Approaching D-Day with Soldiers of the Press

For June 6 last year, I pulled out a D-Day story from Soldiers of the Press along with the archived radio of actual newscasts and more than a dozen related links, including several about then United Press correspondent Walter Cronkite.

Last time, I didn’t include a picture of Virgil Pinkley’s D-Day story as it appeared in a 1944 paper, but since I collected a few clips while documenting a string of “Soldiers of the Press” reports for Memorial Day, here is Pinkley’s story on the right. (The full story can be read in Google’s newspaper archive copy of the June 6, 1944, Berkeley Daily Gazette.)

Dry Martini

Last year’s D-Day item also didn’t include a player for one of Cronkite’s stories as dramatized by “Soldiers of the Press,” so here is a sample. His own D-Day activities aren’t available in the audio archive, so this story is from 1943, when Cronkite was covering the air war over Europe.

Cronkite, assigned to a Flying Fortress base in England, was one of the first correspondents to fly on a bombing run — over Wilhelmshaven naval base in Germany, as described in the digital newspaper clip below. That story is mentioned in this later audio “Soldiers of the Press” episode, but for this one he stays on the ground to write about a bomber named “Dry Martini” headed for an aircraft factory in France — by profiling a single crewman, one of the “real American lads who have a grim and dangerous jobs to do and do it.”

(I’ve searched online archives for both a “Soldiers of the Press” episode on the Wilhelmshaven raid or a news clipping of the “Dry Martini” story, but I haven’t come up with either. If you find either of them, please send me a link.)

Of course what you hear is not the familiar voice of CBS’s famous TV news anchor (as discussed last time), but a radio actor playing him in the “Soldiers of the Press” dramatization, promising a gunner on the “Dry Martini” a steak dinner if he shoots down a German plane. (He gets three, and tells Cronkite, “They made me mad, I guess.”)
As in many of the episodes, you do get a feel for the camaraderie between war correspondents and the soldiers and fliers they covered. United Press seemed particularly intent on emphasizing that its reports went beyond the official headquarters briefings to include human details, “the colorful exciting stories of United Nations fighting men in action.”

American reporters had a dangerous job, too. The day after his bombing-run story, Cronkite reported losing a colleague in action:  New York Times reporter Robert Post was on a plane that was shot down during the same raid. A sidebar reported casualties among American war correspondents in the year and three months since Pearl Harbor: 10 dead, 26 wounded, 27 missing, 22 captured.

For more examples, see
The Old Time Radio Researchers Group collection of Soldiers of the Press episodes at the Internet Archive.

About Bob Stepno

mild-mannered reporter who found computers & the Web in grad school in the 1980s (Wesleyan) and '90s (UNC); taught journalism, media studies, Web production; retired to write, make music, photograph sunsets & walks in the woods.
This entry was posted in 1940s, foreign correspondents, reporters, true stories, Walter Cronkite, World War II. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.