Walter Cronkite on NPR
Famed Journalist Reflects on the Lessons of Recent History
Photo: Catherine Karnow/CORBIS
Cronkite on NPR
In a series of occasional essays for NPR, journalist Walter Cronkite comments on news events he reported on over the past century that still resonate today.
President Lyndon Johnson, left, and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara in 1964.
Gulf of Tonkin's Phantom Attack
Democratic delegates protest the Johnson administration's policies in Vietnam at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
Mayhem at the Democratic Convention
Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower aboard the HMS Apollo, a mine layer, on a visit to a beachhead along French coast, June 7, 1944.
Credit: The Eisenhower Foundation
Eisenhower's Return to Normandy
In the 1950s and early 1960s, Nikita Khrushchev loomed large over America, a symbol of the Cold War menace posed by the Soviet Union.
Khrushchev and the Cuban Missile Crisis
From March 19 Cronkite Essay: In March 1954, Edward R. Murrow, pictured here, and producer Fred Friendly aired on their show See It Now an attack on Sen. Joseph McCarthy. They took a big risk, but today the broadcast is considered one of the most influential in television history.
From Feb. 12 Cronkite Essay: CBS News Correspondent Eric Sevareid, 1955.
Cronkite's latest essay:
June 16, 2005: Mississippi 1964: Civil Rights and Unrest
As the trial of Edgar Ray Killen begins, commentator Walter Cronkite recalls the story of the slaying of three civil rights workers in 1964. Cronkite saw the drama unfold amid two struggles: one for civil rights and another against the Vietnam War.
Previous Cronkite essays:
May 30, 2005: Covering the Civil Rights Era
Walter Cronkite recalls CBS-TV coverage of civil rights in the 1950s, and how it threatened to divide the news department from network management.
May 16, 2005: Loss of Spy Plane Sabotaged 1960 Summit
Cronkite recalls the tension of spring 1960 when an American U-2 spy plane helped to plunge East-West relations into one of the deepest chills of the Cold War.
Dec. 27, 2004: Battle of the Bulge
Commentator and former CBS newsman Walter Cronkite reflects on what remains the largest pitched battle in the history of American arms, as World War II neared its end in Europe.
Nov. 29, 2004: The Mike Todd Party
Cronkite recounts being conscripted into a program that -- even by todayís standards of decadence -- was one of televisionís most memorably vulgar events: the 1957 Mike Todd party at Madison Square Garden.
Nov. 2, 2004: The Landslide Election of 1964
In 1964, Democrat Lyndon Johnson defeated Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater in a presidential election that reshaped America's electoral landscape. Cronkite recalls the election of 1964.
Aug. 2, 2004: The Gulf of Tonkin's Phantom Attack
Forty years ago today, a murky military encounter at sea plunged the United
States deeper into the war in Vietnam. After an alleged attack by North
Vietnamese on an American destroyer, President Johnson ordered American
forces to attack the Viet Cong. Commentator and former CBS newsman Walter Cronkite looks back on the events as they unfolded.
Tonkin Photo Gallery, LBJ Phone Tapes
July 23, 2004: Mayhem at the '68 Democratic Convention
Political conventions are usually well-scripted affairs. But that wasn't the case at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. The war in Vietnam was the flashpoint, and protests led to violence inside and out of the convention. Cronkite replays the event.
Convention Photo Gallery, Timeline
June 4, 2004: Eisenhower's Return to Normandy
Forty years ago, the man responsible for D-Day visited Normandy with a television crew headed by Cronkite. By then, Dwight D. Eisenhower had been hailed as a hero and elected president of the United States. Cronkite looks back on D-Day and recalls his trip to Normandy with Eisenhower.
D-Day Photo Gallery, Timeline
April 21, 2004: Nikita Khrushchev, Symbol of Soviet Menace
Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev once loomed large over the United States, the physical embodiment of what America feared. He threatened, menaced and provoked for the better part of 15 years during the Cold War between the West and the East. The tensions were both real and imagined, stoked by the uncertainties of a potential war whose only certainty was "mutually assured destruction." Walter Cronkite recalls the Kremlin leader's rise -- and the shocking effect of his 1964 fall.
Photo Gallery: Khrushchev's Historic 1959 Visit to the U.S.
March 9, 2004: McCarthy on 'See It Now'
Fifty years ago, one of the most influential news programs in television history aired. It was on CBS-TV, and produced by Fred Friendly and Edward R. Murrow. Part of the series See It Now, hosted by Murrow, it was a report on Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy and his campaign to root out "unpatriotic" Americans. Cronkite remembers the occasion as the night network television shook off its timidity and called the bluff of a bully.
Feb. 12, 2004: Eric Sevareid
The press has a long tradition of thoughtful commentators and analysts, reaching back to Henry Adams and Benjamin Franklin. But the tradition hasn't exactly thrived in television, especially in recent years as attention spans have shrunk and the shouting has increased. But this wasn't always the case. During the 1960s and 1970s -- a time of considerable shouting in society -- Eric Sevareid offered elegant nightly commentaries on CBS Evening News that were among the most admired in journalism. Cronkite, Sevareid's longtime colleague, reflects on Sevareid's work, and a time when television took time to think.
Hear a Sevareid essay on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor.
Hear Sevareid's final essay for CBS.
Oct. 27, 2003: 'You Are There'
In the 1950s, Walter Cronkite hosted a CBS-TV program that used real network correspondents to report events from days well before radio or TV in the style of "live" television news. Called You Are There,* the program taught history -- and had a secret history of its own. All the writers were victims of the McCarthy-era blacklist. They used the tales of Joan of Arc, Galileo and other historical figures to make thinly disguised points about contemporary witch hunts.
*Note on Availability: Currently, the "You Are There" series is not available commercially on VHS or DVD. The Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago holds about 20 episodes and permits people to view them at the museum, but will not provide copies.
Sept. 9, 2003: The First September Skyjacking
Cronkite recalls the moment when the jet plane first became an instrument of international terror. In September 1970, four commercial jets were simultaneously hijacked by men from the Mideast in the name of a cause. Three of the four hijackings were successful; one was stopped as passengers overwhelmed the hijackers. In the end, the passengers were removed from the plane, and the hijackers destroyed the jets in a quick series of fireballs. The events of that day pushed international terrorism to a new level of savagery.
July 21, 2003: 'Soldiers of the Press'
Cronkite recalls the United Press World War II radio drama
that used actors to portray its reporters in the field. While the real Walter Cronkite was covering the air war over Germany, an actor played "Walter Cronkite" in the series, Soldiers of the Press. It was an effort by the wire service to toot its own horn during the war.
Nov. 8, 2002: The North Africa Campaign
Cronkite tells of his firsthand experience on this date 60 years ago as American forces landed in North Africa to fight Germany during the Second World War. He was a wire service reporter on a Navy vessel at the time. We hear CBS broadcasts by John Daly from the time.
Oct. 4, 2002: How Sputnik Changed the World.
Forty-five years ago, Russia shocked the world with a tiny manmade moon orbiting the Earth. Cronkite remembers Sputnik, the world's first artificial satellite.
Aug. 7, 2002: Changing Attitudes Toward War in Vietnam.
In 1968, Cronkite was the anchor for the CBS Evening News. The Vietnam War was raging and the American public was deeply divided about U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia. CBS News tried to maintain a strict policy of independent, non-partisan reporting. As the war continued, Cronkite left his studio to report from the field, bringing back reports that, some say, changed the U.S. public's attitude about the war.
July 23, 2002: The Day the World Got Smaller.
On this day 40 years ago, Europe and North America came face-to-face with each other in a new way -- via live television. For the first time, American satellite technology enabled Europeans to see the United States and vice versa, in real time. Cronkite was the host of that broadcast to the European continent, and tells us the story of what it was like to broadcast on that day.
July 8, 2002: First Nationally Televised Political Convention.
Cronkite tells the story behind his initial experience as a TV network anchorman. It happened in 1952 in Chicago, Ill., at the first-ever nationally televised political convention for the Republican Party. Later that summer, Cronkite handled the same chore at the Democratic session. Although he'd never attended a political convention -- or done national TV -- he was a hit.
Feb. 20, 2002: 40th Anniversary of Glenn's Orbit.
Forty years ago, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth -- getting the U.S. space program moving with a vengeance, and helping spark a new commitment to TV news. Cronkite reported the event to a live television audience on that day in 1962, and he offers his reflections.
View photos of John Glenn then and now, and learn more about his flight.
Dec. 7, 2001: The Lone War Dissenter
On the 60th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Cronkite reflects on the lone dissenter in the Congressional vote to declare war -- political pioneer Jeanette Rankin -- and how another lone dissenting vote granting President Bush added powers to hunt Osama bin Laden echoes Rankin's own vote.
Learn more about Rankin and hear an exclusive NPR interview with Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA).