’s trials. Woven in and out of his chronicle is the golden thread of his own travels across these same landscapes, many of them still battle-scarred, searching for the landmarks Pyle wrote about.
A moving tribute to an ordinary American hero whose impact on the war is still too little understood, and a powerful account of that war’s impact and how it is remembered, The Soldier's Truth takes its place among the essential contributions to our perception of war and how we make sense of it.
About the Author
David Chrisinger is the executive director of the Public Policy Writing Workshop at the University of Chicago's Harris School of Public Policy and the director of writing seminars for The War Horse, an award-winning nonprofit newsroom dedicated to reporting on the human impact of military service. He is the author of several books, including Stories Are What Save Us: A Survivor's Guide to Writing about Trauma, and the recipient ofthe 2022 National Council of Teachers of English George Orwell Award.
“Chrisinger teases out the exquisite, often painful balancing act Pyle had to perform as a war correspondent . . . An excellent reassessment of a singular American journalist.” —Booklist (starred review)
“In this intriguing and admiring biography, Chrisinger retraces war correspondent Ernie Pyle’s steps through the European and Pacific theaters of WWII . . . Chrisinger’s deep admiration for his subject comes through, as does his belief in the power of storytelling as a force for good . . . A fascinating portrait of a reporter who gave everything to get the story.” —Publishers Weekly
“Displaying Pyle’s detailed snapshots of victory, levity, fatigue, death, and grief . . . The compelling story of ‘America’s most beloved war correspondent,’ who lost his life recording soldiers' real experiences.” —Kirkus
“Equal parts biography, memoir, and meditation on war, David Chrisinger’s The Soldier’s Truth is a work worthy of Ernie Pyle. This book brings the story of one of America’s greatest war correspondents and writers back to life.” —Elliot Ackerman
“No one told the stories of the men fighting World War II better than Ernie Pyle. And no one captures Ernie Pyle as well as David Chrisinger does in The Soldier’s Truth. Just as Pyle chronicled the ordinary moments of heroic lives, Chrisinger captures the simple humanity of an extraordinary man in an extraordinary war. There are few clearer pictures than this one of the everyday grind of conflict.” —Christopher Blattman, author of Why We Fight and professor, University of Chicago
“Retracing the hellish travels Ernie Pyle took with American troops in World War II, David Chrisinger offers a moving portrait of the war’s most famous correspondent. Cherished for the power and simplicity of his prose, Pyle himself was a fragile and complex man, who becomes here a symbol of all the ordinary, decent men in extremis he wrote about, particularly those who, like him, perished.” —Mark Bowden, author of Life Sentence
“Masterful reportage that retraces the steps of America’s most revered war correspondent. The Soldier’s Truth is a testament to the power of storytelling and a sobering reminder of the human cost of war. A remarkable and memorable book that Ernie Pyle would be proud of.” —Thomas Brennan, founder of The War Horse and winner of three Edward R. Murrow Awards
“With grace and insight, Chrisinger has brought to life the irascible Ernie Pyle and produced the definitive account of America's greatest war reporter in World War II. If you're a fan of Stephen Ambrose or Rick Atkinson, this one's for you.” —Brian Castner, author of Stampede: Gold Fever and Disaster in the Klondike
“David Chrisinger has written a gripping account of Ernie Pyle’s war years. Pyle’s own emotional struggles may well have enhanced the respect and empathy he felt for the men he lived among and followed into battle. Chrisinger’s book has done Ernie Pyle a great service for it reveals the full extent of the pain he carried with him even while millions of soldiers and readers were finding comfort in his presence and reportage.” —Anthony Feinstein, professor of neuropsychiatry, University of Toronto
“In his audacious and revelatory biography, David Chrisinger does much more than give us Pyle's life. The Soldier's Truth is steeped in a deep understanding of what it takes, and what it costs, to turn war into war stories and brings a keen present-day understanding of war correspondence and trauma into dialogue with the past. This is biography and history that couldn't feel more current.” —Mark Harris
“Ernie Pyle was the poet laureate of World War II, the most widely read and revered correspondent of the greatest conflict in human history. Finally, at long last, David Chrisinger's The Soldier's Truth does full justice to Pyle, beautifully recounting his life while retracing his footsteps across battlefields. This is a magnificent narrative and a magisterial narrative—the best World War II book of 2023.” —Alex Kershaw
“The Soldier's Truth is an extraordinary book, a riveting look not only at the soldier's experience in World War II and one of the greatest writers to capture it, but also at how Americans understood what was happening at the time—the sense they tried to make amid senseless violence, and the toll it took on those dealing with the uncensored truth firsthand. A powerful, moving, and provocative look at our relationship to war.” —Phil Klay