The God Damned Infantry Man



A Worthwhile Read of Ernie Pyle Thoughts


The God-Damned Infantry

IU Archives

Pyle with Marines on patrol in Okinawa.

Multimedia Listen to this column read by School of Journalism

Professor Owen V. Johnson (5.66MB)



May 2, 1943 - We’re now with an infantry outfit that has battled

ceaselessly for four days and nights.


This northern warfare has been in the mountains. You don’t ride

much anymore. It is walking and climbing and crawling country.

The mountains aren’t big, but they are constant. They are largely

treeless. They are easy to defend and bitter to take. But we are

taking them.


The Germans lie on the back slope of every ridge, deeply dug into

foxholes. In front of them the fields and pastures are hideous with

thousands of hidden mines. The forward slopes are left open,

untenanted, and if the Americans tried to scale these slopes they

would be murdered wholesale in an inferno of machine-gun crossfire

plus mortars and grenades.


Consequently we don’t do it that way. We have fallen back to the old

warfare of first pulverizing the enemy with artillery, then sweeping

around the ends of the hill with infantry and taking them from the

sides and behind.


I’ve written before how the big guns crack and roar almost constantly

throughout the day and night. They lay a screen ahead of our troops.

By magnificent shooting they drop shells on the back slopes. By means

of shells timed to burst in the air a few feet from the ground, they get

the Germans even in their foxholes. Our troops have found that the

Germans dig foxholes down and then under, trying to get cover from

the shell bursts that shower death from above.


Our artillery has really been sensational. For once we have enough of

something and at the right time. Officers tell me they actually have

more guns than they know what to do with.


All the guns in any one sector can be centered to shoot at one spot.

And when we lay the whole business on a German hill the whole slope

seems to erupt. It becomes an unbelievable cauldron of fire and smoke

and dirt. Veteran German soldiers say they have never been through

anything like it.


Now to the infantry-the God-damned infantry,as they like to call themselves.


I love the infantry because they are the underdogs. They are the

mud-rain-frost-and-wind boys. They have no comforts, and they

even learn to live without the necessities. And in the end they are

the guys that wars can’t be won without.


I wish you could see just one of the ineradicable pictures I have in my

mind today. In this particular picture I am sitting among clumps of

sword-grass on a steep and rocky hillside that we have just taken.

We are looking out over a vast rolling country to the rear.


A narrow path comes like a ribbon over a hill miles away, down a long

slope, across a creek, up a slope and over another hill.


All along the length of this ribbon there is now a thin line of men. For

four days and nights they have fought hard, eaten little, washed none,

and slept hardly at all. Their nights have been violent with attack, fright,

butchery, and their days sleepless and miserable with the crash of artillery.


The men are walking. They are fifty feet apart, for dispersal. Their walk is

slow, for they are dead weary, as you can tell even when looking at them

from behind. Every line and sag of their bodies speaks their inhuman



On their shoulders and backs they carry heavy steel tripods, machine-gun

barrels, leaden boxes of ammunition. Their feet seem to sink into the

ground from the overload they are bearing.


They don’t slouch. It is the terrible deliberation of each step that spells

out their appalling tiredness. Their faces are black and unshaven. They

are young men, but the grime and whiskers and exhaustion make them

look middle-aged.


In their eyes as they pass is not hatred, not excitement, not despair,

not the tonic of their victory - there is just the simple expression of being

here as though they had been here doing this forever, and nothing else.


The line moves on, but it never ends. All afternoon men keep coming

round the hill and vanishing eventually over the horizon. It is one long

tired line of antlike men.


There is an agony in your heart and you almost feel ashamed to look at

them. They are just guys from Broadway and Main Street, but you

wouldn’t remember them. They are too far away now. They are too tired.

Their world can never be known to you, but if you could see them just

once, just for an instant, you would know that no matter how hard

people work back home they are not keeping pace with these infantrymen

in Tunisia.


Just an old dogface that thanks GOD he is still here. rjr


Sgt Leo:


Great timing, as I just finished reading that in my book, Reporting WWII. It also includes the following from Ernie, reporting in North Africa:


The War in Tunisia - Feb-May 1943


Now it is Killing That Animates Them

Moving at Night in Total Blackness

Only Slightly Above the Caveman Stage

Too Little to Work With, As Usual

Overrun Before They Knew What Was Happening

Nothing To Do

What A Tank Battle Looks Like

The Fantastic Surge of Caterpillar Metal

Into the Thick of the Battle

Brave Men, Brave Men!

Little Boys Again, Lost in the Dark

The Greatest Damage is Psychological

The God Damned Infantry

When a Unit Stops to Rest

This is Our War

Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"

Gotta love Ernie Pyle.


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