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Walter Leland Cronkite Jr

Civilian

War Correspondent with United Press, Cronkite was the most famous of the eight reporters sent to the European Theatre to fly with the Eighth Air Force who made up The Writing 69th. On 26 February 1943 he flew with the 303rd Bomb Group from Molesworth on a mission over Wilhelmshaven. Cronkite reportedly fired a machine gun at a German fighter aircraft during the raid, he wrote on his experience on 27 February 1943:
'American Flying Fortresses have just come back from an assignment to hell; a hell 26,000 feet above the earth, a hell of burning tracer bullets and bursting gunfire, of crippled Fortresses and burning German fighter planes, of parachuting men and others not so lucky. I have just returned with a Flying Fortress crew from Wilhelmshaven.
...
Actually the first impression of a daylight bombing mission is a hodge-podge of disconnected scenes. Things like bombs falling past you from the formation above, a crippled bomber with smoke pouring from one engine thousands of feet below. A Focke-Wulf peeling off somewhere above and plummeting down shooting its way through the formation.'

Nevertheless, the group suffered heavy losses and one of the Journalists was lost, putting a stop to War Correspondents flying on further bombing missions. Undeterred, Cronkite reported from the D-Day beachhead following the Normandy Landings and joined the 101st Airborne Division during Operation Market Garden by landing in a glider to report on the Battle of the Bulge. Following the War he reported on the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials.

In 1950 Cronkite joined CBS news where he became an Anchor, in this role he became known as 'The Most Trusted Man in America' famously announcing the assassination of President John F Kennedy, introducing the Beatles to the United States and reporting enthusiastically on the US Space Program. In February 1968 he travelled to Vietnam to report on location on the Tet Offensive, on his return he declared the conflict a stalemate, which supposedly prompted President Lyndon B Johnson to withdraw his campaign for re-election. He officially retired from CBS Evening News in 1981, but continued to report as a special correspondent into the 1990s.

He reflected on his experience in the Second World War:
'People take a look at my record and it sounds great. I'm embarrassed when I'm introduced for speeches and somebody takes a CBS handout and reads it, because it makes me sound like some sort of hero: the battle of the North Atlantic, the landing in Africa, the beachhead on D day, dropping with the 101st Airborne, the Battle of the Bulge. Personally, I feel I was an overweening coward in the war. I was scared to death all the time. I did everything possible to avoid getting into combat. Except the ultimate thing of not doing it. I did it. But the truth is that I did everything only once. It didn't take any great courage to do it once. If you go back and do it a second time; knowing how bad it is, that's courage.'

Service

People

  • Homer Bigart

    Civilian | 303rd Bomb Group
    Journalist for the New York Herald Tribune, who in 1942 was invited to become a war correspondent, one of eight journalists known as The Writing 69th, sent to the UK to fly with the US Army Air Force on bombing missions over Europe. Bigart was...

  • Gladwin Hill

    Civilian
    War Correspondent for Associated Press, In 1942 he was one of eight journalists known as the Writing 69th trained to take part in bombing missions with the Eighth Air Force. ...

  • Andrew Rooney

    Military | Sergeant | Staff Reporter, Stars and Stripes
    Andy Rooney was a war correspondent and journalist for the Stars and Stripes, in February 1943 he was selected as one of eight journalists to accompany the 8th Air Force flying bombing missions over Germany. After a week's extensive training, Rooney...

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Units served with

  • 303rd Bomb Group

    303rd Bomb Group

    Group
    The 303rd Bombardment Group (Heavy) was activated on 3-Feb-1942 at Pendleton Field, Oregon. They assembled at Gowen Field, Idaho on 11-February 1942 where it conducted flight training until 12-Jun-1942. The Group then moved to Alamogordo Field, New...

  • 427th Bomb Squadron
  • The Writing 69th

    The Writing 69th

    Misc
    In February 1943 the Eighth Air Force sponsored a group of eight civilian and military journalists to undergo training to fly missions aboard bombers for promotional purposes. A week long training session took place at Bovingdon, where the journalists...

Missions

  • VIII Bomber Command 37

    26 February 1943
    After 10 days of weather related delays of the bomber offensive, a mission is organised with the port facilities of Emden, Germany as the primary target. However, Emden is obscured by cloud cover and all formations divert to attack the port facilities...

Associated Place

  • Molesworth

    Military site : airfield
    Molesworth was one of the early stations used by the Eighth Air Force in the UK, first occupied by the 15th Bomb Squadron’s Douglas Bostons in June 1942. Built in 1940 and extended and improved in 1942, Molesworth is most associated with the 303rd...

Events

Event Location Date
Born St. Joseph, MO, USA 4 November 1916
Died New York, NY, USA 17 July 2009

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
01 December 2014 11:03:15 Emily Changes to middlename, suffix, nickname, biography, events, person associations, place associations, mission associations and media associations
Sources

Short bio on The Writing 69th

Obituary by CBS News

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:26:57 AAM AAM ingest
Sources

Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia / Roster

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