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On the third morning, a jeep carrying Pyle and three officers came under fire from a hidden machine gun. All scrambled for cover in roadside ditches, but when Pyle raised his head, a .30 caliber bullet caught him in the left temple, killing him instantly.
Roberts and two other photographers, including AP's Grant MacDonald, were at a command post 300 yards away when Col. Joseph Coolidge, who had been with Pyle in the jeep, reported what happened.
Roberts went to the scene, and despite continuing enemy fire, crept forward - a "laborious, dirt-eating crawl," he later called it - to record the scene with his Speed Graphic camera. His risky act earned Roberts a Bronze Star medal for valor.
But Ernie Pyle was not just any reporter. He was a household name during World War II and for years afterward. From 1941 until his death, Pyle riveted the nation with personal, straight-from-the-heart tales about hometown soldiers in history's greatest conflict.
The news stunned a nation still mourning the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt six days earlier. Callers besieged newspaper switchboards. "Ernie is mourned by the Army," said soldier-artist Bill Mauldin, whose droll, irreverent GI cartoons had made him nearly as famous as Pyle.
He was right; even amid heavy fighting, Pyle's death was a prime topic among the troops.
"If I had not been there to see it, I would have taken with a grain of salt any report that the GI was taking Ernie Pyle's death 'hard,' but that is the only word that best describes the universal reaction out here," Army photographer Alexander Roberts wrote to Lee Miller, a friend of Ernie and his first biographer.