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Cronkite's War: His World War II Letters Home

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by Walter Cronkite, Maurice Isserman, Tom Brokaw
     
 

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A giant in American journalism in the vanguard of "The Greatest Generation" reveals his World War II experiences in this National Geographic book. Walter Cronkite, an obscure 23-year-old United Press wire service reporter, married Betsy Maxwell on March 30, 1940, following a four-year courtship. She proved to be the love of his life, and their marriage lasted happily… See more details below

Overview

A giant in American journalism in the vanguard of "The Greatest Generation" reveals his World War II experiences in this National Geographic book. Walter Cronkite, an obscure 23-year-old United Press wire service reporter, married Betsy Maxwell on March 30, 1940, following a four-year courtship. She proved to be the love of his life, and their marriage lasted happily until her death in 2005. But before Walter and Betsy Cronkite celebrated their second anniversary, he became a credentialed war correspondent, preparing to leave her behind to go overseas. The couple spent months apart in the summer and fall of 1942, as Cronkite sailed on convoys to England and North Africa across the submarine-infested waters of the North Atlantic. After a brief December leave in New York City spent with his young wife, Cronkite left again on assignment for England. This time, the two would not be reunited until the end of the war in Europe. Cronkite would console himself during their absence by writing her long, detailed letters -- sometimes five in a week -- describing his experiences as a war correspondent, his observations of life in wartime Europe, and his longing for her. 

Betsy Cronkite carefully saved the letters, copying many to circulate among family and friends. More than a hundred of Cronkite's letters from 1943-45 (plus a few earlier letters) survive. They reveal surprising and little known facts about this storied public figure in the vanguard of "The Greatest Generation" and a giant in American journalism, and about his World War II experiences. They chronicle both a great love story and a great war story, as told by the reporter who would go on to become anchorman for the CBS Evening News, with a reputation as "the most trusted man in America."

Illustrated with heartwarming photos of Walter and Betsy Cronkite during the war from the family collection, the book is edited by Cronkite's grandson, CBS associate producer Walter Cronkite IV, and esteemed historian Maurice Isserman, the Publius Virgilius Rogers Professor of History at Hamilton College.

Now this historical portrait is new in paperback.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Compiled by the grandson of the late CBS Evening News anchorman, this is a fascinating and informative collection of Walter Cronkite Jr.’s personal World War II letters to his wife, Betsy. The correspondence offers a chronological account of Cronkite’s experiences and impressions as a young war reporter based out of London and then Brussels. Along with Hamilton College history professor Isserman (Fallen Giants: A History of Himalayan Mountaineering From the Age of Empire to the Age of Extremes, coauthor), the fourth Cronkite interweaves contextual commentary with the letters to create a seamless narrative of his grandfather’s thrilling adventures, including bombing missions over Germany, rocket attacks on London, an air assault by glider into Holland, and following Patton’s army into the Battle of the Bulge. By war’s end, Cronkite’s reportage had made him one of the preeminent American journalists of his generation and set the stage for his future success as one of the most beloved anchors of the nightly news’ heyday. A thoroughly enjoyable read, this will enthrall fans of the newsman, as well as students of WWII and the history of journalism. 25 b&w photos. Agent: Sandra Dijkstra, Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. (May 7)
From the Publisher
"With its fascinating glimpses of a stirring time that was a crucible for so many journalists, this book is for all general readers interested in Cronkite, World War II war correspondents, or wartime London." —Library Journal Starred Review
Library Journal
Before Walter Cronkite (1916–2009) became a famous CBS television newsman, he reported on World War II from London for the United Press newswire service when he was still in his twenties. Here Cronkite's grandson (associate producer, CBS News) and Isserman (history, Hamilton Coll.) present a selection of his letters at that time to his wife, Betsy, in Kansas City, MO—they'd married in 1940—along with helpful explanations and historical context. These unpretentious letters, which barely mention any dangers the journalist faced, are mostly from England in the period 1943-45. They detail the daily routines of a journalist in wartime: arranging meetings, writing stories under deadline, dealing with military censors, struggling to travel anywhere, shortages and rationing of everything, and enjoying rarities like chocolate and razor blades. He also describes the legendary social environment of wartime London. Like any true reporter, Cronkite wanted to cover the big stories—D-day, bombing missions, ground combat—but, other than on a trip to northern Europe, he was obliged to remain in London (he'd been to North Africa before these letters start). VERDICT With its fascinating glimpses of a stirring time that was a crucible for so many journalists, this book is for all general readers interested in Cronkite, World War II war correspondents, or wartime London.—Daniel Blewett, Coll. of DuPage Lib., Glen Ellyn, IL
Kirkus Reviews
A charming series of letters from a young Walter Cronkite (1916–2009) to his wife, Betsy, chronicles his rising star as a war correspondent. Sent by the UP wire service to London and elsewhere as a foreign correspondent from early 1943 until the end of the war, Cronkite recorded his long months away from his Kansas City home through copious, effusive letters, collated here by his grandson, Cronkite IV, an associate producer at CBS News, and Isserman (History/Hamilton Coll.; co-author: America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s, 1999, etc.). As Cronkite aimed to use his dispatches as a record of his early professional experience, the letters demonstrate the young correspondent's eye for journalistic detail, but they mostly reveal touching day-to-day details of the hardworking, frequently lonely and uncertain reporter, and his tremendous love for his wife. From his first dispatch in early September 1942 covering the convoy Task Force 38 aboard the U.S.S. Arkansas and early reports from Operation Torch in North Africa, to being embedded in the air war over Europe as part of the celebrated so-called "Writing Sixty-Ninth," Cronkite was steadily making a name for himself as a capable, trustworthy reporter. He lived cheek by jowl alongside other UP reporters Jim McGlincy, Harrison Salisbury and Bob Mussel and became friendly with fellow newspapermen such as Homer Bigart of the New York Herald Tribune, writing warmly of their gags and drinking bouts. Cronkite's journalistic breakthrough occurred when he flew in a B-17 bombing raid over Germany in February 1943: His account hit the front page of the New York Times and made Cronkite famous, garnering an offer to join "Murrow's Boys" at CBS Radio at twice his UP salary. (Cronkite turned it down!) An extraordinary journey with the most trusted man in America.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781426210204
Publisher:
National Geographic Society
Publication date:
05/07/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
351,559
File size:
7 MB

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"What a treasure! If you like the news, if you like a good adventure story or if you're just a sucker for a good old fashioned love story, you will love this book." —Bob Schieffer, CBS News

"The immediacy of these letters provides an unforgettable glimpse into how people lived during the most devastating war in human history, and shed light on how Walter Cronkite became one of our greatest newsmen." —Susan Eisenhower

"An extraordinary journey with the most trusted man in America." —Kirkus Reviews

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