Darlington war hero remembered by son he never met: Vance Pyle pays tribute to father who died during WWII
July 28, 2019
Editor’s Note: Jared McMurry is the grandson of Vance Lee Pyle, who lost his father, Vance Pyle, during World War II before he was born. This is a tribute to Pyle on the 75th anniversary of his death.
Vance Lee Pyle’s life forever changed 75 years ago — months before he was even born.
On July 28, 1944, Staff Sergeant Vance Pyle was killed in action in the battle of St. Lo in France while serving with the 35th Infantry Division. He was awarded the Purple Heart and Presidential Citation posthumously. Pyle was a 1936 graduate of Darlington High School where he was a basketball standout.
Months later on Jan. 6, 1945, Vance Lee Pyle was born without ever having the opportunity to meet his father.
From the time I was young, I knew two things about my Papaw Vance — his father was killed in WWII prior to his birth and he was the voice of Montgomery County and Wabash sports on WCVL radio in the 1970s. As years passed, our relationship has grown through a mutual love of sports, but there was always one topic that was rarely discussed. I remember my great-grandfather’s Purple Heart hanging in the hallway of my grandparents’ old house, and I’ve seen pictures, but words have rarely been spoken about him.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot to learn about my great-grandfather Vance because my Papaw simply never knew much about him.
“My mother remarried and life moved on with our new family,” Vance Lee said about his Dad. “She really didn’t talk to me about my Dad. Here and there I would learn small tidbits from my Dad’s family and friends, but I didn’t learn much.”
Most of what he really knows is contained within a small box filled with newspaper articles and letters during the war to his mom, something he didn’t gain possession of until he was in his 50s.
Not knowing your mother or father is something few people experience. Often wondering what kind of man his father was, and what qualities, characteristics and habits he inherited from him is the life my Papaw has always lived.
“As the 75th year of his sacrifice to our country passes on Sunday, I just really wanted to pay tribute to this man, that I longed to know all my life,” he said. “Although I missed knowing my own Dad, I have been blessed to have a close-knit family of my own. My wife and I’s three children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren share life with us here in Crawfordsville and our other two granddaughters only live an hour away.”
I have the honor to be a part of my Papaw’s close-knit family and have followed in his footsteps with a love for sports and work in sports media. Born almost 50 years after my great-grandfather gave the ultimate sacrifice, I can only hope that my Papaw and I both have carried on a little bit of what he would have been had he not died on that fateful day in 1944.
The dad who played catch and coached his son’s baseball team, the grandfather who went to all of his grandchildren’s ball games ...
Hopefully one day we will all be united and get to know the patriarch of the Pyle family.