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Ernie Pyle on USS Cabot (CVL-28)

All over the ship the scuttlebutt was that something big was up. Famous war correspondent Ernie Pyle had come aboard the U.S.S. Cabot CVL-28 at Ulithi, they had then weighed anchor and for several days steamed north into colder Pacific waters with task force 58, all the while making preparations for a major strike. Finally, on the day the operation orders were to be opened, a young officer asked Pyle if he knew what was up. Pyle knew but wasn't talking, so he asked the young man for his Zippo lighter.

He scratched on the bottom of the lighter, gave it back to the officer and said, "Stick this in your pocket, and promise not to look at it until the orders are opened." Later, when it was announced that the operation orders were opened, the young officer took the Zippo from his pocket. Scratched on the bottom was one word: "Tokyo" The first all-out carrier assault on Japanese homeland was to begin and Pyle had asked to see it, so he had been assigned to the Iron Woman.

Ernie Pyle on Cabot Ernie Pyle

"Ernie Pyle showed everybody else the way. He was a hell of a reporter."

-Charles Kuralt, 1989

 

"Ernie Pyle... told more about the victories and defeats of World War II than all the official communiques ever issued."

-Andy Rooney

 

"I lay there in the darkness...thinking of the millions far away at home who must remain forever unaware of the powerful fraternalism in the ghastly brotherhood of war."

-Ernie Pyle

January 1945: Ernie Pyle goes "warhorsing off to the Pacific."

In February 1945, during the operations for the assault on Iwo Jima and the Fifth Fleet raids against Honshu and Nansei Shoto, famed Scripps-Howard war correspondent Ernie Pyle spent a few weeks aboard the U.S.S. Cabot after arriving in the Pacific in January. His column was read by millions of people in local papers around the country, and Pyle had become the most popular wartime journalist in America through his stories about GIs on the front lines in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and France.

Pyle had come to see and report on the Pacific war, and he had asked to be assigned to a small carrier because he thought he might be able to find a more intimate setting for observing and interacting with the crew than he could find on one of the large Essex-class carriers. He was assigned to the U.S.S. Cabot, known as "The Iron Woman" because she had been continuously at sea and had participated in all of the Pacific campaigns for more than a year.

Pyle filed numerous stories from the decks of the Cabot but was prevented by censorship from revealing the name of the ship; a fact that, while perhaps necessitated by the demands of the war, ironically kept Cabot anonymous to posterity even though millions of people read about her. She became the most famous ship no one ever heard of. Referring to her only by her nickname, "The Iron Woman", this is Pyle's description of her that appeared in newspapers nation-wide:

In the Western PacificAn aircraft carrier is a noble thing. It lacks almost everything that seems to denote nobility, yet deep nobility is there....It doesn't cut through the water like a destroyer. It just plows...

Yet a carrier is a ferocious thing, and out of its heritage of action has grown nobility. I believe that today every navy in the world has its No. 1 priority, the destruction of enemy carriers.

That's a precarious honor, but it's a proud one.

My Carrier is a proud one. She's small, and you have never heard of her unless you have a son or husband on her, but still she's proud, and deservedly so.

She has been at sea, without returning home, longer than any other carrier in the Pacific, with one exception. She left home in November of 1943.

She is a little thing, yet her planes have shot down 228 of the enemy out of the sky in air battles, and her guns have knocked down five Japanese planes in defending herself.

She is too proud to keep track track of the little ships she destroys, but she has sent to the bottom 29 big Japanese ships.

She has weathered five typhoons. Her men have not set foot on any soil bigger than a farm-sized uninhabited atoll for a solid year.

They have not seen a woman for nearly ten months. In a year and a quarter out of America, she has steamed a total of 149,000 miles!

Four different air squadrons have used her as their flying field, flown their allotted missions, and returned to America. But the ship's crew stays on-- and on and on.

She is known in the fleet as "The Iron Woman", because she has fought in every battle in the Pacific in the years 1944 and 1945.

Her battle record sounds like a train-caller on the Lackawanna railroad. Listen--- Kwajalein, Eniwetok, Truk, Palau, Hollandia, Saipan, Chichi Jima, Mindanao, Luzon, Formosa, Nansei Shoto, Hong Kong, Iwo Jima, Tokyo...and many others.

She has known disaster. Her fliers who have perished cannot be counted on both hands..She has been hit twice by Kamikaze bombs. She has had mass burial at sea...with dry-eyed crew sewing forty-millimeter shells to the corpses of their friends as weights to take them to the bottom of the sea.

Yet she has never even returned to Pearl Harbor to patch her wounds. She slaps on some patches on the run and is ready for the next battle.

My Carrier, even though classed as "light", is still a very large ship. More than 1,000 men dwell upon her. She is more than 700 feet long...

She has been out so long that her men put their ship above their captain. They have seen captains come and go, but they and the ship stay on forever.

They aren't romantic about their long stay out here. They hate it, and their gripes are long and loud. They yearn pathetically to go home. But down beneath, they are proud--- proud of their ship and proud of themselves.

And you would be too.

"The nation is quickly saddened again..."

Ernie Pyle left the Cabot at the end of February 1945. On Easter, April 1, he went ashore with the Marines on Okinawa. Eighteen days later, he was killed on the nearby island of Ie Shima when a bullet from a Japanese machine gun hit him in the left temple below the rim of his helmet.

News of Pyle's death spread quickly by radio to the Pacific, U.S. and Europe. Gen. Omar Bradley was so stunned he couldn't speak. Only six days after the death of Franklin Roosevelt, the country had lost the man through whose eyes they had witnessed the war. President Harry Truman, who had just taken office said, "The nation is quickly saddened again by the death of Ernie Pyle." and no one thought it inappropriate for him to equate Pyle's death with Roosevelt's; such was the emotional investment the public had in Ernie Pyle.

A few months after his death, in the closing weeks of the war, hundreds of lighters with the inscription, In Memory of Ernie Pyle 1945, suddenly arrived on board the Cabot from the Zippo Lighter Co. Pyle knew the owner of the company and periodically asked that lighters be sent to soldiers he liked. Apparently, Pyle had grown fond of the Iron Woman and her crew.

Related Information:

Ernie Pyle State Historic Site

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