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E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and University Libraries to commemorate D-Day journalists with June 6 event

They were the greatest generation documenting the greatest generation’s wartime triumphs and tragedies — the journalists who covered the D-Day invasion and World War II.

The E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and Ohio University Libraries’ Vernon R. Alden Library will host a D-Day event that honors three of those journalists: John R. Wilhelm, former E.W. Scripps journalism school director and communication college dean; Cornelius Ryan, author of the books “The Longest Day” and “A Bridge Too Far” that were turned into blockbuster films; and Ernie Pyle, the G.I.’s best friend who wrote for Scripps-Howard Newspapers. All three participated in the D-Day landing at Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944.

“By honoring the foreign correspondents during World War II, we will also be honoring the contributions of all foreign correspondents who are willing to put their lives at risk to be our eyes and ears around the globe,” said Dr. Eddith Dashiell,  director of the E.W, Scripps School of Journalism. “Among those correspondents is one of our graduates, AP Moscow correspondent Jim Heintz, who will be returning to campus for this event.”

The celebration has two parts — the rededication of Normandy Park at 2:30 p.m. and the opening of the refurbished Cornelius Ryan Room on the Fifth Floor of Alden Library at 4 p.m.

Speakers include Peter Copeland, retired Scripps-Howard Newspapers foreign correspondent and Washington, D.C. bureau chief; James Heintz, Russia correspondent for The Associated Press; Steve Maschino, a director of the Ernie Pyle Legacy Foundation; and Greta Suiter, manuscripts archivist at the Vernon R. Alden Library.

Wilhelm invited 30 World War II correspondents to campus June 6, 1981, for a symposium and to dedicate Normandy Park on campus near the Richland Avenue roundabout. The park, shaped like an airplane wing, includes a plaque mounted on a large rock. France donated the grove of apple trees.

Wilhelm and Ryan were friends and colleagues. Ryan introduced Wilhelm to Wilhelm’s future bride, Margaret. Their World War II wedding was captured in a photo essay in Life magazine.

Because of the Wilhelm-Ryan friendship, Ryan’s widow — Kathryn Morgan Ryan — donated his papers to Ohio University Libraries’ Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections.

“The Cornelius Ryan Collection of World War II Papers is the cornerstone World War II collection at the Mahn Center,” Suiter said. “It is one of the most used manuscript collections with researchers from around the world interested in it. We provide access to the collection in person but also are building a large online collection through scanning on demand.”

The Ryan Collection includes research and his personal files for “The Longest Day,” “A Bridge Too Far” and “The Last Battle,” she added. The documents encompass interviews, letters, diaries, accounts and observations involving nearly 3,100 military and civilian participants in the battles Operation Overlord (“The Longest Day”), Operation Market-Garden (“A Bridge Too Far”) and the capture of Berlin (“The Last Battle").

According to Suiter, Alden Library’s Mahn Center also houses the John R. Wilhelm Papers which include his stateside and World War II reporting, his time as a professor and director of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, and his administrative role as dean of the then College of Communication.

“This collection is integral to understanding the evolution of the School of Journalism, as well as Wilhelm’s work to bring important collections to the Mahn Center such as the Cornelius Ryan Collection of World War II Papers and the E.W. Scripps Papers,” Suiter said. 

Pyle is referred to as the most famous World War II correspondent. He was a roving U.S. correspondent for Scripps-Howard Newspapers before he volunteered to cover the war abroad. Pyle wrote from the ditches and mudholes of the European and Pacific theaters before losing his life to a sniper’s bullet during the Battle of Okinawa. The journalism school is named for the Scripps in Scripps-Howard Newspapers.

The event is also part of the journalism school’s centennial celebration.

“As we celebrate 100 years of journalism education at Ohio University, we will also be celebrating the E. W. Scripps School of Journalism’s legacy of foreign correspondence," Dashiell said. "Through John Wilhelm’s commitment to journalism education, we have been able to send hundreds of our students overseas so they could gain valuable experience while working abroad.” 

In addition to all he did, Wilhelm also established the school’s first foreign correspondence scholarships.

Members of the Wilhelm, Ryan and Pyle families will be in attendance for the event. 

May 22, 2023
Staff reports