- 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
- 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
- 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 September of 1973 I received a letter
from CBS News 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 he 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, knowing when to talk and
when to listen!
- FOLLOW-UP To Cronkite Article:
- This represents a general response to
some questions about the article, Cronkite's statement and my feelings
about his general credibility:
- I originally wrote the Cronkite article
in 1998 for my website, but I thought readers at Paranormal News might
enjoy it as well. I met Cronkite in 1973 (as the article indicates) and
that's when he told me the story.
- I have repeated the story ever since
during many of my seminars and found that a few others had heard the story
too. Most of them had heard it second hand or said that they had read it
somewhere. At the time it happened, some of his staff knew about it, so
I assumed it wasn't really a big secret. He didn't tell it to me in confidence,
so I felt no obligation to keep it a secret. Since publications come and
go and people have short memories for news, it's possible that Cronkite
had once shared it in some long-forgotten interview. But I have never seen
it in print.
- I feel that Cronkite's account of what
happened is very credible. He seemed to be telling me the story from an
honest memory of the event. When we conversed, he was very interested in
the Air Force cover-up. I suspect that if he had more control over the
1973 documentary, he would have angled it in that direction. Instead, it
was pretty much a neutral piece designed for ratings (from my memory).
Although I have contacted CBS many times, they finally told me that any
tape or film the UFO Special was on no longer exists and was probably lost
in the shuffle of the news craziness surrounding Watergate (which broke
big around that time).
- Like many important stories, this one
has been around awhile, but I think alot of people in the UFO and Paranormal
research community probably were too busy chasing false starts created
by government disinformation to cover it. I recall that when everyone was
running to Gulf Breeze in the late 80's and early 90's, I revealed a story
regarding a trip by former general Doolittle (the leader of the famous
bombing raid on Japan during the early part of WWII) to Spitzbergen and
his possible connection to the recovery of a UFO. He was there in 1946
and may have obtained a UFO that crashed on the island during the war.
I had met some sailors from the USS Alabama in the late 80's who said the
object was brought back to the USA on the battleship Alabama. I started
telling this story in my seminars as early as 1990, but noticed that the
ABOUT.com UFO page attributes it to some 1950s or 60's article by someone
I had never heard of?
- I also noticed that some of the MUFON
people credited my original recording of the first radio interview given
by Kenneth Arnold less then 12 hours after his 1947 sighting to some guy
named Mike. I received that recording from a radio guy who had the original
interview in the 70's and have been playing it in my seminars ever since.
I assume that Mike lifted it off one of my audio or video sets and sent
it to whoever at MUFON. No problem, just an illustration of how stuff is
out there is you take some time to look at some of us little guys who aren't
Richard, Budd or Whitley.
- Here's one more. In 1987 I met a guy
that had worked with Jesse Marcel. He told me that some of the material
shown in texas that was supposed to be from the weather balloon wreckage
was actually from the real object. It was some of the lighter colored,
small pieces laying on top of the balloon wreckage at the bottom of the
press conference photos. I told that story to Friedman and others who laughed
at it. Now I see that photo examination has revealed it to be true. But
that didn't surprise me. I was amused to find out that most people in the
UFO community didn't know that when THE ROSWELL INCIDENT was first published,
Bill Moore still had never actually visited or set foot in Roswell! He
wrote the book from all of Friedman's notes and by witness interviews over
the phone. Moore finally went to the place later.
- Finally, I doubt that Cronkite kept the
story a secret. Some of his staff knew about it and a few others I've met
through the years. When he told it to me, he did it as calmly as someone
reporting the weather. I think he just likes being in the driver's seat
when it comes to his own life and experiences and might have even been
a bit embarrassed by it all. Maybe he was just caught up in the moment
and felt like getting it off his chest.
- Actually, I was the only UFO researcher
there who didn't have anything to promote. I was a teen with a mimeographed
UFO newsletter who got invited to speak at local libraries and Kiwanis
Clubs. I think he might have told the story to the others as well, but
most of them were very busy blowing their own horns and promoting their
stuff. Look at the depths to which I've sunk since then. Now I'm blowing
MY own horn!
- In case you're wondering about it, I
tried getting a few more details out of Cronkite regarding the actual location
of the test, but he told me that the reporters were brought to the location
without being told exactly where it was. Secrecy regarding the actual location
was a part of the conditions for being able to witness the test. I decided
not to push the point or question him further.