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Back Again

by Ernie Pyle
Reprinted with the generous permission of the Scripps Howard Foundation



SAN FRANCISCO - Well, here we go again.

It has been four months since I wrote my last column, from France. In four months of non-production a writer gets out of the habit. He forgets the rhythm of words; falls into the easy habit of not making himself think or feel in self-expression.

This first column is a man-killer. Your mind automatically resents the task of focusing itself again. Your thoughts are scattered and you can't get them together to put onto paper. Words come hard. You have to think again. You curse the day you ever took up writing to make a living.

So until I'm once more immersed in the routine of daily writing, and transported once more into the one-track world of war, I'm afraid you'll have to be tolerant with me.

There's nothing nice about the prospect of going back to war again. Anybody who has been in war and wants to go back is a plain damn fool in my book.

I'm certainly not going because I've got itchy feet again, or because I can't stand America, or because there's any mystic fascination about war that is drawing me back.

I'm going simply because there's a war on and I'm part of it and I've known all the time I was going back. I'm going simply because I've got to - and I hate it.

This time it will be the Pacific. When I left France last fall, we thought the war in Europe was about over. I say "we" because I mean almost everybody over there thought so. I felt it was so near the end I could come home and before the time came to go again, that side of the war would be finished, and only the Pacific would be left.

But it didn't turn out that way. Now nobody knows how long the European war will last. Naturally, all my friends and associations and sentiments are on that side. I suppose down in my heart I would rather go back to that side. For over in Europe I know the tempo of the battle; I feel at home with it, in a way.

And yet I think it's best to stick with the original plan and go on to the Pacific. There are a lot of guys in that war, too. They are the same guys who are fighting on the other side, only with different names, that's all. It is not belittling my friends in Europe to desert them and go to the Pacific for a while.

I'm going with the navy this time, since the navy is so dominant in the Pacific, and since I've done very little in the past on that part of the service. I won't stay with the navy for the duration - probably two or three months, and then back ashore again with my noble souls, the doughfoots.

Security forbids telling you just what the plans are. But can say that I'll fly across the Pacific, and join ship on the other side. Aboard ship, I'll be out of touch with the world on long cruises. It may be there will be lapses in the daily column, simply because it's impossible to transmit these pieces. But we'll do our best to keep them going steadily.

I haven't figured out yet what I'm going to do about seasickness. I'm one of those unfortunates with a terrific stomach on land, but one that turns to whey and jelly when I get aboard ship. I know of nothing that submerges the muse in a man as much as the constant compulsion to throw up. Perhaps I should take along my own oil to spread on the troubled waters.

Friends warn me about all kinds of horrible diseases in the Pacific. About dysentery, and malaria, and fungus that gets in your ears and your intestines, and that horrible swelling disease known as elephantiasis.

Well, all I can say is that I'm God's gift to germs. Those fungi will shout and leap for joy when I show up. Maybe I can play the Pied Piper role - maybe the germs will all follow me when I get there, and leave the rest of the boys free to fight.

So what with disease, Japs, seasickness and shot and shell - you see I'm not too overwhelmed with relief at starting out again.

But there's one thing in my favor where I'm going; one thing that will make life bearable when all else is darkness and gloom. And that one thing is that, out in the Pacific, I'll be damned good and stinking hot. Oh, boy!

Ernie Pyle