The Soldier’s Truth: Ernie Pyle and the Story of World War II

By David Chrisinger

A beautiful reckoning with the life and work of the legendary journalist Ernie Pyle, who put a human face on World War II for millions of Americans even as he wrestled with his own demons.

At the height of his fame and influence during World War II, Ernie Pyle’s nationally syndicated dispatches from combat zones shaped America’s understanding of what the war felt like to ordinary soldiers as no writer’s work has before or since. From North Africa to Sicily, from the Apennine’s to Normandy Beach and Paris, and on to the war in the Pacific, where he would meet his end, Ernie Pyle had a genius for making contact with the full gamut of emotions his beloved dogfaced grunts were feeling. A humble man, himself plagued by melancholy and tortured by marriage to a partner whose mental health struggles were much more acute than his own, Pyle was in touch with suffering in a way that left an indelible mark on his readers. While never defeatist, his stories left no doubt as to the heavy weight of the burden soldiers carried. He wrote about post-traumatic stress long before that was a label.

In The Soldier’s Truth, acclaimed writer David Chrisinger brings Pyle’s journey to vivid life in all its heroism and pathos. Gifted with access to all of Pyle’s personal correspondence, his book captures every dramatic turn of Pyle’s war with pungent sensory immediacy and a powerful feel for both the outer and the inner landscape. Chrisinger, whose own background is in helping veterans and other people who have experienced trauma come to terms with their experiences through storytelling, brings enormous reservoirs of empathy and insight to bear on Pyle’s experiences. Woven in and out of his chronicle of Pyle’s wartime life to the very end is the golden thread of his own travels across these same landscapes, searching for the landmarks Pyle wrote about and observing how the war has been remembered, and how it’s been forgotten, on these landscapes, many of them still battle-scarred.

A moving tribute to a humble American hero whose impact on the war is still too little understood, and a powerful reckoning with that war’s impact on all who fought in it, and all who would try to remember it truthfully, The Soldier’s Truth takes its place among the essential contributions to our understanding of what war is about and how we make sense of it. 


A prescient and engrossing story, Chrisinger intricately weaves moments of memoir and hard journalism with incredibly granular and well-rendered studies of Pyle’s life, the parts of war he witnessed, and the people he met, knew, and loved.

Rachel Kambury, Wrath-Bearing Tree

Chrisinger teases out the exquisite, often painful balancing act Pyle had to perform as a war correspondent . . . An excellent reassessment of a singular American journalist.

Booklist, (starred review)

In this intriguing and admiring biography, Chrisinger retraces war correspondent Ernie Pyle’s steps through the European and Pacific theaters of WWII . . . Chrisinger’s deep admiration for his subject comes through, as does his belief in the power of storytelling as a force for good . . . A fascinating portrait of a reporter who gave everything to get the story.

Review, Publisher's Weekly

Displaying Pyle’s detailed snapshots of victory, levity, fatigue, death, and grief . . . The compelling story of ‘America’s most beloved war correspondent,’ who lost his life recording soldiers’ real experiences.

Review, Kirkus

When it comes to Pyle and the war, the book is very good. The reporter was a prolific letter-writer, and Mr. Chrisinger draws heavily and judiciously from Pyle’s correspondence with two close friends and with his wife.

Ben Yagoda, Wall Street Journal