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Everything but a gun

By SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN, Times Senior Correspondent

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 5, 2003


Just two days after the invasion of Africa, the Rangitiki arrived at Mers-el-Kebir in Algeria. Down the gangplank to a long concrete quay went Ernie, lugging a barracks bag, bedroll, gas mask, helmet, canteen and typewriter.

-- from The Story of Ernie Pyle

* * *

War is always horrific, but a lot of things have changed equipmentwise since 1942 when legendary foreign correspondent Ernie Pyle banged out his columns on a typewriter, filed them by cable and washed his feet in his steel helmet. Six decades later, journalists headed to the Middle East to cover the impending war with Iraq carry a high-tech assortment of gear to shield them from chemical and biological attacks and enable them to send photos and stories by satellite from the most remote locations.

But for all journalists, no matter how well-equipped and well-protected, the real challenge is conveying to folks back home the terror, tragedy and, yes, tedium of war. On that score, few, if any, will surpass Pyle, whose riveting dispatches dominated the front pages of American newspapers during World War II and made readers feel like they were in the trenches -- with "damn little wine to drink, precious little song, cold and fairly dirty, just toiling from day to day in a world full of insecurity, discomfort, homesickness and a dulled sense of regret."

-- Susan Taylor Martin, Times Senior Correspondent

Tychem SL chemical protective suit and SGE 1000 mask and Chemi-Pro gloves

Effective chemical barrier protection made from DuPont Tyvek fabric, laminated with Saranex 23-P film. Available only in white.

Weight: 15.5 ounces

Cost: $134

Gas mask has an attachable canteen for use in hot climates.

Weight: 2.3 pounds

Cost:$189

Gloves come in "ultra-thick"

Weight: 3.5 ounces

Cost: $8.95 a pair

Pro-KI potassium iodide pills

Radiation protection tablets used only in radiation emergencies. The tablets are supposed to block the absorption of harmful radioactive iodine by the thyroid.

Cost: complimentary with purchase of gas mask and NBC suit

Macintosh iBook laptop computer with digital cards and card reader (for photographer)

Used to download, work and caption pictures taken with the Nikon digital cameras. It has been configured to work with conventional land line, cell and satellite phones.

Weight: 3.7 pounds

Cost: $1,200

Point Blank Body Armor

Designed to stop a semiautomatic rifle bullet in the chest area and bullets from hand guns in other areas.

Weight: 5 pounds

Cost: $700 (approximately)

Olympus DS-330 Digital Voice Recorder

Enables correspondent to record sounds and transmit them for use on a Web site.

Weight: 1 pound

Cost: $150

Nera World Communicator

Portable satellite phone system works with laptop computer, applications for data, voice, text, fax, Internet, multimedia and video.

Weight: 15 pounds

Cost of equipment: $10,500 to buy; $1,199 per month to rent

Cost of satellite time: $8.25 per minute for sending photos; $3.50 per minute for voice

Iridium Motorola 9500 Phone

Hand-held satellite phone used for emergency contact.

Weight: 5 pounds

Cost: $995 to buy; $200 a month to rent; $1.80 per minute for calls

Systemax laptop computer (for reporter)

Weight: 5 pounds

Cost: $900

D1H Nikon Digital camera with 80-200mm lens

Weight: 6.2 lbs

Cost: camera body, $4,000; lens, $1,500

SmartDisk Floppy Disk Drive

Used to transfer data from one computer to another. Handy in foreign countries, where many computers and Internet cafes don't accommodate CD roms.

Cost: $50

Plug and phone adapters

Adapters used with electronic and phone equipment manufactured for the United States.

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