By: Editorial Staff
FOUR VETERAN correspondents who covered the Allied invasion of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944, gathered in New York last month to recount their experiences.
Former CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite, who reported on the D-Day air battle for the old United Press; 60 Minutes correspondent Andy Rooney, who worked on the Stars and Stripes military newspaper; Jack Thompson, who parachuted into Normandy for Time and Life magazines, and Bill Walton, Chicago Tribune pool correspondent during the war, addressed a rapt crowd of 140 at a luncheon.
The event was sponsored by the Overseas Press Club of America, Committee to Protect Journalists, United Nations Correspondents Association and the Deadline Club, the New York chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
OPC president and Parade magazine managing editor Larry Smith presented a bronze plaque to Cronkite, Rooney and retired public relations executive Ben Wright.
Three days after the luncheon, Cronkite, Rooney and Wright set sail aboard the Queen Elizabeth II for D-Day 50th anniversary ceremonies in France. There, the three affixed the plaque to Normandy’s Chateau Vouilly, the headquarters for correspondents who traveled with the 1st U.S. Army.
“Newspeople, all of them volunteers like Bill and Jack, were given the opportunity to go into the jaws of death,” Cronkite said.
“D-Day assignments were fraught with immense peril. A special bond was created between the soldiers in the foxholes, who appreciated this, and the correspondents, who were right alongside.”
Cronkite, who witnessed the invasion from a bomber over Normandy, added, “As we went over the ocean with bombs ready to go, we were met with an incredible sight ? an entire armada of ships, big and small, from cruisers to battleships to destroyers filled the ocean.”
Jack Thompson, known as the dean of war correspondents, recalled going ashore at Omaha Beach, slogging through chest-deep water while shielding his face with a typewriter.
Thompson said that amid the carnage and destruction, as artillery shells fell, “medics worked as if nothing were happening, taking plasma bottles and draining some blood into these young men with their yellowish faces.”
Cronkite remembered, “The greatest part of the experience was associating with the kind of guys we did in the press camps across Europe. They’re my buddies and I’m proud of them.”
Walter Cronkite in his war correspondent’s dress uniform, joined by (left to right) Larry Smith, Andy Rooney, Bill Walton, Jack Thompson and Ben Wright.