I started collecting Zippo lighters in 2010, and as a student of WWII history I quickly identified the Ernie Pyle Zippo lighter as my dream acquisition. Early on I didn't think I would ever find one, let alone be able to afford it. But here we are 12 years later and I just returned from meeting the granddaughter of the original owner of the lighter in Bradford, PA to make the purchase. As I'm writing this blog post I'm still pinching myself!
If you're not familiar with Ernie Pyle, let me give you the Reader's Digest condensed version of his story. He was a Pulitzer Prize winning American journalist and was one of the most read war correspondents during World War II. He wrote in a folksy style and gave his readers a true look at the struggles that ordinary soldiers faced. He was tragically killed on April 18, 1945 by sniper fire during the US invasion of Okinawa.
Pyle had struck up a friendship with Zippo founder George G. Blaisdell during the war and Blaisdell would send lighters to him to give out to soldiers he interviewed. When Blaisdell learned of Ernie's death, he had a commemorative lighter made and they were given to the crew of the U.S.S. Cabot (the ship that Pyle was stationed on).
Out of the millions of standard Black Crackle lighters made during the war approximately 600-800 were made with the "In Memory Ernie Pyle 1945" inscription, making this an extremely rare lighter. Add in the fact that it is in near mint condition, has never been fired, and includes the original box, you can see why this is the gem of my collection.
The Zippo/Case Museum located in Bradford, PA has a wonderful display featuring letters of correspondence between Pyle and Blaisdell and is a must visit for any Zippo collector. I'm beyond thrilled to own this incredible piece of history and share photos with you.