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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 Chronkite was the Reporter who
covered those and so many other important events.

As CBS Evening News Anchor for many years, Chronite 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
Chronkite 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, Chronkite was
and is a very private person. We know very little about his private life
. 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.

In 1973 CBS was making a special documentary about UFOs. By the early
1970s the UFO topic had reached a high point that had been building for
over 25 years. Bookstores were filled with UFO books and magazines. CBS
decided that the subject deserved serious consideration.

For CBS (in those days) to prepare a special program about UFOs 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

After months of planning, Walter Chronkite was approached with the idea.
Though the program was to be hosted by several CBS News reporters,
Chronkite would do the interviews.

By 1973 I had already been investigating UFOs for several years. I was
presenting about ten seminars a month on the subject and had already
been involved with the media. Although (as today) I hadn't written any
books, several articles I wrote were used by various newspapers and
magazines around the world.

As it happened, Walter Chronkite 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 Chronkite.

By then I had learned not to be star-struck by anyone. Because of my
father's position in the Air Force, I had met a ot 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.

As we lunched, Chronkite 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.

Chronkite 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, Chronkite 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 Chronkite 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 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.

As the test was ready to proceed, Chronkite mentioned that photography
of the event by the press was forbidden. They would have to give verbal
descriptions so everyone was writing as fast as they could.

As Air Force guards 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

Chronkite 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
noise coming directly from the object.

As Air Force guards ran toward the object 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. Chronkite 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 would be 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
people were actually seeing 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, Chronkite 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 didn't believe it as he told me the

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, Chronkite never did share with me his own
beliefs about UFOs beyond the story he told me. And, I was so happy to
have heard the story that I was afraid to ask anything further!

As time went on the CBS UFO Special was filmed and I was included in it
for about five minutes. During the filming I became aware that Chronkite
had not shared his story with most of the other UFO investigators or

After the special aired I called one of Chronkite's staff members and
asked him if he had ever heard the UFO story. He told me he had.
Chronkite had only shared it wih a few key people and it was NOT covered
or even mentioned in the Special.

I wondered why Chronkite had chosen to tell me the story wihout 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 I
learned much that day!

March  1999
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