Cronkite's ET Experience
 
 
Subject: [UFO_RESEARCH_SOCIETY] Walter Cronkite's UFO Experience
 

By Bill Knell

He's the Newsperson that was there during some of the most history-
making events of this century. From the JFK assassination to the
first steps of human beings on the Moon. Walter Cronkite was the
Reporter who covered those and so many other important events.

As CBS Evening News Anchor for many years, Cronkite became a part of
many American families as he brought us the news in a straight-
forward and fair manner. No matter how he felt personally, you never
saw that during his broadcast. He did this all before cable TV
became such a big part of viewing, so for many he was more then just
a Reporter. Walter Cronkite became a trusted friend of almost all
who viewed his work.

Despite the fact that he electronically-entered millions of American
homes almost every night of the week for so many years, Cronkite was
and is a very private person. We know little about his private life
and most things you read in that regard are merely guesses or here
say. The fact that he managed to work in the Network News business
for so many years without being involved in any scandals speaks
volumes about his character.

CBS was making a special documentary about the UFO Phenomenon in
1973. By the early 1970s, the UFO topic had reached a high point in
popularity that had been building for over 25 years. Bookstores were
filled with UFO books and magazines. CBS decided that the subject
deserved serious consideration and planned to look at it from the
standpoint of witnesses with little or no editorial comment.

For CBS to prepare a special program about UFOs during those times
was not a decision made lightly. The Network was at the height of
it's audience influence and everything they did was watched
(literally) by the whole world. After months of planning, Walter
Cronkite was approached with the idea. Though the program was to be
hosted by several CBS News reporters, Cronkite would do the
interviews.

By 1973 I had already been investigating UFOs for several years. I
was presenting several seminars a month on the subject and had
already been involved with the media. Although I hadn't written any
books, several articles I wrote were used by various newspapers and
magazines around the world. As it happened, Walter Cronkite read a
small piece that I wrote for a now-defunct UFO publication. The
topic of the article was the Air Force cover-up of UFO information
and a few cases I had investigated. Chronkite was making a list of
people he wanted to interview for the CBS special and the article
interested him.

In September of 1973 I received a letter from CBS News indicating
their interest in my work. After a few phone calls, I was able to
meet and speak with the man himself! On a cool New York day in late
September of 1973, I sat down and had an informal lunch with Walter
Cronkite. By then, I had learned not to be star-struck by anyone.
Because of my father's position as an officer in the Air Force, I
had met a lot of important people. Still, I was in awe of this News
Giant! The funny thing was that his manner was so gentle and laid-
back that within a few minutes I was completely at ease. I guess
that was his gift and the thing that made him such a successful news
anchor.

As we lunched, Cronkite told me about the TV Special and indicated
that he wanted to interview me. He wanted a younger person's
perspective on the phenomenon. Most of the UFO researchers in those
days were older and had taken up the topic as a Retirement project.

Cronkite was very interested in some of the Air Force stories I had
collected. He was especially interested in the fact that I had grown-
up in an Air Force family as a person interested in researching
UFOs. After about 30 minutes of talking, Cronkite said to me, "Let
me tell you my UFO story." For the next five minutes I sat in
stunned silence as he told me what had happened.

In the 1950s Cronkite was part of a pool of News Reporters brought
out to a small South Pacific island to watch the test of a new Air
Force missile. After a short inspection of the new system by the
reporters, they were lead to an area that was a safe distance from
the launch site. The missile was mounted on a specially-built
launcher that was attached to a cement base. It was obvious that the
area had been quickly built just for the test. The details about the
missile were going to be given to the reporters in he form of hand-
out sheets and press releases after the test.

Cronkite mentioned that he and the other reporters had been warned
that photography of the missile test and any audio transmissions or
recordings by the press were forbidden. They would have to give a
written account of the event. Just as the test was ready to proceed,
everyone was writing as fast as they could. As Air Force Security
personnel walked around the perimeter of the test area with guard
dogs and the news reporters watched, the missile was fired-up and
about to be released. Just then, a large disc-type UFO appeared on
the scene.

Cronkite guessed that the object was about 50-60 feet in diameter, a
dull grey color and had no visible means of propulsion. Because the
noise of activity around him and the missile engine was so loud, he
couldn't tell whether the disc made any noise. He did not notice any
coming directly from the object.

As Air Force guards ran toward the UFO with their dogs, the disc
hovered about 30 feet off of the ground. It suddenly sent out a blue
beam of light which struck the missile, a guard and a dog all at the
same time. The missile was frozen in mid-air about 70 feet from the
launcher as it had taken off. A guard was frozen in mid-step and a
dog frozen in mid-air as it had jumped at the disc. Cronkite
reminded me that this all happened within the space of about five
minutes or less.

Suddenly, the missile exploded! After that, the disc vanished. The
guard and dog looked alright, but were quickly taken away by medical
personnel always present at tests in case anyone became injured. At
the same time, guards rapidly ushered the reporters into a concrete
observation bunker. After about thirty minutes of sitting in that
hot box, they were brought out into the air again and addressed by
an Air Force Colonel.

The officer told them, "It was all part of the test." Obviously
making it up as he went along, the Colonel said that the event
was "staged" to test media reaction to UFOs. He reinforced the usual
line to the reporters that Flying Saucers were probably not extra-
terrestrial, but what people were actually seeing was secret planes
being tested by the Air Force. This test was designed to show the
media how "shocking" it could be to suddenly view a new technology.
Well, Cronkite was certain that what he viewed was a new technology,
but he was also sure it was not an Earthly one! He didn't believe
the Air Force explanation then, and he still didn't believe it at
the time when he told me the story.

After the event, reporters were told that since it was a test of
media reaction to new technology, they could not report on it! But,
they would be compensated later with exclusive stories on new Air
Force projects (a promise that was never kept). Being as private as
he was, Cronkite never did share with me his own beliefs about UFOs
beyond the story he told me. I was so happy to have heard the story
that I was afraid to ask anything further!

The CBS UFO Special was filmed shortly after my meeting with
Cronkite and I was included in it for just a few minutes. During the
filming, I became aware that Cronkite had not shared his story with
most of the other UFO investigators or witnesses. After the special
aired I called one of Cronkite's staff members and asked him if he
had ever heard the UFO story. He told me he had. Cronkite had only
shared it with a few key people and it was NOT covered or even
mentioned in the Special.

I wondered why Cronkite had chosen to tell me the story without
telling everyone? The staff members told me that most of the others
were so busy telling him about themselves that he just never
bothered. I guess that the greatest lesson the legendary newsman
taught me that day was the art of conversation, knowing when to talk
and when to listen!

FOLLOW-UP To Cronkite Article:

This represents a general response to some questions about the
article, Cronkite's statement and my feelings about his general
credibility:

I originally wrote the Cronkite article in 1998 for my website, but
I thought readers at Paranormal News might enjoy it as well. I met
Cronkite in 1973 (as the article indicates) and that's when he told
me the story.

I have repeated the story ever since during many of my seminars and
found that a few others had heard the story too. Most of them had
heard it second hand or said that they had read it somewhere. At the
time it happened, some of his staff knew about it, so I assumed it
wasn't really a big secret. He didn't tell it to me in confidence,
so I felt no obligation to keep it a secret. Since publications come
and go and people have short memories for news, it's possible that
Cronkite had once shared it in some long-forgotten interview. But I
have never seen it in print.

I feel that Cronkite's account of what happened is very credible. He
seemed to be telling me the story from an honest memory of the
event. When we conversed, he was very interested in the Air Force
cover-up. I suspect that if he had more control over the 1973
documentary, he would have angled it in that direction. Instead, it
was pretty much a neutral piece designed for ratings (from my
memory). Although I have contacted CBS many times, they finally told
me that any tape or film the UFO Special was on no longer exists and
was probably lost in the shuffle of the news craziness surrounding
Watergate (which broke big around that time).

Like many important stories, this one has been around awhile, but I
think alot of people in the UFO and Paranormal research community
probably were too busy chasing false starts created by government
disinformation to cover it. I recall that when everyone was running
to Gulf Breeze in the late 80's and early 90's, I revealed a story
regarding a trip by former general Doolittle (the leader of the
famous bombing raid on Japan during the early part of WWII) to
Spitzbergen and his possible connection to the recovery of a UFO. He
was there in 1946 and may have obtained a UFO that crashed on the
island during the war. I had met some sailors from the USS Alabama
in the late 80's who said the object was brought back to the USA on
the battleship Alabama. I started telling this story in my seminars
as early as 1990, but noticed that the ABOUT.com UFO page attributes
it to some 1950s or 60's article by someone I had never heard of?

I also noticed that some of the MUFON people credited my original
recording of the first radio interview given by Kenneth Arnold less
then 12 hours after his 1947 sighting to some guy named Mike. I
received that recording from a radio guy who had the original
interview in the 70's and have been playing it in my seminars ever
since. I assume that Mike lifted it off one of my audio or video
sets and sent it to whoever at MUFON. No problem, just an
illustration of how stuff is out there is you take some time to look
at some of us little guys who aren't Richard, Budd or Whitley.

Here's one more. In 1987 I met a guy that had worked with Jesse
Marcel. He told me that some of the material shown in texas that was
supposed to be from the weather balloon wreckage was actually from
the real object. It was some of the lighter colored, small pieces
laying on top of the balloon wreckage at the bottom of the press
conference photos. I told that story to Friedman and others who
laughed at it. Now I see that photo examination has revealed it to
be true. But that didn't surprise me. I was amused to find out that
most people in the UFO community didn't know that when THE ROSWELL
INCIDENT was first published, Bill Moore still had never actually
visited or set foot in Roswell! He wrote the book from all of
Friedman's notes and by witness interviews over the phone. Moore
finally went to the place later.

Finally, I doubt that Cronkite kept the story a secret. Some of his
staff knew about it and a few others I've met through the years.
When he told it to me, he did it as calmly as someone reporting the
weather. I think he just likes being in the driver's seat when it
comes to his own life and experiences and might have even been a bit
embarrassed by it all. Maybe he was just caught up in the moment and
felt like getting it off his chest.

Actually, I was the only UFO researcher there who didn't have
anything to promote. I was a teen with a mimeographed UFO newsletter
who got invited to speak at local libraries and Kiwanis Clubs. I
think he might have told the story to the others as well, but most
of them were very busy blowing their own horns and promoting their
stuff. Look at the depths to which I've sunk since then. Now I'm
blowing MY own horn!

In case you're wondering about it, I tried getting a few more
details out of Cronkite regarding the actual location of the test,
but he told me that the reporters were brought to the location
without being told exactly where it was. Secrecy regarding the
actual location was a part of the conditions for being able to
witness the test. I decided not to push the point or question him
further.