The Man Who Told America the Truth About D-Day – The New York Times

During his four years as a war correspondent, Pyle was embraced by enlisted men, officers and a huge civilian public as a voice who spoke for the common infantryman. With his trauma in France, he had become one of them. After sharing so much of their experience, he understood how gravely war can alter the people who have to see it and fight it and live it. He knew that the survivors can come home with damage that is profound, painful and long-lasting. It was a truth that he found hard or even impossible to communicate to the readers back home — and it is a truth that is still difficult and troubling now, 75 years after D-Day.

We accept that our wars are different now — more scattered, seemingly never-ending, against a more diffuse and elusive enemy — but those wars are still presented with the promise that we are fighting for our way of life or the survival of our values, and that we’ll enjoy greater peace and security when those wars are won. War reporting has become more honest and unsparing about tallying the death toll — at least on our side — but politicians making the case for deployments and invasions still don’t invite the public in advance to decide whether the promised benefits will be worth the losses.

Seeing and reporting the vast losses on the beach at Normandy and watching war’s meat grinder in action in the vicious battles that followed, Pyle was evidently forced to recalculate the arithmetic of victories and losses. By the time he was killed, 10 months later and on the opposite side of the world, the lesson seemed to have solidified for him. Not even the war ending, not even victory — which his previous reporting usually kept in sight as the great goal of the war — would be able to bring back all the people killed or counteract the damage done to the survivors. Pyle had written about battles and war in a way that promised hope. By the time victory was actually in sight, he had come to feel that there was no way the war could be a story with a happy ending…

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