Reporting From the Front

The Writing 69th

After writing one too many stories about troops who had taken off to bomb Germany never to come back, Andy Rooney, along with seven other World War II correspondents, wanted to see the action.

After weeks of begging, the reporters finally got their wish and were sent to gunnery school for a week of intensive training to prepare for the assignment. Despite their noncombatant status as journalists, the military insisted the reporters, who dubbed themselves the “Writing 69th,” needed to have enough combat knowledge to be helpful in case something went wrong during the flight.

Andy Rooney

“We were shot at,” Rooney told On Patrol in 2011. “I was at mid-side gunner. I operated a gun even though I was a correspondent. We weren’t supposed to, but I mean I was up there, and all the other guys were shooting so I had to pay my way.”

“I fired at every German fighter that came into the neighborhood,” Walter Cronkite wrote in his 1996 book, “A Reporter’s Life.” “I don’t think I hit any, but I’d like to think I scared a couple of those German pilots.”

Their planes were damaged, but Rooney and Cronkite made it back alive. One of their colleagues wasn’t as lucky. New York Times reporter Bob Post and the B-24 bomber he was flying in were never found.

Over 1,600 war correspondents flocked to the European and Pacific theaters during WWII to report back to millions of Americans back home.

Some correspondents, like Associated Press reporter Daniel De Luce, were newly minted storytellers with little experience. He worked at the AP for a decade before the war, first on and off as a copyboy and later as a reporter in Europe in 1939.

Dan DeLuce and his wife Alma

Dan De Luce and his wife, Alma pose for a photo during a farewell gathering in March 1939. A few days later they were in New York waiting to travel to Normandy, France. | Photo credit Photo courtesy of Richard De Luce

De Luce wrote stories from the European, African and Russian fronts, including a 1944 Pulitzer Prize-winning story about partisans in Yugoslavia.

“Gee, I was thrilled to death, it seemed so romantic,” De Luce said in Karen Rothmyer’s book, “Winning Pulitzers: The Stories Behind Some of the Best News Coverage of our Time.” “I had this idea that I wanted to go over and see what was happening.”

Walter Cronkite’s War

Other correspondents, like the United Press’ Cronkite, were experienced but relatively unknown journalists at the beginning of the war. They hoped reporting overseas would help them make a name in the business. Cronkite, who dropped out of the University of Texas for a reporting job at the Houston Post, worked a series of print and radio gigs before joining the UP in 1939. After years of begging to be sent to cover the war in Europe, he got his wish in 1942.

Far from a veteran reporter, Cronkite still started the war off with considerably more experience than Rooney, a Stars and Stripes scribe who edited his college newspaper

Though journalists battled both technology and censors, they were mostly free to report anything they dared to get out and see.

“They let those guys do what they needed to do,” said Brian Rooney, who covered the Gulf War. “There was some censorship [in WWII], but they allowed them to be reporters.”

Brian Rooney

From the beginning, Stars and Stripes gave Andy Rooney his own jeep, which allowed him to roam and write poignant profiles on officers, GIs and everyday people at war.

“My father did a story about this touching scene about a popular officer dying,” Brian Rooney said. “And [the military] would allow that kind of stuff to be published because they had free access.”

From Correspondents to Legends

After the war, a few of the correspondents who gained fame at war went on to become journalism icons.

Cronkite worked for years at CBS as an anchor and editor, earning the reputation as the “most trusted man in America.” Rooney also made a name for himself on CBS and hosted the “A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney” segment on “60 Minutes” from 1964 to 2011.

De Luce, never transitioned into the broadcast world, but he reported for AP as a foreign correspondent for 17 years before ending his career with the organization as an executive in New York.

They all said their time as WWII correspondents were some of the most formative years of their lives.

“It was an exciting time,” Rooney told On Patrol. “It was a great experience and I was lucky to come through it alive.”

Click on images to enlarge.

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War Correspondent Humor – 

 

Political cartoon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Donald Carragher – Newark, NJ; US Navy, WWII, ETO, SeaBee signalman

Margery Deluco (100) – OH; US Army WAC, WWII, ETO, nurse

Burt C. Frank – Ravenna, OH; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, pilot

Owen Garriott – Enid, OK; US Navy, / NASA, pilot, Astronaut

David Hart (101) – Montreal, CAN; Canadian Army, WWII,Sgt. / Lt. Colonel (Ret. 24 y.)

Robert Oakley – Long Island, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 511/11th Airborne Division

Salvatore Privitera – Hartford, CT; US Army, WWII, combat engineer

Robert ‘Bruce’ Strick – Portland, OR; US Army, WWII

Richard Thomson – League City, TX; US Navy, Pearl Harbor, Seaman 2nd Class, USS Oklahoma, KIA

Robert Wallace – Pensacola, FL; US Navy, WWII, ETO, PBY pilot

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on April 18, 2019, in WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 111 Comments.

  1. Good behind the scenes post gp, learnt something new in regards to Walter Cronkite being a war correspondent. Had them in Vietnam but most were operating out of the Grand hotel and reporting from the rooftop for Reuters, while drinking beers served by Vietnamese girls, at the same time watching the fireworks in the night sky.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This was very interesting, a little turn from a post all about soldiers to these reporters. I have also noticed that only in the U.S, way back to WW2 you are the only country that gives reporters the press so much free access to combat operations. Here in Spain…..well the press wasn’t interested as most of the population and second we were restricted from talking to the little press we saw and we didn’t care much about them. It was more of a distraction for us. We couldn’t bring cameras, although as always you eventually smuggled them into those two beautifully screwed up nutty countries, but I do remember the ¨ higher ups¨ did pass the orders down of absolutely no photos or cameras. Most of our NCO´s didn’t give a damn, but the officers did. Wich we didn’t care much since the idiots didn’t come on patrol with us, just a mess. We also didn’t have those cameras on helmets or things like that, maybe a guy had a photo camera that was about it, and most of us we weren’t as obsessed as I see now soldiers capturing everything.
    To the point, the U.S is the only country specially in the western world that is so open about allowing the so called free press to report the deadly truth. Quite amazing really.

    Liked by 1 person

    • All well and good, IF we received all the news factually and not in the opinion of the reporter. I think your way is better. Too many reporters give away locations and aid to the enemy in the will to “tell it all.” Sometimes too much freedom can be dangerous.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s true thinking about it, although I suppose the U.S military will censor certain reports or part of those reports. I would think…

        Liked by 2 people

        • Nowadays? They don’t dare – that is exactly what’s so dangerous!

          Liked by 1 person

          • I was going to respond with something political correct, but decided to not. I have seen, experience war. Let the civilians do our jobs because is really nasty, there is not an exact word I can think of capturing that experience. Maybe there is not a real word if you don´t do what you have to do, and smells of ….that does never go away for a soldier, at least for a soldier that is not crazy, I seen and been with some crazy nutcases. They did save me though, but you had to keep them on a tight rope.

            I actually now thinking about it would not be able to have performed if I had a reporter filming me, I would even feel ashamed that my mother would see it, or her being afraid most of all.

            So let us do our job and civilians sleep easy in confort of your home.

            Liked by 1 person

      • You did say something key by the way, ¨Sometimes too much freedom can be dangerous¨

        Liked by 2 people

  3. An excellent write and read, GP! Thank you!
    I didn’t know any of this about Rooney or Cronkite. I remember as a kid watching Cronkite on TV…and he had been in the news field for 35 or 40 years by then. I often say today, “I miss Cronkite and others like him.” I can’t even watch most news shows today…and there are too many reasons why I don’t like them to list them all here.
    HUGS!!! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Fascinating GP. I knew that Rooney had been a correspondent (and it makes sense that Cronkite was) but I never realized that.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Army correspondents are there to have a and band with the people at home.The are very special people

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Such an important aspect, though more politicised today, back then they really broke new ground and gained real experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I always think of Ed Murrow when I think of War correspondence GP, He lived and shared the dangers of the Blitz in London during WWII, as you know.

    The English had a soft spot for him because of this, and the Queen gave him an honorary KBE,

    She also gave one to Ronnie Reagan but I’m not sure why, I think Mrs Thatcher told her to,

    But Ed actually shared life with us and under the circumstances was deserving of a Knighthood,

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can well understand the British attachment to Edward R. Murrow after having shared experiences like that!! Back then correspondents got in the mix and had those experiences, today they stay at hotels and watch the action with binoculars.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Interesting that they carried pen and gun to the war front. Without them, our knowledge of what was happening would have been very limited. Kudos to the correspondents.

    Liked by 1 person

    • True, Bev! I’ve done a few posts on the correspondents, military and civilian. We a lot to thank them for. All too often they laid down their weapons during combat to film the battle and only their camera returned home.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Two of my uncles were Army correspondents in the Korean war . Uncle Dick had wanted desperately to get into WWII but he was too young to enlist . Thanks for the story, GP.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Dan. I’ve done a few posts on the correspondents and back then, they were reporters!! Today’s broadcasters should be ashamed to call themselves journalists.

      Like

  10. Painful to read, but needs to be told… xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Another kind of courage

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Pretty amazing group of people, G. They brought the war home in a more personal way than modern television. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Wonderful post, GP! I enjoyed reading about these journalists. They embodied the spirit of America, and could give people important stories. I wish it were the same today. Cronkite was always my favorite. Best to you, GP.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. The British equivalent of these brave men would be Richard Dimbleby who flew 20 missions with Bomber Command as a correspondent. The “Early Life” section of his Wikipedia entry is well worth reading, especially his report as he entered Belsen:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Dimbleby

    They were all such brave men. I can certainly think of easier ways to earn a living than flying with the Eighth Air Force or with Bomber Command.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That was when there was pride in their work and the need for truth for truth’s sake. Don’t get me started about today’s media!! Mr. Dimleby was certainly one of the honorable war correspondents! Thank you for contributing info for the post, John.

      Like

  15. Good read of a reminder of these journalists…wow I need a new post, but the kid just kills all my time….but Im still here, just a bit in the shadows…🇺🇸…

    Liked by 2 people

  16. For the farewell salutes, I don’t know how to contact you otherwise, but my mother, Doris Ward, died on 24th March 2019….British Army ATS in the Second World War, decorated by the French along with her colleagues for her work in making radios for the Resistance while under bombardment in London.

    Like

  17. Neither Cronkite nor Rooney needed to make anything up. They had their own experiences, and real knowledge of events. Both “came up in the business,” too, and the criteria for assessing competence were different in those days. It wasn’t enough to be a pretty face (either male of female). It was expected that they would report fairly and honestly, and respect those who read or listened to them.

    By the way, if you’re not aware of it, there was a very special memorial service in San Antonio today for Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, co-pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the raid that happened on this day in 1942.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did get the news from Stars & Stripes, but thank you for thinking of me. I had a “Current News” section of this post to honor his 100th birthday – back in the seat of the Memphis Belle and put his mention in the “Farewell Salutes” as soon as I heard of his passing. The world lost one of the good guys!!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Stories like this need to be told and retold for years to come

    Liked by 1 person

  19. One of a number of long-unread books lying around my house is THE MOST OF ANDY ROONEY. This post prompted me to take it off the shelf and set it by my favorite chair. If that doesn’t get me started (the book must weigh at least 5 pounds), you’ll know I probably fell asleep just thinking about the energy it would take to read it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Good stuff! I had long known that Andy Rooney saw a little action as a reporter, but didn’t know of Cronkite. In today’s local paper there was a quote and photo of Ernie Pyle. Great reporter killed on Il Shima during the Okinawan campaign. Have you ever hear of Dickey Chapelle? She was a reporter during WWII. She was later killed during action while covering the Vietnam War with the U.S. Marines. Thanks for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have a post for Ernie Pyle, posted when this blog hit April 1945. I have heard of Dickie, and I don’t know why she was never mentioned. I did include Maggie Higgins during my short Korea posts. I’ll have to make a point to correct that.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. I liked Walter Cronkite. I read A Reporter’s Life long time ago. I also liked Andy Rooney of 60 minutes. Reporters those days were several miles apart from today’s reporters. They really reported the news!
    Here is something from A Reporter’s Life which is quite scary but funny at the same time:
    Walter Cronkite was assigned to the U.S. 101st Airborne to land somewhere behind German lines in Sept. 1944. At General Maxwell Taylor’s quarters, his deputy gave Cronkite the bad news that he was not going by parachute. Cronkite was assigned to a glider. He thought it was a quiet way to die, just a silent glide into eternity.
    Over the drop zone, the tow rope was dropped and down they went. No glide, just plunge almost straight down. As soon as the pilot felt the ground was soft enough, he nosed the glider in, totally oblivious to the danger he was facing right up there in front. The plane did a half flip, the dirt came pouring in, their helmets went flying off. He and another fourteen men dug themselves out of the dirt. He grabbed a helmet and slapped it on his head. There was some enemy fire. He crouched and ran toward what he thought was their rendezvous point. Men following him, then someone shouted, “Hey, Lieutenant, are you sure we’re going in the right directions?”
    He shouted back that he was not a lieutenant. He was a war correspondent With a full GI vocabulary not repeatable words he was advised strongly that he was wearing a helmet with an officer’s big white stripe down its back. It was his only chance to lead troops in the whole war.

    Liked by 3 people

  22. This was a great read, GP. I would have trusted Cronkite and Rooney with anything.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I enjoyed this, GP. Loved that cartoon with the journalists worried about more than covering the war.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. When journalism was more than spin. Brave guys, thanks for this.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. WWII: Gordon Gammack from the Des Moines Register. Jack Shelley and Herb Plambeck (also from Vietnam) from WHO-Radio, Des Moines

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Great stories about some of the legends of journalism. Thank you for sharing them. Two of my mentors while a young journalist were war correspondents who went ashore with the D-Day landing in Normandy. They rarely spoke about those experiences but the considerable abilities of both as journalists, and later editors and media executives, clearly were a byproduct.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. That was an exciting time. They still embed reporters but I’m not sure it’s the same. Enjoyed this article, GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Very interesting. I knew about Andy Rooney, I didn’t know about Cronkite.

    We had CNN embedded with our outfit, and I even made the news the night before the invasion of Iraq. When 1st Armored serves you steak and all the fixing’s you’re going into combat. I told my guys to make sure their stuff was ready to go, we’d be leaving in a matter of hours. After I squared my gear away and was ready to go, I noticed the showers were still up and going. figuring I wouldn’t see a shower for a several days, I took the opportunity to grab one. I didn’t realize the TV crew had zoomed in on me in the shower. so there I was on the evening news, in front of God and country, taking a shower.

    I’ve got a copy of the tape someplace.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Fascinating read and I wonder if they were so successful afterwards because they clearly had immense dedication to their trade 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Now, this is an angle of WWII that’s never heard about. I loved Rooney and Cronkite. Very interesting article today, GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. The job of the war correspondents was dangerous and often life threatening. We admire their courage to seek combat in order to report on the horrors of war.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Yes, very enjoyable and informative too. Thank you GP!
    I am writing just writing a sociological variation on peculiarities in this place, for our own monthly mag. Among the officials, here we have almost exclusively reservists of the Bundeswehr. I have noticed that they have internalized the command tone in such a way that you can’t get on with good arguments here, rather than with loud, short “face to face ” reasoning.Lol I am able to learn. 😉 Best wishes, Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  33. It is interesting to watch newsreels from the war. The tone is completely different from what passes for “reporting” these days.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Thanks for the flood of complicated memories. They brought it to us raw such that we could not avert our eyes.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Those writers were hugely influential after the war. They, of course, had gained respect because of it. Few missed Walter Cronkite on the nightly news!

    Liked by 1 person

  36. The history of journalism is near and dear to my heart.

    Liked by 2 people

  37. Very enjoyable read!

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Always interesting to read about the non-combatant reporters and photographers who risked their lives for those front-line reports. So many died doing that too.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 3 people

  39. My favourite was Martha Gellhorn, she put a much different and more human slant on things I think.

    Liked by 2 people

  1. Pingback: 5 War Photographers That You Should Know About – depolreablesunite

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