Walter Cronkite Vietnam

Walter Cronkite Vietnam

February 27, 1968
Walter Cronkite Vietnam
Cronkite in Vietnam (photo from CBS news)
Walter Cronkite Vietnam

The News


In 1968 you got your news from newspapers, radio, or TV. Newspapers typically published a morning edition, though there were certainly afternoon papers that the grammar school paperboy delivered while listening to his transistor radio.


At 7 PM (ET), that paperboy might have sat down with his father (Mom was putting younger siblings to bed) and watched the half-hour evening news. There were three networks: ABC, NBC, and CBS and until 1963 the shows had been just 15 minutes long.


Walter Cronkite Vietnam

Walter Cronkite


The news anchors were Chet Huntley and David Brinkley on NBC,  Frank Reynolds on ABC, and  Walter Cronkite on CBS. They ruled the news airwaves, particularly Walter Cronkite, who was sometimes referred to as “the most trusted man in America.” I learned the word avuncular when someone used it describing him.


Every news organization has biases. It selects what to report and what not to report, but the aim is to be objective. Reports tried to stick with observable facts. Editorializing during the evening news was unusual.


Reporting from the field was different, too.  Unlike today when reporters are “embedded” with a military group and go only where that group go, reporters then could go where they could go. In other words, if a reporter could find a way to get to the front or wherever, that reporter could go there.


Walter Cronkite Vietnam

Tet Offensive


On January 30, 1968, the Viet Cong and North Vietnam Army troops launched the Tet Offensive attacking a hundred cities and towns throughout South Vietnam. The surprise offensive was closely observed by American TV news crews in Vietnam which filmed the U.S. embassy in Saigon being attacked by 17 Viet Cong commandos, along with bloody scenes from battle areas showing American soldiers under fire, dead and wounded. The graphic color film footage was then quickly relayed back to the states for broadcast on nightly news programs.



While the Tet Offensive was repulsed by the American troops, at home the idea that we had been in control, that we were winning, that the war would end soon was severely questioned.  Particularly in light of what Gen. William Westmoreland, commander of U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam, had told U.S. news reporters the previous November: “I am absolutely certain that whereas in 1965 the enemy was winning, today he is certainly losing.”


Walter Cronkite Vietnam

February 27, 1968

On February 27, 1968, Walter Cronkite delivered the news. Objectively. Calmly.


At the end of his report he did something unusual. Prepared. Not off script. Cronkite said…


Tonight, back in more familiar surroundings in New York, we’d like to sum up our findings in Vietnam, an analysis that must be speculative, personal, subjective. Who won and who lost in the great Tet Offensive against the cities? I’m not sure. The Vietcong did not win by a knockout but neither did we.


We’ve been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders…


Both in Vietnam and Washington to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest clouds. For it seems now more certain than ever, that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate. To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past.


To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, if unsatisfactory conclusion. On the off chance that military and political analysts are right, in the next few months we must test the enemy’s intentions, in case this is indeed his last big gasp before negotiations.


But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.


This is Walter Cronkite. Good night.


Here is a piece of that report:


The common story after Cronkite’s report is that President Lyndon Johnson turned to his press secretary, George Christian, and said, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost the country.”


It can be argued that Cronkite’s statement didn’t actually have the impact that history credits it, but it can’t be argued that at time of relatively limited news media when a generally well-respected man whom people watched five nights a week and depended upon for their news went against something, opinion scales were tipped toward getting out of Vietnam.


Walter Cronkite Vietnam

Canned Heat Bob Bear Hite

Canned Heat Bob Bear Hite

February 26, 1945 — April 5, 1981
Canned Heat Bob Bear Hite
Bob Hite performing at the Musikhalle Hamburg, March 1974 (photo by Heinrich Klaffs)

Canned Heat Bob Bear Hite

Common love

With a common love of blues and 78 rpm records, Bob “The Bear” Hite and Alan Blind Owl Wilson founded Canned Heat in 1966 .


Hite described his love of music as emanating from his parents. His father had played trumpet with Sammy Kaye’s band, but had to quit. His mother had sung with Mal Hallett and his Orchestra.



Canned Heat Bob Bear Hite

Preheat

Hite loved records and collected them from an early age. When his church’s old folks home bought a new hi-fi player, it gave him all the old 78s.


Around 1964, Hite had met fellow record and music enthusiast, John Fahey, who loaned a tape to Hite then disappeared for a year.


Around 1965, Hite got a job, no surprise, in a record shop and Fahey showed up looking for his tape. Hite invited a Fahey to his parents’ apartment to listen to music. By the end of the night Hite, Fahey, Alan Wilson, and Mike Purlaman had formed Canned Heat. The name came from, again no surprise, the name of  a 1928 Tommy Johnson song by that name.



Canned Heat Bob Bear Hite

Electric heat

When Fahey found out that the band would be electric he left. An acoustic enthusiast, he’d go on to forge new sounds almost always on his own.


The band went through the common growing pains of personnel leaving, personnel replaced,  playing where no one cared for what they played, playing what they didn’t care to play, getting a contract, going on the road but broke.


A Fort Worth, TX radio station found and loved their ‘Boogie Music’ and ‘On the Road Again’ songs. Slowly their reputation grew, and an invitation to the Monterrey Pop Festival followed.


Canned Heat Bob Bear Hite

Wood heat

Their Woodstock story is an interesting one. After landing in New York City, tired, and hearing reports of mayhem at the festival they almost decided to stay in New York and skip the Fair. Luckily, they made it.


Even sitting 100+  yards away, I could see Bob Bear Hite in that Saturday evening’s dusk just fine.  They followed the serene Incredible String Band and preceded the momentous Mountain. And for those of us there, we still don’t understand why their Woodstock bump wasn’t even bigger, despite their music being part of the soundtrack.



According to Hite, We played the gig and had a real good time and then couldn’t get out. We ended up ripping off one of the trucks they used for equipment and somebody left their limo there with the keys in it, so we took that. That was Woodstock. We didn’t get to see much of it. (see Traveling Boy link below)


Canned Heat Bob Bear Hite

Bob Bear Hite


On September 3, 1970 Alan Wilson died. Canned Heat continued. The band lived the life of rock, particularly Hite. In 1981, according to the Team Rock site: At the centre of it is their vocalist and harmonica player, Bob ‘The Bear’ Hite. With his scraped-back black ponytail and gut-length beard, the 38-year-old is 300lbs of Californian gregariousness and pharmaceutical fearlessness. The Bear is already sky-high.


According to Wikipedia, On April 5, 1981, during a break between sets at The Palomino Club in North Hollywood, Hite was handed a drug vial by a fan. Thinking it contained cocaine, Hite stuck a straw into the vial and snorted it. The drug turned out to be heroin and Hite turned blue and collapsed. Some roadies put Hite in the band’s van and drove him to a nearby home where he died.


Canned Heat Bob Bear Hite

Los Angeles Acid Test

Los Angeles Acid Test

February 25, 1966

Los Angeles Acid Test
newspaper advertisement for the LA Acid Test

Today marks the anniversary of the Los Angeles Acid Test held at the Cinema Theatre. This event was not the first one.  That had happened on November 27, 1965 at Merry Prankster Ken Babb’s place. There had been others between and  several more would follow until the “acid test graduation” in October.


Of course, the Prankster’s 1964 cross-country bus trip could be described as an acid test on wheels and some evidence exists that the graduation in October was not actually the last.


According to (the now defunct) lysergic.com At least one final act of Pranksterism remained however, as material recently come to light details the proceedings of an Acid Test at Rice University in Houston, Texas as late as March 1967. This event took place during a hiatus in Kesey’s legal affairs, and allowed him and the full band of Pranksters to load up their “Further” bus for a journey along the same route as the one famously undertaken in 1964. The Rice University Acid Test may well have been the last one ever staged, and it has to my knowledge never been described before. To understand the significance of this final Prank, a bit of background may be necessary”

Back to LA.

Los Angeles Acid Test


While the idea of recording events part of the Pranksters’ style (filming for example), the notion of an historically accurate portrait was not. The music, the sounds, the lighting, the people were all part of whatever happened. The present counted.


It is understandable, then, that little is known about this particular acid test.


We do know that the Grateful Dead played. These tests were where the Dead learned to spread their wings both as performers and musicians. You can click on the link below to hear this one, but as thorough as the Dead and Deadheads are about the particulars of each show, such information about this one is lacking. In fact, the Internet Archive site has the qualifying notation: reportedly this date, plus other ’66. 


The recording is magnificent and one wonders whether the atmosphere at an acid test would be conducive to such quality.


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