Indiana University
Journalism Ernie Pyle

In the Footsteps of Ernie Pyle: 2011

2011 London
Photo by Shabrelle Pollock
Despite jet-lag, students explored London on the first day of their trip, including a stop by Buckingham Palace. They also will write columns about their experiences in England and France.

The class heads to England and France with associate professor Owen Johnson, the fourth time the class has traveled to places the World War II correspondent made famous in his columns. They follow Pyle’s path from London to Paris as he reported on the war in Europe. The group also visits Omaha Beach and Normandy.

See daily blogs and reflective columns.

Trip reports:

Hearing from Pyle’s colleague
Contributed by Owen V. Johnson, associate professor and trip leader

When John Morris went to cover the meeting of President Obama and French President Sarkozy last year, he used a press pass issued in London in 1944 by the provisional French government.

With that kind of historical background, Ernie Pyle students were treated to 90 minutes of history when Morris spoke with them Friday. He mixed personal stories with history as he showed slides in his Paris apartment.

Morris is a former picture editor for Life magazine, the New York Times and the Washington Post. He met Pyle when both were covering the Allied invasion of Normandy.

In the afternoon, the students took a bus tour of Paris, taking in such sights as the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur and the Champs Elysees.

Exploring Mon-Saint-Michel
Contributed by Owen V. Johnson, associate professor and trip leader

Participants in the Ernie Pyle class started Thursday in Caen, France, and wound up in Paris. In between they had a stop in Mont-Saint-Michel.

Mont-Saint-Michel was wrapped in low clouds when the students arrived there at mid-morning. A guide took them on a 90-minute tour of the medieval abbey and church, located in a village that now has only about 25 inhabitants, half of them Catholic clergy. Students were impressed by the remarkable architecture and technical construction on the island.

After the tour, Pyle tour participants spent 75 minutes of free time before boarding their bus for their long trip across northern France to Paris. Upon arrival they gathered at a local restaurant to share a first Parisian meal together. They finished the day by checking into their hotel.

Honoring a Hoosier
Contributed by Owen V. Johnson, associate professor and trip leader

Participants in the Ernie Pyle course honored Indiana native Elizabeth Richardson in a ceremony at the U.S. Military Cemetery at Colleville-sur-mer in Normandy March 16.

In a ceremony organized by staff at the cemetery, students and teachers watched as sand was rubbed into the stone to highlight the inscription on Richardson’s grave. U.S. and French flags were then placed at the base of the marker.

Such ceremonies are normally performed only for family members of those who are buried in the cemetery.

The ceremony observed by the Pyle participants was conceived by Helen Gosselin, who has served as guide to IU students visiting the cemetery the last four years.

Richardson joined the Red Cross during World War II in order to be part of the war effort. She worked at locations that provided troops with coffee and doughnuts. Her story is told by James Madison, professor in the IU Department of History, in Slinging Doughnuts, published by the Indiana University Press.

Nearby, the students saw the grave of Bede Irvin, an AP photographer who was killed when Allied bombers mistakenly bombed their own positions during the Normandy fighting. Pyle was also caught in the mistaken bombing, which additionally killed Gen. Lesley McNair, the highest ranking officer buried in Normandy.

Pyle trip participants also visited the Pointe du Hoc cliff and walked Omaha Beach during their trip to Normandy. In addition, they visited the International Journalists Memorial at Bayeux.

Pyle’s Foosteps: The Savoy in London
By Kevin Memolo

In our final day in London, we were privileged to have a tour of the famous and luxurious Savoy Hotel, from which Ernie Pyle was able to view the blazing streets of London during the Nazi nighttime bombing of the city.

With this viewpoint from just north of the River Thames and mere blocks away from the bombed area, Pyle was able to craft one of his most famous wartime columns, describing the scene of London “stabbed by fire.”

During the war, the Savoy had been home to many journalists and war correspondents and became a headquarters of the war reporting effort. However, it was also able to keep its luxurious appeal and was still one of the most recognizable hotels in London.

After decades of operation, the hotel became outdated and required a face lift. After a Saudi prince bought it in 2007, it underwent one of the largest renovations of a hotel in British history. Over 250 million pounds were invested and the better part of two years was given to transform the Savoy into a modern masterpiece that still harks back to its famous heritage.

After touring the Savoy’s celebrated cocktail lounges, its sprawling tea room and riverside dining room, we can say for sure that the Savoy’s renovation was worth the price tag. Upon entering the lobby and foyer, we were stunned at the décor, and no one wanted to touch the marble tables or gold walls for fear of incurring expenses beyond a student’s pay range.

Unfortunately, it was too early for us to see the room where Pyle saw the bombing. The new Savoy has nothing on the hotel of old, but it still is home away from home for many celebrities and not a cheap place to stay (the Royal Suite will run you 10,000 pounds a night).

Exploring the War Museum
By Ali Fitzpatrick

“Keep calm and carry on.”

We took that British World War II era slogan to hear as we set out for Sunday’s tour, which took us to the Imperial War Museum, formerly an asylum for veterans that currently houses collections of British wartime artifacts. We also visited the Churchill War Rooms. World War II became more tangible and real to relate to the columns that we have been reading.

Our somber, soft-spoken English guide walked us through the tanks, planes, artillery and other assorted remnants of the war. The majority of the group explored the museum’s Blitzkrieg Experience that demonstrated how London suffered during 1940 and 1941. We sat in a shelter and heard commentary similar to that which would have occurred during one of the raids.

Some of us wandered to the third floor, which was entirely dedicated in remembrance of the Holocaust. The vast and complex display showed the gritty reality of the utter destruction the Nazis plagued upon the “undesirables” of the time. It was an interesting and equally disturbing presentation. It was interesting to see the European view as opposed to the American.

We moved on to the War Rooms, the underground labyrinth that Winston Churchill and his staff resided in as they drew their plans to counter Germans. Reminiscent of the Holocaust exhibit, the basement-turned-operation headquarters was extensive and impressively detailed. We were transported back into the world of the late ‘30s early ‘40s, in the place where decisions were made, lives were changed, and history was made.

St. Patrick’s Day a bit early
By Mark Felix

st patrick's day
Photo by Mark Felix
Students helped celebrate St. Patrick’s Day a few days early at Trafalgar Square.

If you wander through some of the ancient capitals of the world, you will find unexpected adventurous things. London doesn’t disappoint.

London celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in advance and in grand fashion in Trafalgar Square on Sunday. Thousands of Irish, British and other nationalities flooded the square to take part in the day-long event.

With Big Ben in the background, bands played traditional Irish jigs throughout the afternoon and the patrons sang along loudly. They didn’t always seem to know the words, but no one seemed to care. Many people danced along to the bands and some sat on each other’s shoulders so they could get a better view of the musicians.

The event brought out a wide variety of ages. A small boy fell asleep in his mother’s arms as she sang along to every word of each song. An elderly man in bright green and orange face paint and an all green outfit proudly waved his Irish flag in the wind. A young man sitting on his two friend’s shoulders led the crowd on the north side of the square in song in between bands.

This year, local officials banned adding green dye to the fountain in Trafalgar Square and enforced it by placing security members in the pool. However, this did not stop a small group of people from jumping in the pool and taking a swim before security staff forcibly removed them.

The cleaning crew had a long day and night ahead of them. Trash cans and dumpsters were already filled with beer bottles, plastic cups and water bottles. Bottles and cups were strewn about the footpaths of the square, but patrons of the event didn’t seem to notice the trash on the ground.

“I’m an Englishman who married an Irish woman,” one man shouted. “But there’s nothing I love more than St. Patty’s Day!”

Sightseeing despite flight fatigue
By Shabrelle Pollock

crossing the street
Photo by Shabrelle Pollock
Students such as (from left) Kendall Trout and Maura Lohan had to adjust to the opposite left-right traffic in London.

Perhaps “holding hands for safety” would have been a good idea while crossing the street in front of Westminster Abbey on the first day of our trip.

After flying into the daylight on a seven-hour flight, we were excited to begin our weeklong journey, but also jet-lagged and somewhat sleep deprived. The group was rudely awakened by a Mini Cooper as it came whizzing by from the “opposite” direction, hugging the corner where we had congregated.

“Yes, now, remember to look right, loves,” yelled our London guide, Janine Coghlan, as she sprinted ahead of us.

Above her head she frantically waved a lavender plastic flower to help us spot her in the crowd.

“They tend not to stop here, and we don’t want you checking into the hospital,” she said. “You might not check out.”

Petite and blond, Coghlan was the guide for our bus tour through London. She was cheeky, brash and quite possibly one of the most hilarious women I’ve ever met, making up for in character what she lacked in height.

She spent the morning marveling at America’s obsession with the royal wedding and asking questions about our course’s namesake, Ernie Pyle. As we whirled through London, she also provided a soundtrack of sorts, mixing in history with asides ridiculous enough to make even Parliament amusing.

After a drive over London Bridge and a stop at Buckingham Palace, we bade Coghlan goodbye and split up, left largely to our own devices for the rest of the evening. My group and I enjoyed a meal of fish ‘n’ chips before exploring more of the city on foot, fitting in photo ops at a park along the River Thames and the Globe Theater. Then, slaphappy from sleep deprivation, we caught the tube back to the hotel.

Despite being too tired to think, we all agreed that we wouldn’t have done our first day of this trip any differently. It was a “bloody fantastic” start to spring break.