Soldiers of the Press

Soldiers of the United Press, that is…

by Bob Stepno

Page one newspaper June 6, 1944

By presstime on June 6, 1944, the evening Berkeley Daily Gazette on the West Coast had enough United Press stories of the dawn landing in Normandy to fill the front page. Bylines included a lead story by Virgil Pinkley and sidebars by Walter Cronkite, Robert C. Miller and Robert Vermillion. All four were featured in “Soldiers of the Press” episodes. U.P. War Editor Louis F. Keemle wrote the “Invasion Opens Final Assault To Destroy Axis” summary for the left column.

The scrappy second-place wire service United Press competed with the Associated Press, Reuters and Hearst’s International News Service for newspaper-company and broadcast-news subscribers for most of the 20th century. It eventually combined with INS to form United Press International, or U.P.I. As its centennial web page noted in 2007, “Imbued with a ‘we try harder’ attitude, Unipressers took on the better resourced AP with verve and ingenuity.”

During World War II, United Press correspondents were based on all battle fronts, providing third-person and first-person breaking news and feature stories. Someone came up with the idea of dramatizing the reporters’ “how I got the story” adventures in a weekly radio series with full “radio drama” production values. Radio collectors have identified more than 140 episodes and have made digital copies of 40 of them available through Internet discussion lists, CD sales, commercial websites and the free Internet Archive.

All “Soldiers of the Press” episodes opened and closed with promotional messages about U.P. news services. The series was coordinated with newspaper display ads and press releases profiling individual correspondents, announcing honors they received (an Air Medal for one, a Purple Heart for another), and promoting the company’s print and broadcast services. The radio series was offered for free to stations that subscribed to the news service, with room for them to sell advertising around it.

United Press was used as a secondary service by Associated Press subscribers and large papers that fielded their own war correspondents, but it was the primary wire service for many smaller papers. Google’s two-year experiment in creating a digitized archive of newspapers left behind substantial collections for local and regional papers that made more use of U.P. reports than did The New York Times and Washington Post. Stories dramatized by “Soldiers of the Press” have been found in papers including the Spokane Daily Chronicle, Greensburg (Pa.) Daily Tribune, Pittsburgh Press and Berkeley Daily Gazette.

Broadcasting magazine clip

Broadcasting magazine

An October 26, 1942, Broadcasting magazine brief identified “Walt Rundle, UP promotion manager” as writer and producer at the start of the series. For the next three years, he or other unnamed script writers based each “Soldiers of the Press” episode’s dialogue on stories filed by the reporters. Professional radio actors — also unnamed, but sometimes identifiable to fans of classic radio — took the roles of reporters, officers, American troops, enemy soldiers and civilians. (Did the reporters ever play themselves or even know about the impersonation? Walter Cronkite years later said he did not.) Airplane engines, bombs, guns and other battle sound-effects were state-of-the-art, especially on early episodes, although later broadcasts relied heavily on soap-opera-style studio organ accompaniment, perhaps a sign of a declining budget.

A double-page advertising spread in the trade magazine Broadcasting promoted the series in 1942. (Full pages in high-resolution PDF format are available in the magazine archives at These are page 4 and page 5 from August 17.)

Elsewhere at “Newspaper Heroes on the Air”

At the blue headline links below, blog posts feature media-players, newspaper-page images and other background about the people and events dramatized in “Soldiers of the Press” episodes:

Covering the war from start to finish.

From his 1943 trip across the Atlantic to his 1945 trip to a prisoner of war camp to bring back a colleague, Robert Vermillion had perhaps the most fully documented reporting career on Soldiers of the Press. Four episodes featuring him are at the headline link above.

The D-Day Invasion & Walter Cronkite

United Press reporters behind-the-scenes reports on covering the D-Day landing at Normandy… plus some notes on a United Press veteran more famous for his later career in television.

Henry Gorrell at Navarino Bay

U.P.’s Henry Gorrell flies on a bombing run in the Mediterranean, wins an Air Medal, and becomes the subject of the first Soldiers of the Press profile.

Leo Disher in North Africa

Correspondent Disher, already injured at the start of a battle, survived multiple bullet and shrapnel wounds and filed his story from a hospital bed, later following up with a letter to the widow of one of the officers killed in the battle, which became another “Soldiers of the Press” episode.

William Tyree with the Pacific Fleet

Tyree was already based in Honolulu when Japan struck Pearl Harbor; he covered the war in the Pacific to its end.

Doris Johnston: Hideout in the Philippines

In Manila when the Japanese invaded, Johnston survived hiding in the mountains, then becoming a prisoner of the Japanese, and lived to write a book about it.

Sources and Resources

  • Dennis Nyhagen and Dee Neyhart of golden-age-of-radio website Digital
    Deli Online have meticulously researched and organized newspaper program log entries and other sources to create their Soldiers of the Press page (archive copy here), including reporters’ profiled in episodes that are not available in online archives.
  • The Old Time Radio Researchers collection at the Internet Archive has spelling and identification errors, but lets you play or download 40 individual programs: OTRR_Soldiers_Of_The_Press_Singles
  • Early radio collector J.David Goldin’s RadioGoldIndex log of 94 Soldiers of the Press episodes, some of which may be in library storage and not available online. Goldin also documents a 1941-42 series, featuring interviews with UP staff as well as dramatizations of wartime events including bombings of London, Plymouth and Crete, titled United Press is On the Air.
  • The Hoover Archives at Stanford University lists additional episodes of both Soldiers of the Press and United Press is On the Air in its collections, but its audio recordings are not available online.
  • Deadline every minute; the story of the United Press, Joe Alex Morris; Garden City, N.Y., Doubleday, 1957.
  • “Bravo Amerikanski!” and other stories from World War II, by Ann Stringer (as told to Mark Scott); 1st Books Library, 2000.
  • High Tension: The Recollections of Hugh Baillie, by Hugh Baillie. NY, Harper & Brothers, 1959.
  • Manipulating the Ether: the Power of Broadcast Radio in Thirties America, by Robert J. Brown. McFarland & Co Inc., 1998.
  • United Press International 2007 Centennial website.

Additional resources about war correspondents, beyond United Press.

Episode links, by reporter

These are from the OTRR Soldiers of the Press — Singles page, rearranged to more easily follow the portrayals of individual correspondents. Links will download or stream the episode MP3 file. (Episode numbers may have been updated at OTRR. “xx” entries indicate missing dates or episode numbers.)

Update: 2018 version of OTRR Group collection

March-July 2021 Note: I’ve updated file links that temporarily ceased working because of file-renaming at the OTRR Group and Internet Archive, relocation of the RadioGoldindex archive, and recoding of audio links by WordPress software. This page remains a work in progress.

18 Responses to Soldiers of the Press

  1. bob vermillion says:

    My dad was Robert vermillion and worked for upi during the world war 11 and korea.

    • Bob Stepno says:

      Pleased to meet you! He covered some amazing stories. Did he ever mention being played by radio actors in this series?

    • Bob Stepno says:

      I’ve added an alphabetized list of the Internet Archive collection of episodes so that readers can see how prominent a figure was in the Soldiers of the Press program. (The archive’s collection isn’t complete, but there are four episodes about Robert Vermillion and one or two where he is a secondary character. No one else has more than three episodes.)

    • Glenna Faust Geiger says:

      Bobby, this is your Dad’s cousin Glenna. I’ve been looking for you for a long time. Please get in touch with me. Your Dad’s Uncle Bill and Aunt Stella were my parents, and you lived with us when your Mom was ill after you were born.

    • Carissa Richardson Lahrman says:

      I am researching my grandfather’s steps through WWII. In a book called, Rome Was My Beat, your father, Bob Vermillion was mentioned in conjunction with my grandfather, Delmar Richardson – a Fifth Army Jeep driver. Please let me know if you happen to come across anything mentioned in your father’s records of my grandfather.


      • Bob Stepno says:

        Hi Carissa… Unfortunately Bob Vermillion (Jr.) did not respond to his cousin’s comment on his note five years ago, or to my note to the email address he used when he posted his own comment. I have no way to tell if he still reads notes on my site. Best of luck with your research on your grandfather.

        Bob Stepno

  2. l says:

    My grandad was Robert Richards

  3. Michael Richards says:

    Robert Richards was my father.

  4. Pat Prosser Wales says:

    Hi, My Dad was Robert Prosser, the initiator, owner, and editor of the Okinawa Morning Star and friend of Bob Vermillion. I see that a number of stories on the web identify Bob V. as having started a paper on Okinawa in 1954 called “The Okinawa Morning Sun”; there has obviously been some confusion over the two correspondents living and working in the same time and place, but I would like to correct the record. Dad edited the Star from 1954 to 1972, when he sold it to a Japanese investor who attempted to keep it going for an undefined period.
    I have some pictures of Dad with someone that I believe is Bob Vermillion; if someone could corroborate that it is Bob Vermillion I would be delighted.
    Unfortunately, I have not been able to find the recordings of Soldiers of the Press on this site — they say ‘Page not Found’. Are they available somewhere else? Pat Prosser Wales,

  5. Henry Gorrell jr says:

    My father Henry T Gorrell knew many of the reporters for UP.
    Shared a jeep with Ernie Pyle entering Paris.
    Reported with Ernest Hemingway Spanish Civil War staying at same hotel “Hotel Florida”.
    I salute all the war correspondents of the greatest generation.
    Rest In Peace.
    Hank Gorrell jr

    • Bob Stepno says:

      Thanks for your comment! As well as thanks to your father and his colleagues… My dad wore a sergeant’s stripes, worked in Army Air Force photo labs through the war, and had nothing but respect for pro photographers and journalists. By the way, I’ve updated the audio-archive link on my earliest blog post about Henry T. Gorrell. Did he ever get to hear that program? I’m still assuming that is *not* his voice reading the first-person parts of the story, but an actor working for United Press’s radio production unit back in a stateside studio.
      Here’s a link to the ten-year-old post, with refreshed audio player:

      • Henry Gorrell jr says:

        Thanks Bob,
        You are correct not my dads voice.
        Unfortunately he did not know of the program you referenced.
        Sadly he passed away too soon..46 years old.

  6. Melissa Jacobson says:

    Hi, I’m trying to find the copyright owner of The Okinawa Morning Star and/or the photographer Sunakawa who took photos for The Morning Star. Does anyone have any information about either? Any leads or recommendations would be appreciated, thank you! My email is

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