“emphasizing not the heroism of its soldiers but their weariness and daily hardships. Based on Pyle’s reports (collected in his 1943 book, Here Is Your War) the film details the grueling effect of extended combat service on a platoon of American soldiers the Italian campaign. Led by Lieutenant Walker ( Robert Mitchum) and accompanied by Pyle, the platoon slowly advances, experiencing both danger and boredom but very little in the way of glory.” (Booker, 1999, p.14)
Contemporary war movies as well as war journalism can do well by embracing such an attitude.
It is in recognition of the valuable sensibilities displayed through the film that it won four Academy Award nominations, including to Mitchum for best supporting actor and to the three screenwriters (two of whom, Endore and Stevenson, were prominent figures on the American cultural Left) for best screenplay. While some critics took the film’s grim depiction of war as an antiwar statement, James Agee insightfully notes that G.I. Joe is a “tragic and eternal work of art precisely because of its unflinching portrayal of the realities of combat. Pyle never saw the film; moving on to cover the war in the Pacific, he was killed there in the last months of the war.” (Harrison, 2001, p.86)
In conclusion, it would not be an exaggeration to say that the essence of The Story of G.I. Joe is the virtues exhibited by Ernie Pyle during his illustrious career. The most fitting tribute to the greatest American scribe of the last century comes from Stephen Harrison, who notes
“As a war correspondent, he deployed the same skills he’d used at home. But if the stateside columns were lively journalism, the wartime columns were masterpieces. Pyle did what nobody else did as well-capture the voice of the American GI, brave, terrified, noble…Daily journalism has an infinitesimal half-life, but the best of it sometimes endures, and Pyle’s was the best of the best. If you open one of the books compiled from his columns, you will find yourself reading for a long time. You may feel that all in all, this is a good place to honor a talented, restless man.” (Harrison, 2001, p.86)
Booker, M. Keith. 1999. Film and the American Left: A Research Guide. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
Harrison, S. L. 2001. Thirteen Hollywood Films Add Variety to Journalism History. Journalism & Mass Communication Educator 56, no. 1: 86+.
Holsinger, M. Paul and Mary Anne Schofield, eds. 1992. Visions of War: World War II in Popular Literature and Culture. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press.