« A Heaping Helping Of Schadenfreude | Main | Gambling Begins With Three Strikes Against It »

This Week's Trivia--Uncle Walter Bled For Us

I've moved on from Ulysses Grant to Benjamin Franklin (the 2000 bio also from H.W. Brands--it's even better than the more recent Isaakson bio), but here's a question I've been waiting to offer up since the summer.  It's from Douglas Brinkley's great new bio of Walter Cronkite.


As a reporter for United Press (never a Murrow Boy), Walter Cronkite received the best of training in print journalism in the thick of things, as a World War II correspondent in Europe.  He was on the ground (or in the air) for some of the most dangerous and excitng and important moments of the war.  According to biographer Douglas Brinkley, Walter was injured in action (to the point where he actually bled) only once during the war.

Any idea what his assignment was at the time?

Let me offer some choices.  Was Walter?

A)  Covering London during the blitz;

B) Covering the evacuation of Dunkirk;

C) Covering the D-Day landings;

D) Covering the invasion of Berlin;

or E)  Covering the celebration of the liberation of the Netherlands.


You've probably guessed the answer by the way I worded the question.  It was in fact not on some dangerous mission that future Uncle Walter bled for UP readers.  According to Brinkley (and we have no reason to doubt him), Cronkite actually bled when hit by a bouquet of tulips while covering the liberation of the Neterlands, in Amsterdam as I recall.  Must have been some mighty heavy...or at least thorny...flowers!

As always, you don't need to take my word for it.  I've googled the proof...

Wikipedia Commons

Walter Cronkite had, as the cliché goes, a front-row seat for history for more than 40 years. What he covered—and how he covered it—tells not only the story of America, but of how America's stories were told.

Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley visited the University of Georgia Monday to discuss his new book, Cronkite, a biography of the man known affectionately as "Uncle Walter," as part of UGA's annual Peabody/Smithgall lecture series.

Born in 1916, Cronkite grew up poor in Kansas City and Houston. "He started in journalism to make money," Brinkley said, and in high school worked as a copy of boy for the old Houston Post, where he fell in love with seeing his name in print. He would read the paper on the bus and hold it in such a way that the person behind him could see his byline, Brinkley said.

Cronkite studied journalism for two years at the University of Texas but dropped out, something that would come back to haunt him in later years. Brinkley obtained a cache of love letters he wrote at the time. "It gave me great insight into his mind, especially how much he was drinking in college," he said.

After college, he worked for United Press, a wire service. His first big story was a school explosion in Dallas that killed 290 students. Even then, he was cautious. One early employer fired him because he advocated waiting to air news of a fire at City Hall that his boss believed killed three people. Cronkite was right—no one had died—but the station aired the incorrect news anyway. That commitment to accuracy over speed stayed with him throughout his career. "On election night, he was usually beated by NBC," Brinkley said. "He waited. But he wasn't wrong."

Cronkite had wanted to become a pilot, but he was colorblind. His interest in aviation led UP to send him to London during World War II to cover the 8th Air Force. He flew on bombers that almost crashed and once had to take over for a dead gunner. But his only injury was a cut from a tulip's thorn thrown at him during a parade in the Netherlands. In those days, reporters put a positive spin on war news. "It was all propaganda—'the boys got Hitler on the run again,'" Brinkley said.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (2)


I don’t feel if all sides of a person’s life are exposed by reading their biography, just me.

While searching for data regarding the Springfield Ma and Indianapolis gas explosions I found this story. A little misinformation in this post, correction. The school blast was not in Dallas, New London, whether New London is a part of Dallas unknown.

http://www.naturalgaswatch.org/?p=1337 Video of New London Texas School explosion.
December 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHarold
Brinkley goes into great detail about this in his book. It's well worth a read...in fact, it's probably the best book I've read all year. Very long however!
I'm finishing the Ben Franklin bio tonight and will have a question from it next week.
December 6, 2012 | Registered CommenterRep Steve Vaillancourt

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.