Small town offers great museum

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Ernie and the guys seem a little too relaxed as the sit around and smoke during World War II in this mural in Dana, Ind. PHOTO: Bing

Few people ever stumble across Dana, Ind.

The town of 600 people is 73 miles directly west of Indianapolis along Highway 36 on the natural migration route to absolutely nowhere.

Even Ernie Pyle, the World War II correspondent and Danas most famous son, didnt much care for the place.

I dont know whether you know that long, sad wind that blows so steadily across the hundreds of miles of Midwest flat lands in the summertime, he once wrote in a column. To me, it is one of the most melancholy things in all life.

However, thanks to Pyle, at least the town has museum.
And what a museum.

If you care at all for the history of World War II or the value of truly great writing, Dana is worth the two and a half hours it takes to drive from Indianapolis. It is a Disneyland for geeky adults.

You can see everything from Ernies shaving kit and typewriter to some of the books from his personal collection. The gift shop sells everything from books to model airplanes. It once even stock the G.I. Joe figure made in Pyles likeness.

Pyle was born in Dana in 1900 near the site of the Ernie Pyle World War II Museum. There is some debate about whether or not his parents lived in the farmhouse meticulously preserved at the site. They were tenant farmers, and it is more likely the house belonged to their landlords.

The house was rescued from demolition in the mid-1970s and restored by an organization which became the Friends of Ernie Pyle. A local fundraising effort allowed the house to be moved from its original rural location into the town of Dana. It was dedicated as an Indiana state historic site in 1976.

The site in its expanded form was re-dedicated with a new museum in 1995 and operated by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources until December 2009, when it was closed due to state financial cutbacks. In September 2010, the Friends of Ernie Pyle re-opened the site through special arrangement with the state. In fall 2011, the State of Indiana gave ownership of the site to the Friends of Ernie Pyle.

In 2012, the site was renamed the Ernie Pyle World War II Museum.

Pyle went from Dana to launch a fabled journalism career that eventually earned him a Pulitzer Prize. He died on April 18, 1945, after being struck by a Japanese snipers bullet on Ie Shima, a small island near Okinawa in the South Pacific.

Admission to the museum is $5 for adults, $4 for senior citizens, $3 for children ages 4 to 12 and free for ages 3 and under.