CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite was a childhood hero of mine. My family cried with him and rejoiced with him as he covered assassinations* and space missions*. Even the president to the United States recognized the power of the “most trusted man in America”. LBJ said that “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost the country” after Cronkite spoke about his visit to Vietnam in the only commentary he ever did on CBS*. When I found myself in San Diego without a book to read on the return flight I found “Cronkite’s War: his World War II letters home” in the gift shop of the USS Midway Museum. It seemed like the right choice.
I was not interested in learning anything new about WWII, I spent most of the 1980s reading about it. I wanted to learn about the most trusted man in America. This book, Walter’s personal letters to his wife of two years, Betsy, are a window into the man. He was ambitious, almost a dandy about his clothing, and a loyal friend. The many deaths of the young men he reported on troubled him. He was lonely for his family and the most trustworthy husband in the war. He drinks and uses profanity but never to excess and, confesses to his wife that he used “Walter’s word” on occasion. Thanks to the background material inserted between the letters by the book’s editors we learn what “Walter’s word” is as well as who the people he writes about are.
At times the letters were almost to personal to read. I felt like I was peeking into someones bedroom window and eavesdropping on family matters. Over all I would say that the book is Walter’s love letters home to his wife. We see London at war, war torn Europe, and a close encounter when Walter sets out for Antwerp on the day that the Battle of the Bulge breaks out. Still, overall, it is a book of love letter written by a lonely young man very much in love with the wife that fate has separated him from.
I doubt I would have picked this book up if I had my entire library to pick from but I am glad I did. Mr. Cronkite was a kind and decent man and I am glad I know more about him.