Walter Cronkite's World War II letters home detailed in new book

(CBS News) Walter Cronkite anchored "The CBS Evening News" from 1962 to 1981, and during that time he was called "the most trusted man in America." But he wasn't always a television staple.

Cronkite began his career as a newspaper correspondent sent to cover World War II. He was about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. The year was 1942 and the 26-year-old newly married journalist set off for Europe to cover the war against Germany, and he would not return for over three years.

During that time, he wrote hundreds of letters detailing his war experiences and observations to his new bride, Betsy. Those letters were recently discovered by Cronkite's grandson, Walt Cronkite, who is now a CBS News producer. The younger Cronkite worked with his Hamilton College history professor, Maurice Isserman, to compile his grandparents' personal notes into a new book.

"I went down to the University of Texas with my father after my grandfather passed away," Walt Cronkite told "CBS This Morning: Saturday" co-hosts Nancy Cordes and Anthony Mason. "We discovered this treasure trove of all these letters he wrote home to my grandmother several times a week during World War II, and we thought it was just fascinating stuff."

The letters contained all sorts of information that both elaborated on the elder Cronkite's career as well as his romantic side. His grandson learned that when Edward R. Murrow first recruited Cronkite for CBS News he turned the job down to stay a wire reporter.

The letters also provided a first-hand look into some of the hardships of being a war reporter. Cronkite crash-landed behind enemy lines while embedded with the U.S. Air Force. His grandson said the letters show that he "was truly, truly, scared."

The letters show the softer side of the renowned journalist as he calls his wife "darlingest" and is gushing to her about getting her "wonderful letter." Cronkite was married to his wife for 65 years, and according to his grandson they had "this incredible marriage."

The book, "Cronkite's War: His World War II Letters Home," will be available in stores Tuesday.

To watch the full interview with Walt Cronkite and Maurice Isserman, click on the player above.

  • Shoshana Davis

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