Summary: He’s the Newsperson that was there during some of the most history- making events of this century. From the JFK assassination to the first steps of human beings on the Moon. Walter Cronkite was the Reporter who covered those and so many other important events. As CBS Evening News Anchor for many years, Cronkite became a part of many American families as he brought us the news in a straight-forward and fair manner.
He’s the Newsperson that was there during some of the most history- making events of this century. From the JFK assassination to the first steps of human beings on the Moon. Walter Cronkite was the Reporter who covered those and so many other important events. As CBS Evening News Anchor for many years, Cronkite became a part of many American families as he brought us the news in a straight-forward and fair manner. No matter how he felt personally, you never saw that during his broadcast. He did this all before cable TV became such a big part of viewing, so for many he was more then just a Reporter. Walter Cronkite became a trusted friend of almost all who viewed his work.
Despite the fact that he electronically-entered millions of American homes almost every night of the week for so many years, Cronkite was and is a very private person. We know little about his private life and most things you read in that regard are merely guesses or here say. The fact that he managed to work in the Network News business for so many years without being involved in any scandals speaks volumes about his character. CBS was making a special documentary about the UFO Phenomenon in 1973. By the early 1970s, the UFO topic had reached a high point in popularity that had been building for over 25 years. Bookstores were filled with UFO books and magazines. CBS decided that the subject deserved serious consideration and planned to look at it from the standpoint of witnesses with little or no editorial comment.
For CBS to prepare a special program about UFOs during those times was not a decision made lightly. The Network was at the height of it’s audience influence and everything they did was watched (literally) by the whole world. After months of planning, Walter Cronkite was approached with the idea. Though the program was to be hosted by several CBS News reporters, Cronkite would do the interviews. By 1973 I had already been investigating UFOs for several years. I was presenting several seminars a month on the subject and had already been involved with the media. Although I hadn’t written any books, several articles I wrote were used by various newspapers and magazines around the world. As it happened, Walter Cronkite read a small piece that I wrote for a now-defunct UFO publication. The topic of the article was the Air Force cover-up of UFO information and a few cases I had investigated. Chronkite was making a list of people he wanted to interview for the CBS special and the article interested him. In 1973, I received a letter from CBS Ne ws indicating their interest in my work. After a few phone calls, I was able to meet and speak with the man himself! On a cool New York day in late September of 1973, I sat down and had an informal lunch with Walter Cronkite. By then, I had learned not to be star-struck by anyone. Because of my father’s position as an officer in the Air Force, I had met a lot of important people. Still, I was in awe of this News Giant! The funny thing was that his manner was so gentle and laid-back that within a few minutes I was completely at ease. I guess that was his gift and the thing that made him such a successful news anchor.
As we lunched, Cronkite told me about the TV Special and indicated that he wanted to interview me. He wanted a younger person’s perspective on the phenomenon. Most of the UFO researchers in those days were older and had taken up the topic as a Retirement project. Cronkite was very interested in some of the Air Force stories I had collected. He was especially interested in the fact that I had grown-up in an Air Force family as a person interested in researching UFOs. After about 30 minutes of talking, Cronkite said to me, "Let me tell you my UFO story." For the next five minutes I sat in stunned silence as he told me what had happened. In the 1950s Cronkite was part of a pool of News Reporters brought out to a small South Pacific island to watch the test of a new Air Force missile. After a short inspection of the new system by the reporters, they were lead to an area that was a safe distance from the launch site. The missile was mounted on a specially-built launcher that was attached to a cement base. It was obvious that the area had been quickly built just for the test. The details about the missile were going to be given to the reporters in the form of hand-out sheets and press releases after the test.
Cronkite mentioned that he and the other reporters had been warned that photography of the missile test and any audio transmissions or recordings by the press were forbidden. They would have to give a written account of the event. Just as the test was ready to proceed, everyone was writing as fast as they could. As Air Force Security personnel walked around the perimeter of the test area with guard dogs and the news reporters watched, the missile was fired-up and about to be released. Just then, a large disc-type UFO appeared on the scene. Cronkite guessed that the object was about 50-60 feet in diameter, a dull grey color and had no visible means of propulsion. Because the noise of activity around him and the missile engine was so loud, he couldn’t tell whether the disc made any noise. He did not notice any coming directly from the object. As Air Force guards ran toward the UFO with their dogs, the disc hovered about 30 feet off of the ground. It suddenly sent out a blue beam of light which struck the missile, a guard and a dog all at the same time. The missile was frozen in mid-air about 70 feet from the launcher as it had taken off. A guard was frozen in mid-step and a dog frozen in mid-air as it had jumped at the disc. Cronkite reminded me that this all happened within the space of about five minutes or less.
Suddenly, the missile exploded! After that, the disc vanished. The guard and dog looked alright, but were quickly taken away by medical personnel always present at tests in case anyone became injured. At the same time, guards rapidly ushered the reporters into a concrete observation bunker. After about thirty minutes of sitting in that hot box, they were brought out into the air again and addressed by an Air Force Colonel. The officer told them, "It was all part of the test." Obviously making it up as he went along, the Colonel said that the event was "staged" to test media reaction to UFOs. He reinforced the usual line to the reporters that Flying Saucers were probably not extra-terrestrial, but what people were actually seeing was secret planes being tested by the Air Force. This test was designed to show the media how "shocking" it could be to suddenly view a new technology. Well, Cronkite was certain that what he viewed was a new technology, but he was also sure it was not an Earthly one. He didn’t believe the Air Force explanation then, and he still didn’t believe it at the time when he told me the story. After the event, reporters were told that since it was a test of media reaction to new technology, they could not report on it! But, they would be compensated later with exclusive stories on new Air Force projects (a promise that was never kept). Being as private as he was, Cronkite never did share with me his own beliefs about UFOs beyond the story he told me. I was so happy to have heard the story that I was afraid to ask anything further.
The CBS UFO Special was filmed shortly after my meeting with Cronkite and I was included in it for just a few minutes. During the filming, I became aware that Cronkite had not shared his story with most of the other UFO investigators or witnesses. After the special aired I called one of Cronkite’s staff members and asked him if he had ever heard the UFO story. He told me he had. Cronkite had only shared it with a few key people and it was NOT covered or even mentioned in the Special. I wondered why Cronkite had chosen to tell me the story without telling everyone? The staff members told me that most of the others were so busy telling him about themselves that he just never bothered. I guess that the greatest lesson the legendary newsman taught me that day was the art of conversation