THE SOLDIER’S TRUTH: Ernie Pyle and The Story of World War II

06 Jun 23 The Hill Center, Washington DC

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 beaches of Anzio to the beaches of Normandy, and on to the war in the Pacific, where he would meet his end, Pyle had a genius for connecting with the full gamut of emotions his beloved dog faced grunts were feeling.

Beginning at 7:00 pm, acclaimed writer David Chrisinger will discuss his new book in conversation with Thomas Brennan, founder and Executive Director of The War Horse. In The Soldier’s Truth, Chrisinger presents a definitive biography of Pyle, drawing on unprecedented access to the writer’s personal correspondence. 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 diagnosis. Chrisinger’s book captures every dramatic turn of Pyle’s war with sensory immediacy and a powerful feel for both the outer and the inner landscape.

With a background in helping veterans and other survivors of trauma come to terms with their experiences through storytelling, Chrisinger brings enormous reservoirs of empathy and insight to bear on Pyle’s experiences. Woven in and out of his chronicle is the golden thread of his own travels across these same landscapes, many of them still battle-scarred, searching for the landmarks Pyle wrote about. A moving tribute to an ordinary American hero whose impact on the Second World War is still too little understood, and a powerful account of that war’s impact and how it is remembered, The Soldier’s Truth takes its place among the essential contributions to our understanding of war and how we make sense of it.

David Chrisinger is the Executive Director of the Public Policy Writing Workshop at the University of Chicago’ s Harris School of Public Policy and the Director of Writing Seminars for The War Horse, an award-winning nonprofit newsroom dedicated to reporting on the human impact of military Service. He is the author of several books, including Stories Are What Save Us: A Survivor’s Guide to Writing about Trauma, and has won a George Orwell Award.

Thomas Brennan is the founder and Executive Director of The War Horse. He served as an infantryman in Iraq and Afghanistan before studying investigative reporting at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. His reporting has appeared in Vanity Fair, Center for Investigative Reporting, and on the front page of The New York Times. Thomas has held fellowships at the Center for a New American Security, The Atlantic Council, and The George W. Bush Institute. Thomas’s feature writing has been awarded by the Society for Features Journalism and the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma. His investigative reporting has earned him both a national and regional Edward R. Murrow, two Fourth Estate Awards, and the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Journalism Award.

East City Bookshop will be on hand to sell books. A book signing will follow the conversation.