Anthony Stanis was within 20 yards of Ernie Pyle when the Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent was killed on the small island of Ie Shima off the coast of Okinawa on April 18, 1945.
“He shouldn’t have been out there with us,” Stanis admitted. “Ernie had been on Okinawa for a couple of weeks and he was resting up, just sitting on a ship out in the water. He came ashore for a couple days and spent time with our colonel (Lt. Col. Joseph Coolidge).
“Our colonel decided to take Ernie out to the front. We piled into four jeeps and off we go. My platoon was supposed to protect him. I had no idea where the colonel was taking us. We came around a corner and all of a sudden, a machine gun opens up on us. We all jumped out of our jeeps and dove into a ditch. I was 20 yards away from Ernie.
“Major Fyfe, who was our S2 (Intelligence Officer), poked his head out of the ditch after the shooting stopped and asked if everyone was all right. Ernie sat up and said he was okay and got hit right in the head by a sniper’s bullet.
“A lot of newspaper accounts said it was a machine gun that killed Ernie Pyle but it was actually a sniper.
“Ernie was dressed in clean fatigues and probably stood out like a neon light,” Stanis added. “The rest of us were all in our dirty brown uniforms that blended into the dirt and terrain. It wasn’t Ernie’s fault. He shouldn’t have been out there. It was our colonel’s fault that Ernie got killed.”
The machine gun kept Stanis and the rest pinned down for three hours, until an infantry unit came up and silenced the Japanese position.
Pyle was originally buried on Okinawa. Years later, his body was moved to a national military cemetery in Honolulu. A monument to Pyle still rests in Okinawa, one of only three American memorials allowed by the Japanese after they regained ownership of the island from the United States.