Accessibility links

Breaking News

State of Indiana Looks to Close Ernie Pyle Historic Site

Ernie Pyle

Ernie Pyle was one of the most popular news reporters in the United States during World War II. He wrote about common soldiers, making use of his own upbringing in the tiny town of Dana, Indiana, to better understand them. Pyle died in combat in 1945, but his memory lives on in his childhood home and museum. But budget deficits in Indiana are forcing cuts, and the Ernie Pyle State Historic site is in the process of closing.

Dana, Indiana is off the beaten path.

The small farming town has a population of about 400. There isn't much to see here, except for one landmark that is the pride of this community.

"Ernie Pyle's significance to this small town - he's our famous son," said Tom Milligan.

Tom Milligan is a farmer from Dana, home of the Ernie Pyle State Historic Site.

"He made not only a significant contribution to this area, but I mean he made a significant contribution to journalism," he said.

Pyle left Dana around 1918 to join the Navy before pursuing a career in journalism that took him around the world.

Pyle's folksy style of writing focused on the average soldier, sailor, airman and Marine who fought in World War II. His articles were extremely popular in the United States, and earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1944.

The site that honors him is situated in the center of Dana. Pyle's home was moved here in the 1970s from a location outside of town. The visitors center was added in 1998 through a grant from the Scripps Foundation. Pyle was a reporter for the Scripps Howard News Service.

Several fires that raged in Dana over the years left few buildings standing. One fire almost destroyed Pyle's site..

But what the fires could not take from Dana, the latest economic recession might.

"Indiana, like most other states, is experiencing some real budget issues currently, and so the Ernie Pyle site, unfortunately, has been closed due to those budget issues," said Bruce Beesley.

Bruce Beesley is the regional manager of the State Historic Sites of Indiana.

"Unfortunately it comes down to one particular place, one particular occasion where we made our cuts," said Bruce Beesley.

The doors to the home and visitor center have been locked since the beginning of the year. Beesley says there aren't enough visitors to justify its operating expenses. The state of Indiana wants to move some of the historic artifacts to other museums around the state.

Phil Hess is the director of the Friends of Ernie Pyle, a group dedicated to preserving Pyle's legacy and his historic site. He believes no other site represents Pyle better than his Dana home.

"We feel this is the best place to have an interpretation of Ernie Pyle's work because it's concentrated," said Phil Hess. "It's spaced out enough, it gives examples of his writing through the whole war period from start to end."

The state of Indiana would ultimately like to see the site funded and operated by town or county governments, or the Friends group.

"I'm not sure that if it comes to local ownership, that the existence would be guaranteed for very long," said Hess. "With the state, if it had assumed what I think is its responsibility, it would last forever, and that is our hope."

The Indiana Natural Resources Commission has ultimate authority over the fate of the site. They have delayed until the fall a decision whether to permanently close the site.

The Friends of Ernie Pyle group hopes that is enough time to win support from Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels to re-open the site, and keep Pyle's memory alive in the town of Dana.

  • 16x9 Image

    Kane Farabaugh

    Kane Farabaugh is the Midwest Correspondent for Voice of America, where since 2008 he has established Voice of America's presence in the heartland of America.