Indiana University Bloomington

Sculptor installs statue of Ernie Pyle, a lasting legacy on IU campus

  • Oct. 10, 2014

Editor's note: This story from The Bloomington Herald-Times is being published here as a courtesy for readers of IU in the News.

By MJ Slaby
812-331-4371 | mslaby@heraldt.com
Posted: Friday, October 10, 2014 12:00 am

Journalist Ernie Pyle lived with the troops in World War II.

He went where they went, ate where they ate and saw what they saw.

“He’s out in the field. He sleeps in ditches,” said sculptor Tuck Langland.

But on Thursday, Pyle returned to Indiana University – where he attended and left just shy of graduating. This time though, it was a bronze version of the famous journalist installed outside of Franklin Hall, the future home of the IU Media School.

Langland created the Pyle statue and also sculpted the Herman B Wells statue, which was dedicated in 2000. The sculptor came to campus to oversee the installation of the Pyle statue and said he’d be back for the inauguration of the Media School and dedication of the statue at 2 p.m. Oct 17 in President’s Hall of Franklin Hall.

However, the statue won’t be covered in the meantime so passersby can already see the statue, considered one of “three iconic sculptures” of campus with the Wells and Hoagy Carmichael statues.

In the statue, Pyle is wearing a borrowed leather bomber jacket with goggles – which he often wore in the North Africa campaign – pushed up on his knit cap, Langland said. He said Pyle is sitting on an ammunition box and has his typewriter – with the true detail of broken lever – along with his notes and a coffee cup on a table that's a little warped.

“He’s got a column to write,” Langland said.

A second ammunition box is on the other side of the table so visitors can put their laptop on the table and work alongside Pyle, much like they can sit with Wells and Carmichael.

IU commissioned the statue – who is the namesake for the hall that housed the School of Journalism – as a way to pay tribute to Pyle and preserve his legacy despite the school merging with two other departments to become the Media School.

Last winter, IU President Michael McRobbie asked Langland to create the statue, and the artist didn't hesitate.

“It’s a deal,” he said.

Langland is an IU South Bend professor emeritus of sculpture and has been sculpting full time since he retired in 2003.

He said he knew of Pyle before, but really learned about him by reading biographies and Pyle’s columns. He said he based the statue on photos given to him and photos taken of Pyle’s typewriter, which is at IU.

The statue took about 10 months to complete, which is slightly quicker than the usual year a sculpture of that size would require, Langland said. The statue was cast in Oklahoma before arriving in Bloomington on Thursday. Bronze statues are long lasting, he said.

“It will not disappear,” Langland said.

Everything in the statue is enlarged by 10 percent because life-size bronze statues tend to look small, Langland said. But he said visitors might think the Pyle statue still looks small because Pyle wasn’t very big.

“He was 5’8” and weighed 115 pounds,” Langland said.

In the statue, Pyle – who was killed in WWII by a sniper in 1945 – has a serious look on his face, and Langland said the journalist almost always looked serious in photos of him.

“He was engaged in a very, very serious business,” Langland said. “It was war.”